At the opening night party, I was immediately rehired for an obscure opera by Offenbach that hadn’t been performed since its premiere in Austria. It was a huge role, a huge thing for me. But since Covid happened, they decided that because of budgetary reasons they were cutting the show. And my hope for my singing career in Europe dwindled away. I was going to make my debut on the main stage at Carnegie Hall, and that flew away, too. A career is built one milestone at a time, so what now? I streamed a video performance, but I found it’s really difficult to get people to commit to watching any self-produced online content.
I’ve been a lucky person in some ways. I have a partner, who’s also a musician but has a steady income as a coach at Juilliard, a pianist on the Met’s music staff and a recitalist. And losing my income — most years I probably made about $50,000 before expenses and paying my manager — wasn’t as much of a blow as some people who have a house they own, or children. I qualified for pandemic relief, and got the $1,200 stimulus.
I don’t feel like the government has ever supported the arts. I pay high taxes, because I’m a self-employed person. That comes with many expenses and it’s difficult to get ahead financially when there are so many people a singer needs to employ to help him succeed. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been told that the opera industry has been facing hardships and that fees have gone down, which makes me wonder if opera at some point will just be a hobby for people who already have a safety net.
I kept thinking, what can I do with this time? I went straight to the Academy of Vocal Arts after high school; I’ve only ever known singing. What can I do with no degree? What the coronavirus has shown is that we’re not confined to staying put in one location anymore. We can do anything from anywhere in the world. I read a lot about people who made a career transition into tech. And I began looking into software engineering. I started learning a coding language, and did that the entire summer.
Now I’m what they call a “resident” at a software engineering immersive program called Codesmith. It’s an intensive program for three months that takes you up to being hired at a high level, mid to senior.
I’m not leaving singing. I’m preparing myself for having a skill set in an industry with a lot of opportunities and straddling both worlds. This idea people have, that you’re either a singer or not a singer, it’s just not the truth. And now, more than ever, it can’t be the truth.