More Than Just The Starving Artist

Written by: April Vargo

Your kid walks in the door one day and says, "Mom, Dad, I'm gonna be a performer!"  Your heart sinks a little that day.  I mean honestly, you did everything right, how could they do this to themselves? 

Working long hours, sleeping in a car, scrounging for money, and invariably waking up one day realizing they wasted their good years and now have to get a "real job."  Why can't they be a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant.....something safe, with job security, and financial success? 

The truth is, there's plenty of opportunity to work in the performance industry that doesn't require sleeping in your car, going hungry, and wasting away your "good years."  You have to have an understanding of what's all available to you, what your interests are, and a timeline.  The number of people who play sold out amphi-theaters to millions of adorning fans are incredibly doesn't mean it's impossible, I would never tell anyone that, however, it's a reality that is important to come to terms with. 

That being said, what are you options, how do you have your cake and eat it too?  You need to start with a little soul searching.  What am I good at?  Where do I see myself in 5, 10, 15 plus years?  What do I really want out of life?  What do I need to do to make sure that I succeed?  

All of these questions desperately need to be answered by taking off those rose colored glasses.  This might sound tough, but it's important to start with a little tough love.  A passion that you have should be pursued because you can't imagine doing anything else in the world, not because you want to be famous, or think you're going to be rich, or get all of the ladies / gentlemen.  The biggest dream, I think everyone has in life, is to get paid to do something they love. 

If performing is what you truly want to do, then absolutely do it.  Understand that you'll be wanting to take several gigs and be open to multiple performing venues and opportunities....accompanying, churches, nightclubs, bars, cruise ships, touring companies, theaters, recording studios, community events, fairs, competitions, and community organizations.  Anything to get your name out there and keep you actively playing / performing.  Being able to combine multiple performances opportunities will continue to get your name out there while also making new contacts (something that will be super important to you).

In addition to performing, look at your list of what you're good at and see if any of your skills lend themselves to other gigs in the industry:

  • Teaching
  •  Recording Industry (Technician, sound engineer)
  •  Music Business (Management)
  •  PR - Advertisement
  •  Entertainment Blogger / Writer
  •  Reporter 
  •  Music Theatre (director, music director, choreographer, set designer, lighting designer, costumes, make-up)
  •  Talent Scout / Agent

These are just a few opportunities out there.  With technology exploding and various social media platforms bringing artists to the masses, the industry continues to grow.  Many of these positions can be worked in a part-time or freelance capacity allowing you to combine several different opportunities together to create one job / lucrative source of income. 

It helps you to stay in the industry you love so much, meet people, and also expand your skillset. 

It's funny, because when I started thinking about college and what my future looked like, I was pretty sure it was going to be a performer.  That's what I told my family, and that's what I had convinced myself it would be.  My parents were absolutely adamant about making sure I got a degree that could broaden my job opportunities once I graduated.  I followed their advice, and honestly, I'm super glad I did. 

Once I got in the industry I absolutely fell in love with teaching and coaching talent.  My skillset changed from training as a performer to training future performers.  I realized, I didn't want to work all of my nights, weekends, on the road nonstop and be away from my family for long periods of time.  I wanted a family, wanted to travel the world, wanted to perform (on my schedule), and wanted to inspire others while helping them achieve their dreams.  

The desire to coach and direct has completely trumped the desire to be onstage all of the time.  I have found that I love coaching people to follow and achieve their dreams.  As a result, I've been able to develop other parts of my career that at 17 I would have never considered.  I perform in completely different capacities and have found such a great joy in what I do. 

If your kid comes to you and says, "Mom, Dad I'm gonna be a performer!".......don't freak out.  It's definitely not a death sentence.  They aren't going to be hungry on the street.  If anything they will find a piece of themselves, they will expand their horizons, and grow in ways you couldn't even imagine.  You'll get to sit there and say, "that's my kid!"    


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