It’s that time of year! Time to pull out all of your receipts from 2014 and do your taxes! Yippie. Tax season is always a glaring reminder that I invest far more money into my voice than I profit from it. With hundreds a week on voice lessons, gas, and car upkeep to drive my weekly 8-hour trip to Los Angeles, with thousands of dollars each summer to participate in music festivals and training programs, with hundreds spend on headshots, audition applications, prescreening recordings, and the like, it’s painful to see how my deductions compare to my performance income. Some would call this a “money pit,” but I call it an opportunity to spend time and money on myself. While it often feels decedent and sometimes insane to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of practice time each week, the payoff is huge when I can create an optimal resonant sound, achieve new range extensions and strength, and feel my voice pierce through my whole body. There is nothing more validating than setting my soul free in song.
After 13 years of weekly voice lessons and 6 years of collegiate training, I can’t even fathom how much money and time I have invested in my voice. While I am still not breaking even from performances alone, I would not be the person I am now if it weren’t for my dedication to this artform.
I have survived ups and downs vocally, with drastic breakthroughs and complete backtracking. My vocal history rivals the bumpiest roller coaster. Changing fachs (voice types) every few years, struggling with good tension verses bad tension, receiving conflicting advice from different people in the field, many times the pressure became so great that I almost gave up. Each time, after only 2 weeks, my body and mind were begging me to sing again. I missed the challenge. I missed the release. I missed the song. It has been a struggle, but the struggle has taught me more than if singing came easily. I am more successful as a voice teacher because I have personally experienced most of the vocal problems out there. I have learned to stick with things even when they become difficult or seemed to be moving in reverse. I have learned to ask questions, to do my own research, and to pay attention.
While I may not be breaking even from performing, my training has supported two thriving careers. Not only have I created a successful vocal studio where I am blessed to share my knowledge of singing, speech pathology, songwriting, and beginning piano with a diverse and amazing group of students, but my vocal training has informed my work as a yoga instructor as well. Without having spent years overcoming stage fright and letting go of my natural tendency towards being a wallflower, I wouldn’t be comfortable sitting in front of a group of people while working myself into quite awkward-looking positions. My ability to project my voice healthily without strain has allowed me to teach 5 yoga classes and 6 voice lessons in one day and still have the vocal and physical energy to sing in the evening. The tenuous and sensitive nature of my instrument forced me to learn more about the human body, healthy eating habits, and how to keep myself safe from illness. While none of these things have to do with singing directly, the side-benefits to my vocal progress have shaped me into the self-aware, tenacious character I am today.
This profession is difficult, exhausting, expensive, disheartening at times. Frankly, performing is one of the hardest professions out there to make a living at. So, if you can picture yourself doing anything else. Do that instead. But, if you can’t picture yourself without music in your life- if you can’t go even a few days without singing, not because you have to, but because you want to- then embrace it wholeheartedly and never give up… no matter what your accountant says.
#bestrongin2015 challenge day 21: Prasarita Padhatonasana. The road is long and challenging. The path is not paved or marked. You must find your own way. But if you stick with it, if you dedicate yourself to the journey, you will find what you are seeking.