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February 24, 2011
Today was primarily a day of singing for me. I study with an instructor (Gerald White) who organizes these career panels for singers. To paraphrase him, "If you're depending on your voice to make money, you need to figure out how to have a career." By the way, I wouldn't put myself in the aspiring category -- just the hobbyist category. However, understandably, when everyone went around the room to introduce themselves (about 40 of us) -- probably 38 of them were actually singers on some level. The other person (besides myself) described herself as someone "who sings for fun but wants to sing for more than fun."
The panel had 3 people -- one was former music director for the Temptations, another was a long-time collaborator of Stephen Schwartz (so heavy on musical theater), and the last was an AFTRA representative.
I think what struck me was how similar a lot of the advice and career guidance was to acting. That there's no real pathway, persistence, persistence, persistence, and working really hard. I will say that the musical theater guy said something that really struck me. He asked us how many of us have done cabaret and a smattering of hands went up. He said he generally hates cabaret and the reason is because the people doing cabaret are never as good as the people they're doing covers of. His point was if you're singing a song -- the why is the reason. It's not about your technical ability to sing a song. It's the heart, emotion, and reasoning behind it -- that's what makes him tune in.
Later that day, I had my singing lesson with Gerald. We only work for 25-30 minutes but that's more than enough -- I'm really spent afterwards. I've worked with some singing coaches before but I've definitely gotten much further with Gerald. My technical ability to stay on pitch is much higher now but I'm still not consistent. That's the biggest sticking point for me. That's why it was a little surprising when he asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to sing in their March showcase. (Gerald, by the way, has sang in something like 100+ films/TV so I was almost confused when he asked me the question.) I was really flattened by it (and obviously a bit anxious) but the biggest fear for me is I just don't think I'm far enough along. So we agreed that I would continue working with the intention of working a single song (probably Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly") and aim for their May showcase. I think that's great -- but I'll probably need a breakthrough to consistently nail pitch to get there. He said everything else about my voice is just fine -- it's just consistent pitch.
Even though I'm not an aspiring singer, one of the things I really like about singing (besides it being just really fun even if I'm the only one I'm singing for) is that it really is pushing the boundaries of learning for me in that area. I'm not sure if this will be useful in some capacity down the line -- but there's a lot of technical detailed work involved in singing (what little I know) and I can really feel it when my mind starts to shut down because it's just so tired. 
I closed my day today going to Film Independent's Directors Close-Up. They had directors from 3 films: "The Kids Are All Right", "Rabbit Hole", and "Winter's Bone". Collectively, those 3 films have 9 Academy Award nominations this year -- pretty staggering. I've been going to these talks for 3 years (and broadly going to or listening to variants of these talks in many different formats in other venues as well.) I always learn a lot -- but I think what struck me listening to them was I need more in-field experience. I've known that for a while -- obviously this would be key for acting, but even if I wanted to do more directing or producing -- a lot of what they were saying certainly made sense on a logical / intellectual level -- but it's completely different understanding it when you have some actual frame of reference. Hopefully I'll find or develop more opportunities to do that in the future.
On a final note, I recently got invited to present "The Consultants" at the Tuck Media Symposium (Tuck is Dartmouth's business school). In fact, they want me to open the conference! I'm kind of stunned by this but really honored. It's frankly such a struggle on most days essentially trying to work / break in to entertainment that to get wins / recognition like this is really inspiring and mentally recharging -- so I thank you Tuck for this wonderful opportunity!