One of my favorite summer “work” activities has to be helping to prep artists to talk to the media, and in the process learning a little bit about them that we could use as a ‘hook’ for interview pitches. I have a list of questions that a pal and former colleague started, that we’ve added to over the last few months. Questions range from practical (“What can’t you travel without?” “What’s the best advice you’ve received?”) to philosophical (“Do you think sports salaries are merited?” “Where does the current system of young artist training fail?”) to totally whackadoo (“What’s your juiciest backstage story?” “Who was your worst colleague?”)
(For the record, those last two questions I would LOVE to hear the answers over a pint at the Vienna Inn…but find a graceful way to decline them in a real interview.)
One gentleman we spoke to came to singing after studying business for quite some time, and he had a markedly different perspective on the field, his work, and his responsibilities. He treats his career like a business: which it is, although we artsy types have a difficult time reconciling the art with the business. (There’s a reason that we can all still identify with the folks in La bohéme…) Another alum of the company puts a certain percentage of every contract into a fund that is meant to reinvigorate his artistry: language work, coachings, travel, research…if it informs his music making, it’s fair game for the fund.
I stumbled across this article, and it made me wonder if we’re not doing our field a disservice by not addressing these business aspects in our training programs. Return on Investment seems like a cold way to look at the profession; taking the passion and alchemy out of the art form. However, I hear every summer from singers whose friends are in law school, medical school…these pals know how long it will take to get their degree, to likely find employment, and how much they can expect to make when they begin their professional career.
Ain’t nothing like that anymore for classical musicians, if every a thing did exist.
But when is the right time to address these issues? Undergrad? Grad school? And, is it possible to address it when each career path is so very unique?