Queen of The Night PeformanceI 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. 🙂

Sarah

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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Sarah

4 Comments on The Day My Career Died

  1. Hello:

    My name is Anthony, and I am quite fortunate to have stumbled upon your blog. I am currently a junior in college who has decided to seek help and guidance from others. My older brother, Jacob is living with autism and epilepsy. To say that things are challenging is an understatement, but I love my brother with all my heart and would do anything for him.

    I’ve read several of your posts. I, too, have struggled with my faith and maintaining happiness, however, I’ve found many joys in this situation:

    Like you did, I am currently pursuing a music degree in school. I am working to acquire a Bachelor of Music degree in music therapy, but I am also studying Classical voice as a tenor. When I practice at home, Jacob becomes almost transfixed by my voice. Identifying things he hears/sees by letters of the alphabet, he will say, “O – Opera!” and become so excited! He responds so well to music. When he’s upset, he will play the piano to calm himself down. I think it would be wonderful if Taylor heard you sing!

    Anyway, I would love to hear back from you. It is wonderful to see your blog. It brings so much insight, especially when things become difficult. It’s nice to be reminded that when things can get difficult, we’re not always alone. And it’s especially nice to hear from someone else who has a love for music!

    Best,

    Anthony-

    • Hi Anthony! I’m so glad you are pursuing music! Tenors are so much in demand, but I’m sure you already know that 😉 . I do actually sing around Taylor. I sing to him sometimes, but he actually takes in more when he listens as if he was eavesdropping. At one point, my diva in me got jealous when it seemed like he could “Queen of the Night” better than me…then his voice started dropping. ;). Music did however, give him the ability to start saying a few functional words. I read that the speech and music processing centers of the brain overlap, so one day I tried singing words to him, and he would sing them back. He has perfect pitch so slowly I started singing more and more atonal and he was able to follow. On caveat though…unless it is head voice or falsetto, he will not follow as well. Head voice and falsetto provide the best results.

      His first sentence I blogged above was said without singing. That’s a big step. Good luck as you keep studying music. Enjoy the academic recitals you have to do. They may seem tedious at times, but giving a recital after you graduate is not as easy, and you have to do every detail of planning yourself with less resources at your fingertips. Good luck! 🙂

  2. What a heart wrenching story about your audition and the food poisoning. I appreciate your sharing your journey. I know you to be someone who puts God and your family first. And if it means setting aside a career and most probably fame, you accept that. I will be eager to see what comes your way in the future. You are a dear friend.

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