Non-vocal Skills for Singers

For those seeking a career as singers or voice teachers, skill acquisition in those areas is a given. But I often think about how important the “auxiliary skills” of these careers are, and I thought I’d jot down a few ideas. These require time and commitment—most of these are “maintenance” tasks, like weeding a garden bed. You have to put a little time into them on a regular basis. None are hard, but I’d argue that all are crucial.

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--Communication: Check email and voicemail and respond (if necessary) at least twice a day.

--Communication: Organize your correspondence (contracts, schedules, travel information, etc) in order to find emails quickly. (One idea is to make a folder for each organization with which you perform or for which you audition).

--Communication: Create and maintain a system for your contacts. For music teachers, this may be fellow teachers, feeder schools, performing venues, sheet music distributors. For performers, this may be organizations for which you've auditioned or would like to audition, summer programs, colleagues, etc. Make notes about when you've been in contact, what the results were, next steps, etc.

--Productivity: Maintain a to-do list (I recommend a cloud-based system that can be synced between devices, such as Wunderlist).

--Productivity: Maintain and refer to a calendar--this sounds obvious, but I'm amazed at how many college students still try to keep everything in their head. I use Google Calendar, but of course there’s iCal and other online options. Paper calendars are fine, but if they're lost you're sunk...

--Materials: Create and maintain updated, accurate, attractive materials: headshot, résumé, bio (100 word, 150 word, 200 word), recent recordings (both video and audio), and website.

--Materials: Create and maintain a repertoire list. This could be helpful to a new teacher or coach, and helps you see where the gaps in your repertoire are as you progress through your studies.

--Network: Introduce yourself to all of your colleagues as a course of the gig. Socialize if time permits. Our world is FULL of "soft connections," as well as word-of-mouth connections/recommendations, and being known to someone is disproportinately advantageous.

—Professionalism: ALWAYS be prepared. Become known as one who is always prepared. There will always be people with more beautiful instruments out there, but too often they are underprepared. Be the kind of person who matches excellent technique with excellent preparation, and you will see the benefits!

--Punctuality: Arrive 10 minutes early for every call. "Early is on time, on time is late." Like preparation, punctuality is a “soft skill” that pays huge dividends. If the conductor/director/presenter knows they don’t have to worry about you being there on time and ready to go, they will be much more likely to re-hire or refer you!

I would recommend planning 5-10 minutes a day of “admin” time—time that you devote to the above, as well as to perusing listings for auditions, competitions, etc. If you plan on doing a bit of this type of activity daily, you’ll be ready when opportunity knocks!