I am a professionally trained coloratura soprano opera singer. I had high hopes, goals, and dreams, and I was on my way to making them happen…until one day. It was January and -5F in Bloomington, Indiana. I had made it to the final audition to get into the graduate opera program at Indiana University. The Indiana University. To say I was excited was an extreme understatement. The day before the audition, I was in my best voice I had been in for a long time and I was so encouraged. I remember that morning, in the dining area of our shabby (to put it nicely) Hilton hotel, I decided to have cereal. I don’t normally eat breakfast and I knew better when I saw the milk dispenser had ice accumulated in it. As a waitress, I knew that ice equals poor cooling, but I ignored my gut and thought “when in Rome…”. Well, as you can guess by now, by night-time I was sicker than I had ever been. In fact, I have yet to top that experience. It was serious enough, Ryan was considering taking me to the hospital, but I was a performer. A musician. The show must go on.
I was determined to make my audition if it killed me. I was prepared to take a waste basket on stage with me if that’s what I had to do. At least they would have known I was sick. I learned why you don’t bring your hardest pieces to auditions that day. They may be flashy and get you bonus points if you pull them off, but they are a huge gamble when a lot is riding on the line…Save them for the recital. I was sick and physically unable to stand more than a few minutes at a time all the way up to 10-15 minutes before my audition time. When I was accepted to go to the final auditions, they asked me to bring 4 prepared pieces. I knew they would only choose two, but as I said above, I brought one really hard piece that required every upper note I had. Not a good thing when you’ve fried your vocal chords singing to the toilet all night the night before.
Mercifully, they asked to hear two of my easier pieces. Even so, it’s a bad thing when you think you are in tune, but you are so sick that you can’t completely be sure. Not good when you are auditioning for the number 1 or 2 opera program in the country. I made it through my selections and went on my way.
The plane ride home was a hard one, full of tears. I have worked hard since I was 10 to get to where I was, and I blew it in one day. I could have gone back the next year and tried the process again, but not too long after that, we were surprised by my first pregnancy. Enter phase two of my career disintegration. Then Taylor was diagnosed with autism. My career dreams just kept growing dimmer. I knew that the demands of a successful performing career would mean that there would be many times that I would have to put my family on hold while I traveled, auditioned, rehearsed, performed, and all the other details that go into a performing career. Whereas it is possible to have a performing career and a family, it is very difficult and a struggle at times. I felt that if I wanted to keep some tiny ounce of sanity with Taylor’s autism, a performing career, at least on the scale I was going for, would not work.
So I did what I told a friend in college. If I had to choose between music and a family, I would always choose family. I just didn’t think I’d ever have to make that choice.
As I type I see my daughter outside, jumping on the trampoline in the fading sunlight, my baby trying to have a conversation with a t.v., and my son trying to love on his baby brother as best as he knows how, and I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I don’t always like it, and it took a good ten years to stop feeling that stab in the gut as I read updates from friends about all the auditions they had, roles they got, and degrees they are finishing. But I would be a different person had I not gotten sick, not failed my audition, and not had my children and start my family. And I don’t think that other person would have been a better one.
I am still planning on performing; just on a different scale. I will put on concerts, recitals, and sing in churches. It won’t be the nation wide dream I had, but it will be something. This time it will be different. Before, I was part of a world where success was equated with worth and talent. And for me, that made me lose something. My music became the middle man to an end goal of being famous. Now, my love is back, and I missed it so much.
So there it is…The fate of my dream career might not have ended completely in one day, but that was the day my career began to die. And…it’s okay. 🙂
As always, positive comments are welcome. Negative hurtful comments will be trashed before I can even finish reading them. I have many readers who are emotionally vulnerable, and I will not post comments that will further harm.
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