Falling Back, Day 52
Ah yes, I happily survived a great but somewhat sore and tired rehearsal after yesterday’s workout and minimal sleep. Still, I just adore singing quality music with excellent people. When performing in so many varied ensembles throughout the city, months sometimes pass before I see certain friends, and catching up with them makes the day often more worthwhile than even the music or the paycheck. My dear friend and colleague Laurel saw my fatigue at the end of our practice and suggested I turn in immediately to sleep until the morning for tomorrow’s busy schedule. Perhaps I should have listened.
Instead, I came home and set myself to taking care of business, quite literally. When the economy first began its downward turn, I thought my already somewhat low standard of living unlikely to change much. I imagined that somehow audiences needing entertainment during a recession would continue to support our performances in numbers. Perhaps they have, but countless donors to the arts have lost their wealth or, in an effort to protect it, have halted or lessened their donations to the organizations who truly struggle to keep thousands of artists employed or at least semi-employed throughout the city. I’ve already written about the difficulties great companies like New York City Opera face in our current financial state. Many of the larger orchestras in an effort to cut back have begun to use volunteer or semi-professional choruses more frequently, rather than pay for union quality singers. One of my primary employers, The Metroplitan Opera has continued to shrink the number of productions using extra singers in the chorus as a sadly understandable means of pinching pennies (or thousands of dollars, in this case).
Well, pinch pennies as I may, I need to make some more substantial changes in my outlook on my employment status and my level of action and activity toward furthering both my career and my income. Idealism doesn’t buy me my Morningstar Farms or Boca burgers, my monthly Metrocard, next week’s dental appointment, electricity, or all of the things I try to do here to write and keep my life active and alive. These gigs do, and so will some gigs I have coming up in May and in the summer months and even already in the fall; however, several weeks lie open and unfilled on my calendar. Usually, I find ways to keep myself busy and productive, but I truly need to find an income greater than the state of New York pays me for a week of unemployment, which may not pay enough at all next year unless I find some more taxable jobs in the meantime.
Well, that was depressing. On a more hopeful note, tonight I did something I have avoided over and over again since I first applied for unemployment at the end of the summer in 2008, when I had decided to work solely as a performer: I inquired about a different kind of work. Years ago, I rated exams and led other scorers/readers as a temporary job, first online with Educational Testing Services for a California-based exam, then in South Jersey for CTB-McGraw Hill with some fantastically fun people. Oh, the stories I have from our essays from Oklahoma! Although unfortunately the CTB branch in NJ downgraded the pay rate and qualifications and then shut down that site entirely, ETS still conducts its California exam and its online scoring opportunities several times throughout the year. Since they offer two such sessions in April and May, I emailed the company to inquire about whether I can attempt to work for them again right away or if I need to apply.
Sometimes I write about things that to the “normal” person, don’t really seem so challenging or uncomfortable or scary. On the contrary, as someone who has accumulated copious student loans chasing my dream, I have no interest in admitting that I need to do something other than perform for a living. Unfortunately, right now, I simply do. I also need to propel myself faster into getting my audition repertoire ready and putting myself in the running for more performing opportunities, but one step at a time. At the moment, the most urgent concern receives my full attention: earning money to live. So, today I began the process of swallowing my pride and attempting to supplement my income, and at least I returned to the possibility of doing a job that I actually enjoyed once upon a time. Afterwards, clearing my table, I then filled it from end to end with my tax documents. I don’t need to extrapolate why that makes me uncomfortable, but it has begun.
Tonight, I head to bed, again for too few hours of sleep, counting my lucky stars that I have a great apartment, I mostly do what I love for a living, and I can still make changes at my age that, regardless of my future as a performer, I can continue to keep myself off of the street. Besides, as my father often reminds me, I always have his boat just in case.