People always told me that my voice was ‘special’, that I was talented, and that I was not to waste my blessings. So, when deciding upon university courses, it was extremely hard to deny the romantic appeal of studying my ‘passion’, and the opportunity to cultivate the ‘natural gift’ of my classical singing voice.
Yet, here I am, two years down the track, with only one year of my Bachelor of Music to go, and I have come to the simultaneously destabilising and relieving conclusion that I do not want to be a singer. This understanding was not prompted by any failings on my part; in fact by most standards, I have excelled and achieved as a classical singer. The decision to divert my career-gaze elsewhere was derived from my realisation that a career in classical singing does not:
- totally fulfil and motivate me
- reflect the nature of employment that would suit my personality (namely, it is too unstable)
- acknowledge many of my others interests and passions
It was not easy to reach this conclusion. The past two years have been some of the most confusing in my life (due in part to the tumultuous nature of adolescence in general) but also to the glaring fact that I felt like a fraud in my pursuit of classical music. The Melbourne Con is undoubtedly a breeding ground of exceptionally talented people who live and breathe classical music. As much I tried manipulate myself to fit this mould, I could not, and more importantly, I should not need to. The reality is that locking myself in a practice room for hours on end and striving anxiously for a perfect technique does not make me want to get out of bed in the morning, it does not give me a purpose in life, and it certainly does not set my spirit free.
But that's ok. As soon as I acknowledged that I did not want a career as a classical singer, I immediately felt a return to my self; I felt like I was being freed from the prison of an archetypal musician that I was not, and propelled towards the exciting world of the many others things I have the opportunity to be. Having reached this life-changing junction I feel inspired, rather than apprehensive, when I contemplate my career, as any young person should. And what’s more, I am now in the privileged position of being able to appreciate the vast array of skills my music degree has given me. In a somewhat CV-esque manner, let me identify a few of these that will stand me in excellent stead for any number of career paths I may choose to embark upon:
- discipline (obviously);
- creative thinking;
- a deep understanding of the importance of mindset and how this affects your ability to problem-solve;
- self-promotion and ambassadorship;
- collaboration, including a finely tuned ability to listen, assess and adjust accordingly.
There is obviously a difference between the negativity associated with a bad day of practice and the frustration of feeling ‘stuck’ on a career path that isn’t right for you. Be discerning, and learn the difference. However, I urge you to consider the following three (positive) points if the thought of music performing/teaching for a career makes you feel anxious:
- You still have so much time to change direction;
- Your music degree is one of the most psychologically enriching and enhancing degrees you could have chosen for your undergraduate;
- Melbourne University has wonderful career counselling services, including the work of Susan De Weger (coordinator of Ignite Lab) whose job is to advise musicians of their many career options (many of which have absolutely nothing to do with performing). Meeting with her made me genuinely enthused and excited about the diverse opportunities that exist within the music/arts sector for non-performing professionals.
I plan to lead a fulfilled life, buoyed by a motivating career. Such an ideal is completely achievable for anyone if you have the courage to admit what you truly want even in the face of what you thought you wanted, and strive tirelessly for it.