I’m going to be honest here, friends.
I haven’t been writing much lately. Because, well, for obvious reasons.
After spending the summer in my New York City studio, my pandemic life went into a downward spiral.
I teach voice lessons. My husband teaches Pilates. And both of us were trying to do this remotely in a 650 square foot apartment. By New York standards, that’s good-sized. But it was never meant to be a living and work space for two people.
Needless to say, if I never hear “One more, squeeze your glutes!” at 5:45am again, it will be too soon.
I resorted to setting up my self-tape backdrop in the bathroom, so my Zoom companions couldn’t tell I was sitting on the toilet seat. That’s a literal new low.
So what the hell are we supposed to be doing now? My answer: I haven’t a clue. But also, not nothing.
That is, none of us artists really knows what to do, or what’s coming next. But I still feel we are essential, even if society (or the government) doesn’t appear to feel this way.
Amidst the chaos, I know only how to do two things:
1) Figure out how to make some money, and
2) Figure out how to make some art.
I’m mainly addressing those of you who are just starting your careers as singers, or still training for a career. Even established singers who perform on Broadway have had to pivot to other fields (in or out of the performing arts). Robbie Fairchild began a floral business that, partly due to his fame, took off in a few short months. Most of us aren’t Broadway stars (and former ballet stars), but that doesn’t mean we have to stay paralyzed and hopeless.
Since March, I’ve managed to make money as an artist in a few ways. I’m not sharing this not to brag, but to show it’s not impossible to bring in some income through creative endeavors.
- I teach voice lessons (approximately 15 hours a week).
- I did a virtual concert via ZOOM and sold tickets online.
- I got an acting gig on a TV show (very lucky, as television work remains scarce).
- I sold my online coaching/voice course.
- I spoke at several universities and conservatories.
- I put together a Sondheim Masterclass for my students with a Broadway star, who is also a friend.
- I sold a few CD’s.
- I wrote a few articles for online publication
- I did a concert in a driveway
- I sold some of my performance gowns online.
Of course, most of these involved work pre-COVID. The CD was in the can, as they say, and ready to go. I had performed the concert live, so the set list was basically ready. I had been teaching voice already, so my studio was already put together. I’d been working on my online course long before the pandemic and auditioning for TV gigs for several years.But none of these gigs looked or felt the way the did before March. My voice studio is now 100% online and I’ve cut my rates in half. The concert took place via Zoom and band members wore masks. The applause is gone (boo) but so is the two-drink minimum (which prevented some from attending shows in a club, so yay!).
This was all awkward and it required a willingness to stumble through the new reality. I’ve found that people appreciate the effort and even when technology falters, or something fails to come off smoothly, people are forgiving: “Oh, I have no idea how to spotlight the speaker either!” or “Don’t worry, my kid is crying in the background too.” And who among us hasn’t struggled to figure out lighting in our apartments. (It’s made us all more appreciative of professional lighting designers, which is a good thing.)
It will be a long time before we are back to “normal,” however you define this. And even when it’s safe to gather and work together in intimate settings, we’ve seen that many aspects of creating art can be accomplished remotely. If nothing else, this pandemic has taught us all many new skills:
- Putting together a virtual set list for your concert
- How to compress video and upload to social media, YouTube, wherever
- How to virtually audition
- How to send and receive online payments
- How to host virtual events/masterclasses
- How to sell and promote yourself online
- How to maximize social media
- How to record an album in your bedroom
- How to sell your old gowns on eBay, or my favorite site: Shoperatic
- How to set up your voice-over studio
I’ve been fortunate to be able to make money while I make art. But that’s not the only option.
Maybe you are making money as a paralegal, graphic designer, or freelance copywriter. That’s great! Money is money and money is good. Financial burdens do not enhance creativity. So even if you’re making money in a non-arts field, you may find yourself freer to create as a result.
When you’re not working, try new things! Write a script, study watercolor painting. The more you feel fulfilled and content, the more that spills into your primary art form. Will writing poetry make you a better opera singer? It might if poetry brings you joy and you bring that to your singing. If painting feeds your soul and lifts your spirits, that will come through in your voice, too.
I think many of us were taught that you have to stick with one thing and do it really well to be taken seriously as an artist. That’s so last century. You can do many things at many different levels.
I don’t mean to downplay the devastation we are all experiencing. It’s a terrifying, unfair, and heart-breaking time. I hope only to help you find your way and to lighten the burden slightly.
So much is out of our control. The key is to find out what we can control.
What can you do today, right now, to help release your creative spirit?