The Singer's Life: Goals and Roles
is based on a series of essays written for the National Opera Association's
as a five-year ongoing column titled "High Notes". In 1998 president Arvid Knudsen approached me about writing a
brief quarterly column for NOA's Opera Journal on a topic of interest to singers. At that time, having been a singer for fifty
years and a voice teacher for forty years, I thought I might have some worthwhile information to share with vocal musicians,
so I enthusiastically accepted the assignment.
After giving serious consideration to potential topics, I settled on the idea of exploring the wide variety of roles played
by singers (metaphorically speaking, the various hats worn by singers), both as vocal musicians and as human beings. So this
series of essays focuses on the many complex challenges inherent in the voice profession, primarily from the point of view
of classically trained singers, but also relevant to singers of non-classical music. To add a personal touch, throughout the
book I've included some relevant anecdotes and experiences that relate to each role, as played out over my long career, beginning
as a starry-eyed young singer and culminating as a teacher, mentor, and writer.
Although the original order of Opera Journal topics was presented somewhat randomly, they have been rearranged into a
logical sequence more suitable for a book format. As the table of contents illustrates, the first section begins with the
foundations of singing, progresses in the second section to vocal music skills, addresses career objectives in section three,
and culminates in the fourth section with topics focusing on humanitarian service and legacy. Thus, in the first half we consider
mind-body preparations for a vocal music career, followed by an overview of basic vocal music skills and ways to develop them.
In the second half we look at ways to explore and develop sustainable vocal careers, and we conclude by discussing roles involving
human relationships and responsibilities as we strive to fulfill personal life goals.
We human beings have many roles to play, but our mastery of the requisite skills to excel in any single area may vary
widely, from favored areas that are strong, to neglected areas that are weak. For example, we all know singers who are very
successful professionally but have unstable personal lives. Conversely, we also know singers who enjoy rich personal lives,
yet are relatively unsuccessful in their vocal music careers. Then there's the singer with a gorgeous vocal instrument, but
who is deficient in musical, linguistic, or dramatic skills. Or the singer who is highly motivated, organized, and industrious,
but lacks people skills. Though it's not easy being all things to all people, singers are challenged to fulfill all latent
potentialities in becoming integrated, well-rounded persons.
Of course, the connections between roles are often blurred, with considerable overlapping, as happens between such compatible
roles as husband and father, or lover and friend. Yet, by looking at the individual roles we play in greater detail, we may
more clearly understand and appreciate the many facets of our humanity, within a contextual framework that encompasses the
whole person each of us desires to be. After all, is it really possible or, more to the point, healthy to separate our personal
lives from our professional lives? Isn't the ultimate human goal to develop a balanced life, whereby both life areas and all
roles mutually enhance and reinforce one another in positive ways? As you rightly discern, the answer to the first question
is no, and to the second question, yes.
As you read this book, I hope you gain sufficient information that will help you understand and appreciate the many goals
and roles that need to be mastered in your lifelong quest to become a well-rounded vocal musician and human being. Finally,
I welcome your queries, suggestions, corrections, and comments. Please feel free to contact me