A little love note for the singers who have turned their back on singing


I have been teaching singing in Brisbane for a long time now. I have seen singing students come and go, jump in and out of groups and choirs, and sometimes choosing never to return to singing.

Maybe you weren’t even a gigging singer with a degree or three in music, and maybe you never had aspirations of performing all around the world and becoming the next Lady Gaga. It doesn’t matter.
Because somewhere along the line, you stopped. Life got in the way.
Maybe you had a family or fell into a different career. Possibly you had new doubts about your ability and didn’t think you had the talent to pursue a career in musical performance in Brisbane, or beyond?  
Perhaps your voice never felt quite ‘right’. Like, it was massive effort to sing, so why bother pursuing something that felt difficult?
Somewhere along the way, you turned your back on your voice, your singing and your dreams.
This is what I did anyway.  Once upon a discordant time…
I grew up in Gympie and was always performing. I completed countless AMEB, Trinity College and ABRSM singing, piano and music theory exams and I almost always won championships at every competition I walked into. I was pretty well convinced that I was going to become the next Bryn Terfel, though hopefully slightly more slender, by the age of about 18.
After years of being stuck in what felt like slow motion – living between performing contracts doing whatever ‘other’ work I could wrap my mind around (mostly marketing, but often teaching as well), I ended up giving up on performing altogether. I had sung my last understudy role with Opera Queensland and decided I never wanted to work for them ever again. There were lots of reasons, none of which were really justified in my mind, I literally had just become jaded from the professional performance ‘world’ in Australia and the lack of great opportunities, despite industry leaders espousing the value of their show, or their organisation, or themselves. Nothing felt ‘right’ about it all. So, I packed up my singing bags, toddled back to my home, moaned heavily and didn’t sing for quite a little while. I missed Europe, and the work I had there, but I couldn’t leave Australia to relocate, because my family and loved ones were all here.
And I have to say, this left me bereft and sad.

I didn’t even sing in local choirs. Or conduct, or even accompany singers on the piano. I gave up – completely.

Eventually, I picked up my socks and realised that what I was missing out on was being a music leader myself. Sure, I can perform operatic or musical theatre roles like the best of them, but performing wasn’t where my heart lied. I love teaching, I adore directing and I am not a terrible composer, so I went back to what I originally loved the most, and I’ve never looked back since.

I now perform again regularly, though I don’t view it as my ‘main goal’ in music – it’s secondary. I’m happy for others to have the trophies, to take the contracts, to work as performers and earn salaries to fill their souls up. What I find most rewarding, is working with them in the studio – rehearsing, practising, teaching.
Anyway, enough about me. I just want to say that even though you may have turned your back on singing, it hasn’t turned its back on you. You don’t have to give up – you probably just need a break, or to change the way you’re doing things.
You will find your way back to singing again. I promise.
Big love, DJ

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