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state of the arts


First published in Classical Singer.

Dear Erda,

Since 9/11, times are hard and it seems to be trickling down to the arts. Ticket sales are down. What’s gonna happen to us? What can we do?



Dear Worrying,

Times are uncertain and it’s hard to predict the future. The bad news is, attacks on the NEA and emphasis on private funding has weakened arts support over the past few years. Now that the economy is taking a nosedive, it’s a pretty safe prediction that contributions will slow down further as everybody tightens their belts. Sadly, some companies may not survive and some singers who were working before may find it harder to get jobs. However, there is a silver lining. In times of trouble, people look to art and music for meaning, consolation, and respite. Smart opera companies will probably cut back their seasons, mount less expensive productions, and hire more local singers for roles that once would have been filled by bigger names, who had to be flown in and paid higher salaries. Now’s your chance to get a foot in the door. Also, don’t discount smaller opportunities that come your way --- companies you might not have considered working for before, concert gigs, recitals, etc. If all else fails, create your own opportunities. Form a caroling group and market yourself for corporate Christmas parties. Establish yourself as a wedding/funeral/special occasion singer --- these are good-paying opportunities that will not dry up in hard times. Investigate local concert series. They don’t pay much, but they keep you singing and you can use material already in your repertoire. Erda’s personal philosophy is that, in general, she’d rather take a paying singing job than a paying non-singing job. We may all have to tighten our belts for a while, but look at it this way: everybody wants skinny singers these days, anyway.