Home Remodeling, as a metaphor for Career Transition

My morning started with a cup of coffee, the New York Times, and a jackhammer.

(You read that correctly.)

You see, we’ve finally launched into a much-needed home renovation project, and a 4-inch-thick slab of concrete needed to be excavated from my second-floor bathroom. Now, had I not had a family who tore houses apart for summer fun instead of going to the beach or Disneyland (for the record, stripping wallpaper is no where near as fun as riding rollercoasters or swimming or making sandcastles. Just sayin’.), I’d be scared. But even had the outcome been said cement ending up in the dining room below, it would’ve been OK. Not ideal, but we would’ve learned something important (and, likely expensive) about the structural issues in the house.

Investing in something, and following it wholeheartedly to its natural conclusion, is never a bad thing.

I’m reminded of this especially as our summer season has just ended. I can draw parallels from our Studio program, which is geared towards talented undergraduate and first-year-graduate students, to the significant kind of home renovation that I’ll be vacuuming up for days and days. The Studio program is designed to give singersfirst-hand knowledge of the field, from a professional viewpoint. We try to go beyond the rehearsal schedule (which is compact and intense), to give them exposure to industry folks, tax professionals, musical and dramatic coaches, and a whole host of people who have made careers in this crazy field. The number of careers that people have carved out, and the ways in which they’ve done the carving, are as varied as the people themselves. They also see peers and recent alums, all quite talented, but some seeing a strong measure of success, others struggling.

The part of the program that we don’t advertise as much, but that is just as important? It’s a place where they can get enough information to decide if this crazy career is, in fact, not the right thing for them. It’s an important decision, and one that may of them haven’t vetted through their years of schooling. Most summers there are one or two Studio Artists who start to ask questions about what other things are out there, what level we think they’ll get to with their innate talent (Answer: I don’t have a clue, ever… there are simply too many variables to take into account.), what we recommend. The process is not unlike tearing open dry wall, jackhammering cement, checking the subflooring for soft spots, and rebuilding from the inside out.

The great thing is that, eventually, they do figure it out. Some stay in the field, recommitted to a performing career. Some move to related fields, and explore administrative jobs, artist management, and the like. Some take the discipline that they’ve cultivated in the practice room and head to law or medical school. And while we believe in the musical talent of every one, we don’t stop believing in them because they’ve stepped away from the footlights.

So, as we limp through the last few weeks of August, towards Labor Day (aka the Educator’s New Year) and the beginning of the academic year, I have a challenge for you: Take some time to tear off some of the dry wall, check your subfloor. What parts of the room are worth keeping, and what needs a rehaul? Will a change a paint color be all you need, or will you be jackhammering cement? Look at the career you’ve invested in: it’s time to recommit or remodel.

(New profiles and a more-regular posting schedule will resume in early September. Thanks for hanging in thus far!)

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