Where I Last Got Paid to Sing : Melissa Rivera's Success With Crossover Vocal Training

This article was originally published in Classical Singer magazine. To subscribe to the print magazine, go to www.csmusic.info/subscribe.

Melissa Rivera has performed with a variety of opera and musical theatre companies throughout the U.S. She holds an MM in opera and musical theatre from Southern Illinois University and a BM in voice from San Diego State University. Her diverse training has paid off, and this month Rivera shares her experience in singing with Legends in Concert. 


Where did you last sing and get paid? 

I am currently under a one-year contract with Legends in Concert. The company is based out of Las Vegas but I am at their Branson, Missouri, location. I was offered the contract in September 2018, and I started in January 2019. 

How much were you paid? 

I’m not at liberty to go into details because I am under contract, but I am happy to say that it is enough to earn a livable wage—plus health, dental, and vision benefits and a 401(k) option. 

How long did it last? 

It is a one-year contract, so my last day will be January 1, 2020. 

How did you get the job? 

Fun story! I originally saw a casting notice on a Facebook audition board back in December 2017 for a dance position. I went to the audition, but quickly realized I was out of my element. Needless to say, I did not book the job. 

Almost a year later, the dance captain emailed me out of the blue, telling me that she was looking through old audition videos and remembered seeing that I was a singer on my résumé. They were in need of a singer for their 2019 season and wanted to know if I was interested in auditioning. I was asked to prepare two contrasting songs—a ballad and up-tempo, preferably with some belt—and was told that I would be taught a short dance combination. 

Unfortunately, our schedules were almost complete opposites, so arranging an audition date was difficult. She was finally able to schedule a private audition with the artistic manager, general manager, vocal captain, sound engineer, and herself. Everyone was very welcoming and kind. There was a very laid-back vibe in the theater that helped calm my nerves. 

The audition took place on their stage with a live microphone. I sang a cut from Kelly Clarkson’s “Beautiful Disaster” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.” The latter sits a little low in my range, but I knew I could show more of my vocal abilities if it was in a higher key, so I had the track transposed up a whole step. The vocal captain was familiar with “Mama’s Broken Heart,” so she joined in on a top harmony to make sure I could hold my own. 

We had a blast rocking out. At that point it felt more like a jam session than an audition. The dance portion was extremely simple, so I was very grateful. After I was done, they filled me in on some of the demands of the gig and asked a few questions and that was it. A few hours later I got a call from the dance captain offering me the gig! 

What do you love about the gig? 

It has been a wonderful experience so far. It is rare to be able to make a living just singing with no side hustle. And even more rare to get to sing in so many different styles within one show—rock, pop, country, and whatever else they want to throw our way. It has definitely felt like vocal acrobatics. 

What don’t you love? 

The schedule can be grueling. Most of the year we perform two-hour shows 10 to 12 [times] per week. I only have one day off a week, so I have to make it count. 

The show is constantly changing. We have different acts that come in and out throughout the year, so there are times that we are rehearsing new material while performing the current show. It makes for long days and vocal fatigue. 

But it is all worth it when it finally comes together, and I see the audience sing along and hoot and holler during their favorite songs. Sometimes a patron will catch me walking to my car after the show and take the time to thank and congratulate me. 

Would you do this or a similar gig again? 


Anything else you would like to add? 

I began singing pop music when I was a toddler. It was my introduction to music. But I had to put that on the back burner when I began to seriously study voice in college. My training and career centered around classical and musical theatre repertoire. I had a few opportunities here and there to sing some pop tunes for fun, but with the recent explosion of jukebox musicals on Broadway, it was clear that I needed to brush up on my pop music skills in order to stay in the game. 

I am so thankful for my foundation in classical technique because it has helped me stay healthy during this gig. But I am also grateful to the voice teachers that were not afraid to tackle belt techniques and embrace my natural capabilities for commercial genres. I cannot stress the importance of crossover training in this industry. It’s becoming more and more necessary to have diverse training in order to be marketable. 

You can learn more about Rivera at www.melissariveraonline.com. 


We want to hear from you. What are you doing to expand your palette of musical genres? Where did you last sing and get paid? If you have recently performed and were paid for that performance, whether it was a traditional or nontraditional gig, we’d love to share your story with the CS Music community. Please email Michelle Latour at thelatourvoicestudios.com
regarding your experience. And tweet about it at @classicalsinger and @latourstudios. Also #mylastpaidgig, #neversingforfree, and #createopportunities.

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.