The last few weeks on BostonSingersResource.org we have seen a lot of posts for section leaders and soloists at area churches. Since many of these gigs start in September, now is the time to consider if you are interested in one of these positions. Our Executive Director Margaret Felice, who has experience as a soloist, section leader, and church cantor, writes today about 4 benefits to having a church job.
As singers we are always hustling after the next gig. When you are pulling together your headshots and resumes, working on those arias and oratorio pieces, do you think about finding a consistent gig singing at a church*? Maybe you’re not used to getting up early on Sundays, or you never really thought about working at a church. But if you’re considering a church job, read on for a few benefits to taking one of these gigs.
Singing rep out of your comfort zone
Either through where we audition or what we chose to prepare, most of us pick the music we sing in some way or another. As a choral section leader, most likely the choir director will be choosing the rep that you sing week after week. As long as you are not singing anything that damages your voice, this can be a good thing! You can (gently) push your limits and learn new rep.
As a cantor (leader of song) at Catholic parishes, I frequently sing songs and hymns that sit in my middle voice – not any soprano’s happy place! This gives me a chance to work on my technique in that part of my voice.
Working on presence, leadership and professionalism
Another side effect of being a leader of song is that lots of people are looking at you. (Let’s be honest – most singers love to have lots of people looking at them!) After a while this can be exhausting – if I sing more than one service a weekend, I spend a lot of energy keeping poised and alert. These are transferable skills to the stage.
If you are being paid to sing, it is likely that you were hired to help lead others, either the congregation or the rest of your choral section. There are many elements to this leadership: vocal quality, musicianship, energy and more. Again, transferable skills.
As with any job, part of a church job is interacting with people. You never know when someone in your section will be prickly or having a bad day, when the organist might be ill or distracted, or when technical difficulties might leave you singing in the dark. Learning to deal with these issues makes you more professional.
Part of the artistic life is making connections, and many church jobs come with lots of new contacts. Some new connections end up ongoing musical collaborators, potential voice students, mentors who can give guidance, or just good friends. If you are new to an area as a student or transplant and haven’t found your tribe yet, a church job can be a great way to make connections.
Having consistent work
I left this to last because this is the most obvious (and to many the most important). You will be sure to sing for people every week with one of these jobs. And of course, you’ll have a consistent paycheck to go with it!
If you’re thinking about a church job and don’t know where to start to find one, you can find plenty of postings at BostonSingersResource.org. You’ll need a paid membership to browse – you can learn more about membership on our website as well. Happy singing!
*I write about singing at churches because that’s what I know best. If you have experience in a different faith tradition let us know – and consider writing a post about it!
Margaret Felice is a singer, writer, conductor and educator living in Boston, and is Executive Director of Boston Singers' Resource. Recent operatic roles include Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica, Piccola Opera), Frasquita (Carmen, Opera New Hampshire), Sandman (Hansel and Gretel, Longwood Opera) and Musetta (La La Bohème, school tour, Opera New Hampshire). She sings regularly as an oratorio soloist and also performs extensively in musical theater. She directs the Liturgical Musicians at Boston College High School, is an assistant director of the Liturgy Arts Group at Boston College, and sings at parishes in and around Boston. Margaret holds degrees from Boston College and The Boston Conservatory. Learn more at www.margaretfelice.com.