This Saturday I attended The Singing Entrepreneur Forum's second day of conference, under the umbrella of the Tete-A-Tete Opera Festival. The forum had been convened by working singers Darren Abrahams and Arlene Rolph with the intention of opening a discussion about the business of being a singer. The first day (I did not attend) was given over to singers discussing their work and how they define their success. This second day gave the (predominantly singing) audience the opportunity to meet administrative figures of the industry.
In the above photo, Darren is introducing the panel. The discussion chaired by former Royal Opera supremo Genista McIntosh addressed a number of issues: what's really being looked for in an audition; does blacklisting happen following audition; do you need a manager. Perhaps wary of professional indiscretion in a public arena, there wasn't quite the anecdotal exchange that would have informed the audience and humanised the panel most effectively. However they did make it explicit that their role is to employ singers rather than exclude them - a positive distinction.
After lunch Darren and Arlene led an open discussion about four stages of the career path: Training; Starting as a professional; Maintaining the career path; and Diversifying the career. The format allowed us to meet up and speak with one another. Apart from airing our concerns and offering our own opinions and solutions, it also gave us a chance to meet one another, clearly an issue that Darren feels strongly about.
Indeed, one of the great virtues of this experimental, unprecedented conference was discovering that we - a group of self-employed, necessarily (if possibly in-denial) entrepreneurs - need not work in isolation from one another. There is clearly a bit of a patchwork of information about working as a singer - an opera singer, in fact - starting with an industry-benighted approach in the conservatoires. Yet the wealth of individual experience is a huge resource of information and support. Furthermore, the ongoing conversation is necessitated by the need to disperse myths that aggregate because of the disparate nature of singers and singing.
The very fact that such an event is happening is heartening. It recognises the insecurity that even the best among us experience and offers the reassurance that not only are we not alone but that there are practical steps and solutions to issues both imagined and real. Anyone who attended the conference and who might have forgotten are encouraged to download the post-forum questionnaire and provide Darren and Arlene with the feedback which will give future events greater focus.
UPDATE: One of the speakers of day 1, tenor Christopher Gillett, has published his talk on his blog.