Where I Last Got Paid to Sing : Drones, Secret Service, and Pentatonix?

Internationally acclaimed and multiple-award-winning singer of German and Indian descent, mezzo-soprano Nandani Maria Sinha recently had a gig in San Francisco that is particularly noteworthy. Currently based in Los Angeles, Sinha frequently performs with LA Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, and several other music companies in the Southern California area. This month she shares with readers her experience with her unique gig in San Francisco.

Where did you last sing and get paid?

My last gig was at the Moscone Center for the RSA cyber security conference opening ceremonies. The RSA Conference is a series of international IT security conferences that attracts nearly 45,000 attendees annually.

How much were you paid?

I was paid an AGMA standard fee and was also provided with all transportation, housing at the W Hotel for several days, a gown that I got to keep after the show, and all food and drink during my stay in San Francisco.

Where and when was the gig?

The gig was in San Francisco, California, at the Moscone Center on Tuesday, April 17, 2018—but we also had to record a track at a nearby recording studio in case there were any issues on the day of the performance.

The people I worked with were meticulous and had every scenario accounted for so it would be an easy concert for all involved. We had three musical segments that all intertwined, with drone robots coordinated with our singing, video on huge wall screens behind us, plus all the sound and lighting concerns of a regular concert.

How long did it last?

The actual performance lasted 10 minutes, but we had to be available two days in advance to work with the drones and sound engineers. We also had to deal with very tight security because the Secret Service was escorting the [secretary] of homeland security into the event as she was speaking directly after our concert. That was really cool. How often can you say you performed with Secret Service in attendance?

How did you get the job?

I got the job through a recommendation by a colleague who was friends with one of the producers. She wrote to me about the opportunity and invited me to share my audio files with the music producer. When the producers heard my recordings, they chose me out of about 200 people who had submitted for the gig.

The actual gig consisted of an operatic duo (myself and a soprano), a jazz singer, the String Mob, and Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix. This was honestly one of the coolest gigs I have ever been a part of.

What was your overall experience like?

I had the best time in the whole world on this gig. Everyone that I worked with was kind and so incredibly talented. It felt like walking into a warm and funny family. Tammy, my soprano duet partner, and I clicked the instant we sang together. We had never met before, and right when we walked into our music producer’s studio we were asked to sing the Lakmé “Flower Duet,” one of the pieces we would be singing in the concert.

I don’t know if you have ever done this before, but it is frightening. Not only do you not know if your voices will blend, but I was extremely worried that I would overpower her in voice size. This was certainly not the case.

Singing with Tammy was like seeing your best friend after a long hiatus. Everything clicked the second we sang our first notes—our vibratos aligned, our voices were the same in volume, and everything just organically came together. We got goosebumps and our music producer was so jazzed he had to call in the other producers and have us sing for them, too.

I am telling you this gig was charmed from the moment I said yes. The audience went crazy for us, although I am sure it helped that we had 32 drones by Verity Studios circling us while performing the Lakmé “Flower Duet.” After that, we were joined by a jazz singer to sing a modern version of “O Fortuna” from Carmina burana. That brought the house down. It was pretty amazing.

Would you do this or a similar gig again?

Absolutely! If I could, I would make 80 percent of my work this kind of work. It was incredibly fulfilling and artistically unique, and we were treated incredibly well.

Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is active as a teacher, singer, writer, and adjudicator and lives in Las Vegas. She has been on the full-time faculties at several universities. She is currently a voice faculty member for the Italian-based summer program, The International Opera Performing Experience and owns a private studio, the LATOUR Voice Studios. You can visit her at www.thelatourvoicestudios.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.