"And What Is It That You Do For a Living?"

“You can create the energy to turn your dreams into reality by knowing what to say when you talk to yourself.”
– Shad Helmstetter

I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked the question, “What do I say, how do I behave when someone asks me what it is I do for a living?” And then they continue to say, “I’m still working on my voice and doing a bit of performing, but I can’t in all good conscious call myself a professional opera singer. And besides I already have a degree (or two) and should probably be further along. I feel too old to be saying I’m not ready yet. It makes me sound like I haven’t worked hard enough. But I do have a regular job to pay for it all.”
It’s amazing how many aspiring artists or emerging professional singers haven’t created a solid, personal phrase or statement that they have great confidence in when asked this really quite simple question; one that represents where you are right now as far as your singing career is concerned. And have the guts to spit it out when asked this really quite harmless question. It’s time to formulate your well thought out, short statement said with confidence and panache so you feel more comfortable with where you are right this minute during any conversation.
To get a leg up on this catch-22 situation, its necessity to understand what it is about this intimidating question that sets you off. Here are a few germane questions that will help you find what is standing in your way of owning where you are right now with dignity. No one but you is going to see this, so just be painfully honest and find your own truth as you write it down. And tell your inner critic, brat and editor to find another project for a moment as you work through these questions.

  • Why does this very particular question make you panic and feel so uncomfortable?
  • Write down the exact conversation going on in your head when you hear this question. (Be able to un-jumble it and get at least one solid thought down.)
  • Do you feel you are worthy of having a singing career?
  • Do you feel you are where you thought you would be at this time, place and age?
  • Are you following your own path and are you happy with your progress?
  • Are you frustrated and discouraged with yourself?
  • Are you afraid to leave your comfort zone to get to the next level?

So, there you are. Did any of your answers surprise you? Do they make sense to you? Did any of this open the door for any other interesting thoughts? Be ready to step up, create and own your personal public statement with pride. Be happily responsible for changing how you view where you are at this moment on your career path. You know it’s not like any other profession because you can’t start training at a young age like you do in most sports, etc. Your vocal apparatus has to mature before study can begin.
Being who you are is relevant. So know that no matter how wonderful, honest, unique, authentic, etc. you are, not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to agree with you and that’s just fine. It’s just human nature. So instead of letting these emotions that are infused with energy move you away from your dreams and goals, allow that energy to move you forward allowing you to get what you want instead of holding you back. Be productive with this energy rather than destructive. Learn to wield this energy as a tool for your benefit, not your detriment. And practice your statement until it feels like the most natural answer in the world. Then always ask them the same question that was put to you and the conversation if off and running.
Put this persuasive and convincing energy to work for you as you formulate and start expressing your answer to that previously dreaded question. Here are some ideas of what a public statement might be:

  • I am pursuing a professional operatic career which entails continued and never ending working with the Masters in the business. And what do you do for a living?
  • I have a day job doing….. until the day when my preparation is over and I am making my living singing. How about you?
  • I am an aspiring opera singer. How about you?
  • Opera Singing professionally has always been my goal. I’m well on my way. How about you?
  • To make a living while continuing to prepare for a career as a professional opera singer, I have a job at… How about you?
  • I’m a classical (soprano, mezzo, tenor, bass) in training for an operatic career. How about you?
  • I am so lucky to be living out my dream of becoming a professional opera singer. I continue with the necessary studies of course, so my day job is…. until I can make my living as a singer. And what do you do?

The whole point of your public statement, besides giving you a solid and prideful stance while introducing yourself, is to open an opportunity to real, interesting, diverse and comfortable dialogue with the other person or persons. It’s always about asking questions and then really listening without trying to formulate a clever answer or response while the other person is still talking. It is truly and honestly about communicating well. Believe me when I say, you will be well remembered for all the right reasons once you put your personalized response to work for you. Then you will own who you are and where you are going.
Avanti and look forward to hearing from you. Carol

Carol Kirkpatrick

For as long as she can remember, singing and performing have always been in Carol Kirkpatrick’s blood. From her beginnings in a small farming town in southeastern Arizona, through her early first-place triumph at the prestigious San Francisco Opera Auditions, and subsequent career on international stages, Ms. Kirkpatrick has thrilled audiences and critics alike. “A major voice, one worth the whole evening.” (The New York Times) Since retiring from the stage, she continues to be in demand as a voice teacher, clinician, and adjudicator of competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Combining her knowledge of performance, business, and interpersonal skills, she has written the second edition of her highly regarded book, Aria Ready: The Business of Singing, a step-by-step career guide for singers and teachers of singing.  Aria Ready has been used by universities, music conservatories and summer and apprentice programs throughout the world as a curriculum for teaching Ms. Kirkpatrick’s process of career development, making her “the” expert in this area.  She lives in Denver, Colorado.   YouTube.com/kirkpatrickariaready