May 5, 2012

Music: What can I do with this degree?

Hmm, so you've spent quite some time in school practicing scales, going to rehearsal, preparing for juries and performances. The bell rings, class is out, and you've graduated. Finally, no more class, tests, or homework! But wait, somehow the rent, car note, groceries, and unexpected expenses still keep knocking at the the front door. Who's going to answer it? You are--with poise and style, knowing that your music degree has paved an INCREDIBLE path for your future success.

Keep practicing those arias and scales, have a lesson when you can, and audition your little butt off, but on your way to the top of the music mountain consider all these areas that can enrich your success.

Music Therapy
Generally, in music therapy some certification is required. Most professionals have advance degrees in music, psychology, or social work.
--Special Education Facilities
--Mental health centers
--Nursing homes
--Correctional facilities
--Private practice
--Outpatient clinics

Recording Industry
The recording industry is a vast and wide net where many performers catch better entry into their fields. This field includes professionals who obtain degrees in music performance or music business.
--Publishing and Editing
--Talent Acquisition
--Promotions/Media Relations
--Marketing and Sales
--Product Management
--Post Production

Traditionally this path is for the musician who wishes to make performance his/her sole occupation. This highly competitive but rewarding field is based heavily on networks, auditions, and talent. In the United States, graduate degrees and consistent professional experience is preferred.
--Armed Forces
--Symphony Orchestras
--Small Ensembles
--Concert Soloist
--Radio, Television, and Motion Picture
--Opera chorus/solo
--Voice over
--Musical Theater

A field growing in demand for musically experienced individuals is communications. Businesses seek artistic professionals able to handle many aspects of performance or art related projects. Generally this is contract work for professionals with at least undergraduate degrees in music. 
--Music Director
--Live Performance

Other great opportunities for the music professional are found in the law field. This is a great field for learning the legal responsibilities of music business/performance. Music professionals in this arena work in tandem with law professionals on varying music related issues. Law degrees are generally not obtained. 
--Music copyright and Licensing
--Clearance Administration
--Entertainment Law

Musicians with a flare for writing are always welcomed in the journalism field. Our expertise on musical form, performance practice, history, and theory are all strengths that make writing for local, city, or national news unmatchable. Strong writing skills/portfolio required.
--Music journalism
--Music critic

May 2, 2012

The Alchemy of Talent: Adrienne Walker, Soprano

It's good to stay connected with friends. You might need a couch to crash or a lift to the airport for that next audition. But colleagues also need one another in other important ways. Since we singers love to chat, another conversation was created with friend and colleague, soprano Adrienne Walker. Having teetered gracefully amid both sides of the musical theater and operatic worlds, Adrienne offers insight into the differences, likeness, and demands of each artform.

Welcome back to Chicago! It has to be exciting to be back. What have you been up to since leaving The Chicago College of Performing Arts?
Yes, I am happy to be back. Chicago is such a great city and, aside from the crazy weather, I love this place. But of course, Atlanta is my home. I’ve been keeping busy and have done a handful of shows.

Awesome. Which?
Let’s see, Porgy and Bess, The Mommies, Hair, and soon Dreamgirls, which will bring me back to Chicago again later this year. 

You have been busy. What were you doing to keep projects on the horizon?
Auditioning. I auditioned in Atlanta as much as I could. There are fewer opportunities there, but it’s always great to be near my family before hitting the road again. While performing Hair I was still auditioning in Chicago. This gave me opportunities for future work.

Is the scene different in Atlanta?
Yes. Less opportunity, in turn, means fewer gigs and chances to earn money. There are always productions, but unfortunately they don’t always pay. I choose to earn, even if only a little…haa haa!

Totally understandable. After all, this is our job. So it’s been a good return?
Incredibly. Hair was an amazing production and I made great new friends; I’m back in a city I know and love; I’ve made some money and I’ve auditioned for another show. All pluses.

It looks like you have been getting sound work in the musical theater arena. Has that been an adjustment since you are classically trained?
Are you kidding? Yes! Definitely an adjustment, but I absolutely love it and the chance to expand my skill and experiences.

What have rehearsals been like?
With opera gigs, you learn ALL your music before meeting the maestro, the répéteur, or an orchestra. No one “plays notes” for you. It’s similar with musical theater, but producers and directors are more apt to teach a cast their parts while preparing for a show. You still have to be a great musician. They aren’t teaching intervals and chords.

Are rehearsals similar in any ways?
Music rehearsals are typically 3-4 days. Then you begin blocking. So despite the genre, the demands on a performer are pretty much the same. One must learn and memorize music quickly and begin to work off book within days.

And what about vocally, is the technique wildly different?
As far as style, I'm still learning what is acceptable in musical theater. Above the staff is a whole different beast for me. But to my aid, I did grow up in a church where belting is ALL we ever did. Then again, I’ve never been trained to do that properly either, haa haa. So that’s a challenge I’m working through.

Have you recognized any significant differences between the genres?
Dance. Dance! DANCE!

Haa, haa. So are you a good dancer?
Lord has witnessed my attempts! I’m working on it. I am a singer. I move well but by no means do I dance. I pulled a muscle during Hair, probably while flinging my neck during the title song. After 2 muscle relaxers, a mild dose of anti-inflammatory, and a prescription-strength pain reliever I was back on my feet.

Goodness! And three shimmies from the morgue.
Haa haa.

So, the ability to move well on stage is important it seems?
Yes. Actually, I’ve danced in every production, even Porgy and Bess though that was still the least demanding. You’ve got to have some nimble feet—and a strong neck—in musical theater.   

Am I right to say there is a different acting technique in opera and musical theater?
Chicago is full of small storefront theater, home to many musical productions I’ve seen.  Since these spaces are more intimate, performers can be more subtle and be more “real” (or life like). It’s not so difficult to see or even hear these performers as an audience member and they aren’t so far away.
…And opera?
It’s grander and houses are bigger, there can never be anything subtle with opera. The characters and music are often bigger-than-life and singers sometimes have to be become less “real life” and exaggerate so that the 4000th seat three stories high can receive the same effect. With opera, acting must match the caliber of the spectacle and is sometimes less in sync with every day behavior.

Anything else you’ve recognized as a notable difference?
Lots more, but another real adjustment was getting used to a microphone! I’d never used a mic in a production until my first gig in musical theater. In opera, we don’t use mics. So every little cough, throat clearing, or breath I was sure the audience would hear…they don’t though. Good sound engineers are invaluable.

Interesting word you used to describe opera “spectacle,” but one could say spectacle is something both genres share, no?
Certainly. With both there is always a since of narrative and we see the relationships between the characters and drama, setting and circumstance, development and plot. But there is more emphasis in musical theater on the story being told and actions of the characters; opera is more concentrated on the caliber of a voice, its tone and capability. 

Well said, I agree with you.
Keep in mind opera is basically archaic when compared to musical theater. Musical theater became fashionable in the early 1900s, stemming from vaudeville and street theater. Opera had already been in existence for centuries! Because of this, standards are different and so are the expectations, practices, and customs.    

Oh là à brains and beauty, a wise and knowledgeable performer you are!
Haa haa, I’m blushing.

Have you recognized any differences in general performance style?
The fourth wall is broken a lot in musical theater but in opera it’s often more understated when singers reference the audience, if they even acknowledge their presence at all. I’ve experienced that with musical theater, the audience are participators; whereas in opera, audience members are more like spectators.
Interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way. So I have to ask, has either art form taught you more about your artistic strengths and goals?
Each gives me something so totally unique. For example, with musical theater I have more freedom of singing technique and am able to achieve certain nuance and colors with more ease. I’m able to create funnier characters and be a bit more of a ham too. But, its also shown me that I have to become more comfortable as a dancer and actor.
…and with opera?
I’m always challenged, in a good ways. Opera helps me isolate my voice and points to areas of my technique that can be better. I enjoy that this art form helps me understand the mechanics of my voice.

What are you working towards now, your goals? Musically, technically…anything?
Since my last few productions I’ve been really exploring how to reach the audience… really reaching them. That’s my goal. No matter if I’m spinning high Cs or giving a monologue, it’s about creating something unique, real, and relatable for everyone sitting on the other side. Otherwise I might as well retire now. So, I’m working on merging Adrienne the singer with Adrienne the actress.

They’re probably are a lot closer than you think, no?
I’d say they are in the same state but different counties right now.

Haa haa, with visitation every other weekend and holidays?
LOL! Exactly. But you know, it’s just about finding experiences that help you believe in what you have, that it’s enough, that what you have matters and experiences that help what you have continue to grow.

Totally. Ok, let’s wrap up here and just for fun tell me, what roles in either genre would you really like to do?
Is it weird that I don’t have any dream roles? I have an honest and open love for simply learning music, auditioning, and seeing where that takes me.

No, that’s no strange at all.
…But I would love to play Aida, Elton John’s version. I would also love to be a part of the Lion King. That show has a special place in my heart. I think Deena in Dreamgirls would be simply amazing too. Ok, maybe these are dream roles…haa haa.

Anything in opera?
Mimi! I’m simply in love with everything Puccini; so maybe one day. I think I’m also going to make one heck of a Countess someday too!

I agree. You’re charming, full of adventure, tremendously talented and headed in the absolute right direction. Good things to come, you’re going to surprise yourself!
Thank you, I hope so…can we eat now!?