If you’re one of the many with dreams of scoring a record deal, embarking on a world tour, or gracing the Broadway stage or maybe even the big screen, you’ve probably received a wealth of advice from teachers and mentors. You know the importance of working hard, practicing a ton, acing your auditions and networking. But there’s actually much more to it.
When it comes to “making it” in the entertainment field and getting the opportunity to do what you love, the path to success can be filled with frustration and unpredictable outcomes. So how do you survive the ups and downs? New York, NY teacher Natalie W. recently gave us her 5 tips for survival that aren’t always mentioned in the career guidebooks.
Here are her words of wisdom, coming from years of experience as a professional opera singer:
1) Don’t go to school for the performing arts. No one truly cares where (or whether) you went to school; they just want to see what you can do. You will get far better training studying privately with teachers and coaches and designing your own curriculum than you will get in pretty much any program. With few exceptions, the best teachers don’t teach in universities, because they can make far more money teaching privately in a city like New York.
2) Do go to school and study something that interests you. Study philosophy, psychology, art history, political science, biology, whatever. Broaden your world. Make yourself a more complex, well-rounded person. This will serve you as an artist, and help prepare you for my next piece of advice:
3) Prepare for a parallel career. I was always told I would need a “fall-back” career, something to do if I didn’t make it. Well, of course, I was going to make it, so I didn’t need one. In fact, I didn’t want a “fall-back” career, because then I knew I would end up falling back on it. If I gave myself no option except to make it, then I’d have to make it right? (wrong) Here’s the reality: except for the most miniscule percentage of people, even highly successful performers – those who have had national tours, performed on Broadway or at the Met, have made blockbuster movies or been on Law & Order – have times when they are not making money as performers. Even if you “make it,” you will have to support yourself by other means at times. If you don’t want to spend the largest chunks of your life temping or waiting tables, figure out something you would like to do that allows you some flexibility for your artistic pursuits and train yourself for that. I have found that for myself with my teaching – the only reason I’m glad I have a Master’s degree in voice performance (even though nothing of what I learned in grad school gets passed on to my students).
4) Make time for friends and family. It is so easy to say “I can’t, I have rehearsal” (my mom actually bought me a t-shirt with this on it once, and I wore it with pride), and then wake up years later when your career is stalled to realize you have no friends and your marriage is on the rocks. There is no one audition, no one show, no one opportunity that will be the deciding factor in your career. You can’t always sacrifice your career dreams for your friends and family, but you also can’t always sacrifice your friends and family for your career dreams. In the end, your relationships are what sustain you, what nourish you, what make you a whole person, and are what you can count on when the dream eludes you. Besides, who are you going to thank when you win your Tony?
5) Lastly, if there is anything else in life that will make you happy, do that. It is rare that the moments of joy outnumber the moments of pain and frustration in this business, so it is only worth doing if you are miserable not doing it.
Natalie W. teaches piano, singing, Broadway singing, music performance, music theory, opera voice, and acting lessons to students of all ages in New York, NY. She joined the TakeLessons team in October 2012, with over 20 years of teaching experience. Find out more about Natalie, or visit TakeLessons to search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Emz.watson