Full disclosure: I am no longer actually at Fifth House‘s Fresh Inc 2013 Summer Festival. I recently returned to Smalltimore after an exhilarating two weeks in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Therefore, this wrap-up post is more like Dispatches “About” Fresh Inc rather than Dispatches “From” Fresh Inc.
While enjoying the customary final s’mores extravaganza at Fresh Inc under the watchful eye of the supermoon, composer Kevin Wilt and I discussed the finer points of a freelance music career. There are many parts of the puzzle that seem to go together very naturally. First, go to college. Then, go to graduate school. Then (for us singer-types), get into summer YAPs and parlay that into bigger apprenticeship programs. Or (for those symphony-types), get on that audition circuit with a vengeance. Then… you’re famous! Right? That’s how it works. Right??
“Develop an infallible technique, then place yourself at the mercy of inspiration.” – Ralph Rapson
Well, that’s the point that Fresh Inc tries to drive home to its participants. “Today’s professional musicians are not just talented performers, they are also imaginative and savvy businesspeople who can create new opportunities for themselves and effectively capitalize on existing ones.”¹ Even after two weeks of intense rehearsals and workshops, some musicians and composers might wonder, “what next?” To which Kevin replied, “it’s like gaining weight.” You don’t gorge yourself on double-stuffed Oreo’s for one whole weekend and wake up obese on Monday. “It sneaks up on you,” he continued, “you keep eating junk foods and over time you wonder what happened. It’s like this with our careers… we just need to keep adding career pounds instead of real ones.”
“You are the sum total of everything it has taken to produce you since before the beginning of beginningless time.” – Buddhist saying
Ummm, so, do a lot of work? Is that what this entire post is going to be about? Yes and no. To take this metaphor to the extreme, it’s time to outline a diet. This diet plan is not designed to lose weight. It is designed specifically to gain career pounds. Think of yourself like a prizefighter and kid, we’re moving up a weight class. To add real career pounds we cannot just survive on the really heavy stuff. Most composers and musicians are going to survive off of different types of sustenance.
The Negative Calories
Negative Calories are categorized as foods that take more calories to process than they deliver. You may notice some of these gigs or obligations filling up your schedule now. These are often gigs that you play for free or do not include very much exposure. As all good little divas know, it is not necessarily a bad thing to do a gig gratis. There is always more than one way to benefit from a gig beyond financially. Even some gigs that pay well, may fall into the negative calorie area. Being a ringer for a choir or other large ensemble can be a great way to make connections but it can also be a negative calorie red flag. Spending a lot of time and energy in discomfiting musical rehearsals can definitely require more career calories than it delivers. During your regular business reviews be aware of these areas and make sure they are not making up the bulk of your diet.
The Healthy Home Cooking Calories
Hungry and in a hurry? Trying to catch some calories on your long trip to the Met? Local gigs are the home cooking calories in the Career Pounds Diet. Local gigs are always popping up right around the corner and are a healthy diet staple. Working closely with successful members of your local music scene will build your résumé and help you identify heavier career pound experiences in the future. Regular performing in your local scene may help lower stage fright and increase your public speaking and networking skills. One serving of healthy home cooked gigs can produce as much as two future gigs or more!
The Superfood Calories
Superfood calories are where the Career Pounds Diet really starts to work for you! We’ve all heard of blueberries, chia seeds, and salmon but performance superfood calories are powerful experiences that do double duty. For example, a recital can only do so much if you perform and then it’s over. However, make a few tweaks and you can see more career impact. Superfood calories have real responsibilities. To have a superfood calorie level recital you must get solid video and audio recordings, professional performance pictures, and reviews. Perhaps you noticed that these elements translate into usable materials after the last note of the performance is sung. Want an extra helping of superfood calories in this situation? Nail the post-show schmooze with gatekeepers and other influential music lovers. Simply adding two or three more of these superfood calorie experiences to each season can significantly impact the rise of your career.
The Calorie Bomb
Now, in most mainstream diets, you would be highly advised to avoid calorie bombs. In the Career Pounds Diet, calorie bombs are in! As Claudia Friedlander wrote so well: One does not simply get discovered as an opera singer. In the realm of classical performance, having an interesting back story is not enough. This is why, as performers and composers, we have to look for calorie bomb experiences that we can add to our diet. For many performers, calorie bomb experiences are things like big name summer festivals and/or contracts with Level 2 or 3 houses leading to the big time. Calorie bomb experiences will mean present themselves differently at various times throughout your Career Pounds Diet. The general requirements for calorie bombs include: well-known venues, impressive connections, reviews from established music critics, interest from management, and concrete future engagements. Spot an upcoming superfood experience on your calendar? Take some time to cook up assorted ways to make it a true calorie bomb for best results!
Whew! I feel stuffed already. Don’t you? As Kevin said, we just have to be on the lookout for ways to gain those career pounds. Do some serious analysis of your upcoming season and identify which types of calories you’re consuming most. Too many negative calories? Are you applying an audition strategy or just saying yes to each and every thing that comes along? Do not let those negative calories zap the energy you need to pursue better opportunities. Noticing a solid base of healthy home cooking calories? That’s good. Figure out ways to amplify those performances into superfoods and even calorie bombs. You’ll be nearing that next weight class in a much more strategic way. Happy gaining!