In recent decades, the education of classical singers seemed to have shifted drastically in the direction of career management. Although business savvy is of indisputable importance in managing a career in classical singing, the balance between artistic development and career management has become so tilted in favor of business, that one must wonder whether the farmer has forgotten to load his vegetables on the cart he is taking to market.
In the 1970s and 1980s, before the internet dominated our lives with easy access to videos and self-promotion on social media, it was healthy to discuss business savvy in the field of classical singing. The field had become markedly international and singers had to learn how to make the best use of the market, particularly between the United States and Western Europe. It was a given then that talents must be viable before they could even be competitive in professional singing venues.
The Convenience Generation, schooled in fast food, online-shopping, a sense of entitlement and immediate gratification, in large part, does not understand the term Discipline, particularly when it pertains to the development of musical competency, vocal resilience and artistic preparation. Some would spend several hours editing their most recent video, but will not spend the time in the practice room to learn an aria (let alone a role) without the use of Spotify or Youtube. How is a singer going to develop a personal interpretation of a piece of music if s/he is not able to read the language of music? In too many cases we are left with poorer copies of what other artists took the time to develop.
The saturation of singers in the field of classical singing is reminiscent of a Zombie Apocalypse. It feels like an army of the undead climbing over one another aimlessly, seeking only to infect others with that same sense of emptiness. Within that sea of aimlessness, there are often mindful artists who despite the carnage around them chose to go to their practice rooms and do the diligent, soul-searching work of the artist. They develop! They get better! They become musicians and singing actors! They are on a lifelong path of development and refinement. But they are too often surrounded by that army of the dead of nay-sayers, that would encourage them to take the easy way out. This reminds me of those changing a light-bulb jokes:
How many tenors does it take to change a light-bulb?
At every level, singers should be encourage to spend private time learning how to create art! We should all follow the principle espoused in Friedrich Rückert’s wonderful short poem, “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder…” Take private time to create fine art! Then offer it like a precious gift to the audience!