I’ve been meaning to recap the experience that I had at the Opera America Leadership Intensive for several weeks now. It seemed daunting when I first got home, rehashing the intense experiences, the questioning, the warm community that formed. It seems even more daunting now that I’m several weeks removed from the experience… it was a beautifully rich experience, once that I’ll be reaping the benefits of for many years, I feel sure.
I can say the following with certainty: it is a true gift to be given the opportunity to examine one’s professional circumstances from an industry perspective, rather than from one’s position within an organization. (And honestly, after a certain point people will assume that you know enough to figure the important stuff out on your own, even if you’re convinced that you are not capable in the least). In the most well-connected places, I’d wager that one wouldn’t have the luxury of a high-powered study group assembled of the best and brightest from around the country.
(Let’s be honest, it was like an Opera-centric Hogwarts. And this Muggle is thrilled that she made it in!)
It was luxurious. Challenging. Thought-provoking, in all the best ways. To have the time to figure out what’s important? And to do so in a room full of experts and like-minded neophytes? Well, it was equal parts energizing and uplifting… but it wasn’t without big moments of self-searching and doubt.
It’s funny…one of the most transformative experiences that I had as an artist came after I had (mostly) given up that performance path. I remember sitting in an audition room at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, listening to a steady parade of singers sing their audition rep in a small black box theater. At some point during that, my first day on the “other side of the table”, I realized that 90% of the people who came through the door were just like me: they wanted to sing, they were working on their vocal issues, they were trying to figure it out. But when that one person came through the door who could really SING? Well, after that the whole situation made sense: the construct wasn’t made for the 90% of the worker bees, it was for the top 10 %, the 5%, or in our case that autumn, the top 3%. (There’s another post about the death of the working class of opera singers, of regional careers, and all kinds of related topics in my drafts folder…we’ll get to it sooner rather than later, I promise.)
But the time we had in New York? The grace of sitting around a table with whip-smart colleagues from all over the US, from Canada and Europe? Equally revolutionary…maybe moreso now that I realize how very special the opportunity was. Not only do I now have a network of people whom I trust, but I also realize that I might actually be able to have a seat at the table…I might actually be able to responsibly champion this crazy art form that I fell in love with.
(That last thought is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.)
Friends, I challenge you to ask some big questions about your art, your strengths, and what the perfect intersection of the two might look like.
(And naturally, I’d love to hear about those revelations and the ensuing questions.)
Happy Tuesday, y’all.