NOW WHAT? Stories from the Trenches, part 2


I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.

I graduated in 2013 from CCM with my Masters Degree in Voice in 2013.

My first year out of school was tough in the sense that I was not getting much income from singing. After that, continuous work has sprouted up for me throughout the Midwest.

Some of the long established opera companies that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with include Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Columbus, Nashville Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Therefore, I have been able to keep Cincinnati as a home base. These companies house me when I work for them, but I still have a place to call home in Cincinnati, that has mostly been a very central location to most of my work.

I am very lucky.

Balancing financial planning as an independent contractor has its pros and cons. I have done a substantial number of young artist contracts, as well as principal artist contracts, but the pro to the young artist work is that it can be continuous work for months at a time. Although main-stage/principal artist work pays higher, it is often for one show at a time, while you can be a young artist at a company for an entire season and actually feel like a normal person with a 9-5 job, although that’s either a 7-3 for outreach, or a 2-10 for opera rehearsals!

Regardless, I am thankful!

I think the idea of travel is something that is glorified when one is a student in a conservatory. While there is a sense of excitement in being able to travel thanks to your craft, it really becomes a large portion of the job.

I did not realize I would become a professional traveler as well. In this year alone, I will work in 7 cities and while that sounds grand at first, it is extremely fatiguing to move each time, to reorganize your things, your routines, and your brain every time. I think the reality of the career of a musician really catches most people by surprise once they’re living it. It did me.

Although you may be able to explain what the future is supposed to look like, you surely can’t know what it feels like to live it, until you are doing it. I didn’t realize I would miss the people I care for as much as I do and I surely didn’t understand until what age you can be a “young artist.”

I did have a bit of a problem right out of school- and that is that I auditioned for EVERYTHING. This is a problem because auditions are investments. I did gain employment to fill my seasons from these auditions, but you find the balance of how much you are investing, with how much income the won opportunities afford you.

I sing about 25 auditions a year and when I’m not in rehearsal, I am learning music for an upcoming engagement. There is also a lot of work in promoting yourself, keeping in touch with contacts, and arranging your travels, as well as so many other things that are just as much a part of the job as doing the craft itself.

Although it is a strenuous and hard-working life, it is also one of passion and one filled with music. I have not worked a non-singing job in three and a half years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I get to sing for a living and I am already extremely glad of where I am and where I’ve been.



Melissa Bonetti, mezzo-soprano


Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon.

“Now what?” That is a good question…

There is no question that the road to becoming an opera singer is not an easy one. While I have been lucky to have coaches and directors supporting me by offering me work at the regional level throughout the country, I still struggle to find enough work to support myself without having to find another job. This brings me to the major struggle of being a young opera singer, money.

Being an aspiring opera singer is expensive. I need to apply to young artist programs, which can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the number of programs to which I apply. If an audition is out of town, which many are, I need to find affordable travel to get me to and from the audition. Further, I need to prepare for these auditions by working with a coach as well as my teacher which, now that these services are not provided by a school, can be extremely expensive.

There is also the important subject of college loans. I am grateful that most of my education was paid for by scholarships, but I still managed to accrue a significant amount of debt which I am currently paying off. All of these things led me to the realization, “If I am going to succeed in this business, I am going to need a job…”

I am fortunate to have a job teaching voice at the college level. This job allows me the flexibility (within reason) to take outside gigs (both large and small) and, also, keep auditioning for companies. However, because I need to be available to my students, I have to be very specific as to which auditions/gigs I take. This makes it difficult to follow the advice “sing for everyone”, as there simply is not enough time.

Overall, teaching offers me great freedom to take gigs when I can or want to. Further, living in a city like Cincinnati, which has such a thriving arts community, allows me plenty of opportunity to perform. These opportunities have come in many forms outside of the classical voice genre. While living in Cincinnati, I have performed in musicals as well as straight plays. These experiences have proved invaluable to my growth as an artist as they force me to focus more on my stagecraft rather than my singing ability.

Because of Cincinnati’s thriving arts community, I do not see myself relocating any time soon. Many of my colleagues are moving to Europe, specifically Germany, to try and begin a career at a company through a Fest * contract. I have thought about this option many times, but have not yet made the commitment to travel across the world to do so.


Tyler Alessi, baritone

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