8 Important Tips for Navigating the Singing Business!
Don't you love a good numbered list of important things on the internet? Who doesn't! So here's the BSR Blog's very first numbered list of 8 Important Tips for Navigating the Singing Business. These are things I've either learned the hard way, seen people learn the hard way, figured out after much trial and error, or observed as best practices from my brilliant colleagues. Let's dive in:
- Unless you're performing with orchestra, always bring a copy of your music to rehearsals and performances. Even if you think the accompanist has it already, bring your music. You'd be surprised - nay, shocked - at how many times no sheet music has arrived at a performance, and you'd be completely not surprised nor shocked at how difficult things suddenly became for everyone involved.
- Always personally make sure your costume is on right. If someone puts it on you, double-check to make sure it's secure, and redo it if necessary. Add more safety pins, re-tie all the ties, and generally strap yourself in. Sure, it might be someone else's fault that your pants fell off in the middle of a scene, but ultimately you're the one standing onstage with no pants. Seen it happen.
- Do not wear flip-flops or open-toe shoes to staging rehearsals or onstage because a) it's dangerous and b) it's really dangerous. Flip-flops are super comfortable but they provide no protection or support and can cause you to trip, and stages can be littered with staples, nails, and colleagues in heels or steel-toed workboots. Personally, I won't do a show in open-toe shoes or anything above a half-inch platform unless an entourage is carrying me around like Mariah Carey. Dangerous.
- Always have business cards with you that have your contact info, website, and picture. Seriously, you never know when you'll need to hand one out. Make sure one side is a pale color and mostly blank so you or someone else has space to write notes or extra info.
- Always have a pencil with you. ALWAYS. Hell, have two.
- Always bring your best self to pro-bono or "starter" gigs: be gracious if you decline, be responsible if you need to cancel, and if you accept the offer, treat it like you would a $20K gig at the Met. Be prepared, be a good colleague, do your best work, and say thank you afterwards. You'd be surprised - nay, shocked - at how often this policy leads directly into serious paying work. Every colleague you work with - from the director to the conductor to your co-stars to the ensemble to the stage manager to the second trombone - is a potential professional reference for you.
- Read emails. OMG READ EMAILS. Most organizations try to detail everything out for you, so read the emails when they arrive and do a search in your inbox before forwarding questions to organizers. I've had people email me on the night of a show to ask what a call time is when I not only emailed that info several million zillion times before but am also in the middle of rushing to the theatre myself or trying to get a million zillion other things done pre-show. I love my colleagues and will always answer happily, but all they had to do was search their inbox for "call time", so: aargh. I also get a lot of email replies asking questions that I literally just answered in the email they replied to. This always makes me giggle, but also: aargh. I've had conversations about people not reading emails with so many other producers, and they all get the same look of wild-eyed, hair-tearing desperation when the topic comes up. Sometimes they weep. So, read emails and save everyone's tears.
- Use a signature block in your emails with your contact info, various and sundry titles, website links, and whatnot. Use it in all original emails and make sure it appears at least once in reply chains to save people time tracking down your cell number when they suddenly need it. This really works.
Et voilà- our first numbered list! Hope it helps, and happy singing!
Angela Jajko, mezzo-soprano, is the Editor of the BSR Blog. A popular performer of opera, operetta, musical theatre, and oratorio, she has been praised in such publications as the Boston Globe and the Herald for her “peaches and cream” voice and dramatic delivery. Her recent performances have included acclaimed appearances with the Boston Outside the Box Festival, Opera New Hampshire, Piccola Opera, as a featured soloist on the National Public Radio program “Says You!”, with Opera Providence in The Romany Maid, as a featured soloist with Cape Symphony in “Passport to England” in the Barnstable Performing Arts Center, as Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore with Longwood Opera and The New England Gilbert & Sullivan Society, as the alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Maplewind Arts, as the alto soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with Boston Cecilia at All Saints Brookline, and in the role of Prinz Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with the North End Music and Performing Arts Center Opera Project in Faneuil Hall. Angela is the Alto Soloist at All Saints Brookline, and has also appeared as Miss Hannigan in Annie with Crescendo Theatre Company, The Lady of the Lake in Spamalotat Theatre at the Mount, selections from Carmen in The Greater Worcester Opera Gala in Mechanics Hall, Tessa in The Gondoliers with The Sudbury Savoyards, Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with New England Light Opera, Carmen with Greater Worcester Opera, Offenbach’s Island of Tulipatan with New England Light Opera, the roles of Ruth, Buttercup, Phoebe, Katisha, and The Fairy Queen in concert with the New England Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and as a featured soloist in concerts with Opera on Tap, Masstheatrica, FIRSTMusic, Ocean Park Festival Chorus, Parish Center for the Arts and New Hampshire Opera Theatre. Her performances have also included the roles of Carmen, Theodorine, Augusta, Marcellina, Hermia, Savitri, Pirate Jenny, and La Zia Principessa. She has also performed with Odyssey Opera, PORTopera, Granite State Opera, Longwood Opera, BASOTI, Harvard University, and the International Lyric Academy in Viterbo, Italy. She has been honored by the American Prize competition and holds degrees in Vocal Performance from The New England Conservatory of Music and the University of California at Los Angeles. She is currently the Associate Executive Director of NELO, an artist coordinator for Opera on Tap Boston, President of the New England Gilbert & Sullivan Society, a Board Member of Boston Singers’ Resource, and was recently a Board Member of L’Académie, a critically acclaimed orchestra specializing in performances of French Baroque music in health institutions. Angela gives workshops and masterclasses and maintains a private studio specializing in audition techniques, and she has served as Costumer for a number of productions with companies including Guerilla Opera, Company One, NELO, BASOTI and Longwood Opera. She has also served as a Director for NELO’s Rising Stars program and in other productions as Assistant Director, Stage Manager, and Props Master. She has extensive experience in administration, office management, and event management in a variety of industries. Visit her at http://angelajajko.com/.