I spent 5 years in college, 2 years in grad school, 5 years in and out of young artist programs, training myself in languages, diction, musicality, vocal technique, stage craft, performance, and a 100 other things in order to make myself the best possible singer/performer I could. I worked hard (most of the time) and sacrificed a lot of time and money so I could make myself the best product out there. And after those 12 plus years of training what did I get? A generous offer from my parents to move back into their house. Ah, nothing like turning 30 and moving back into your childhood room. (Where do I put the whiskey bottle? Next to the high school year books or next to my childhood best friend, Floppy the stuffed dog? Decisions decisions....
Yet, despite all that, I trudged on. Why? No idea, other than I knew I had something to contribute to this crazy music world. And so I kept plugging along, taking singing jobs when I could get them. But despite the 2-3 gigs a year I was getting, somehow my bills were still mounting up. Who knew? So I did what every other singer in my position had done, I took 'normal' jobs.
95% (that's a 100% guess) of singers in the business have at one time or another had to work at a non singing job. I'm sure this happens to people in all kinds of professions, but for singers it's almost a requirement. So like many before and after me, I went on the search for 'regular' work.
The first major speed bump I found in my search was that transferring my somewhat impressive young singer resume into a professional real world resume. I have a two degrees in music, but it turns out most of those classes I took did nothing to prepare me for the 'real' world.
"What unique skills do you possess that would help you as a Barista?"
"Well, I can scream at customers in 4 different languages. 5 if you count Latin."
"Would you like fries with that?"
"Are you good with children?"
"I've portrayed the devil in no less than 4 different shows, so I'm sure kids will love me."
"How are your keyboard skills?"
"I passed piano 1-3. Oh, you meant computers. Yeah, I know what the buttons do."
"Any special skills?"
'I once ate two Chipotle burritos in one sitting."
Yes, I (and most singers) do have transferable skills. We're good communicators, have good people skills, hardship working, detail oriented, blah, blah blah. But no matter how hard you try to spruce up your résumé with flower language, and great character references, it still looks weird when your last real job was working produce in a grocery store. In 1997...
So I took the work I could get. It wasn't glamorous, but I got by. I had some good ones too (sarcasm).
Telemarketer- if you were called in the early 2000's by a sultry baritone asking if you'd be interested in a Discover card, it might have been me. 97.6% of the people I called hated me on principal. 1% were lonely and talked to me for that reason only. Another 1% just thought I had a pleasing speaking voice. .4% wanted the card.
Janitor- This wasn't actually too bad. I got to put on my headphones and vacuum carpets and clean toilets at elementary schools after school was out. I learned a good amount of new rep during that time. Just me singing opera with a vacuum strapped to my back for 6-8hrs. The best review I ever got came during that time. An 8 year old told me I sounded like God when he was angry. Ill take it. I should have been smarter though and not done the janitor work in the same school district I attended high school in. It's all fun and games till that one high school teacher who said you'd never amount to anything sees you scrubbing (what you hope is) chocolate off the bathroom stall and he gives you that smug 'I knew I was right' look... Random fact- elementary school girls don't like to flush the toilet. Not sure why, but they don't.
Gas station attendant- 'Welcome to Kum n Go! How can I help you?' Yes, I said Kum n Go. Ah, the good old Ejaculate and Evacuate. I worked there for a good 6+ months. I walked in for my first interview, and was almost immediately given an assistant manager position, mainly because I had worn pants to the interview (which took place in the cooler) and I wasn't high on meth. This job still haunts me. Little known fact- there is a secret war between gas station employees and truck drivers. Not sure why, when all I ever did was ask them to pay for goods they wished to purchase, and tell them to 'Kum again!' (Remember, I worked at Kum n Go. Get your minds out of the gutter.) For some reason, me just doing my job and being semi polite made them angrier than a squirrel with his nuts in a trap. And when truckers are mad, bathrooms take the brunt of it. Did you know it's possible for a woman to pee on the ceiling? I didn't till I had to go clean it off the ceiling. And poop, don't even get me started. 3 words- in a sink. Hold on a second, I have to go wash my hands again....
A wine vendor giving out samples at Costco and Sams Club- this probably sounds pretty easy and good it terms of part time work. Here's the thing, I hate wine. Can't drink it. Makes me so sick. Last time I had two glasses I passed out in the bar. So all I did for my 6hr shifts was lie to people about what the wine tasted like. 'Oh yeah, this has a deep earthy texture with subtle hints of blueberries, cloves, and unicorn farts. Goes well with chicken.' I guess it was a good acting exercise...
I had a ton of other crappy ones too. But thinking about my crap jobs got me thinking about my other singer friends and what they had to do for our art. So I asked them. Here are some of their responses (in no particular order)
1. Taste tester for Wrigley Gum corp.
2. Easter Bunny at the mall
3. Santa Clause
4. Chuck E Cheese
5. Emptying urine filled colostomy bags (still attached to patients)
6. Asic's marathon gear consultant (from a non runner)
7. Security (115lb woman)
8. 'Booth Babe' at Comicon.
'Quando men vo'
9. Chair masseuse at a bank
10. Escort (male and female)
11. Bouncer at a gay club ('Worst part was cleaning the bathrooms...')
12. Victorian living history museum tour guide (in full costume)
14. Dog walker
15. Janitor at college during the night. ('I did a show one night, and had to clean my own dressing room the next.')
16. Narrating erotic book
17. Donating blood, plasma, and platelets
18. Donating sperm
19. Nude model
20. Model for crappy romance novels
And my favorite- 21. Dubbing porn from German to English, and visa versa. Makes you wonder if you've really heard that guy next to on stage in an opera, or somewhere else.... Some thing about how he says 'oh ja!'
Yes, we've all done tons of weird crap to make this dream of ours come true. Is it worth it? Some times it doesnt feel like it does, but most days, 'oh, ja!'