Forging your own path – it isn’t all cake!

I’m a pretty happy individual – I try to see the positive side of any situation, although some days I admit it is tough. I’m having one of those nights where I wonder what would have happened if I had done things differently in my life. Despite my serendipitous moments as of late, I must say, forging your own non-traditional career path in singing – a field that is flooded with amazing talent and critical people – can be extremely challenging. Please bear with me for the following soul-bearing paragraphs….

I have always struggled with the idea of going back to college for music, specifically classical vocal performance, since I *almost* did out of high school. In fact, a few years ago I applied to a couple of the top schools in Canada and the US and didn’t succeed at getting into any of them. I was granted an audition at only one of the three schools I applied to. I applied for a Masters/Artist Diploma level at the time because the practical side of me didn’t want to invest a ton of money and 4 years of my life into another undergraduate degree. I already have a Bachelor of Computer Science and 10 years of work experience in jobs ranging from Programmer to IT Project Manager and International Liaison. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that pursuing an undergrad degree in music would give me a return on my investment because of my age. I was already 10 years behind and there are no guarantees for a career in music, especially performance. Looking back, I don’t think I was necessarily ready on a personal level to enter the programs I applied to; hindsight is 20/20 and I see that now. But it still hurt at the time to not get into any of the schools – no one likes to fail, and I’m no exception! Part of me took the news really hard and I was pretty discouraged by it. But somehow, my gut told me to keep going, so I kept singing. Everything happens for a reason. A few years later, I’m still at it.

To be clear, I completely respect and admire people who have pursued their passion for singing and completed college degrees in music of ANY sort. My story is just a little different than the norm. If I had lots of money and time, I would jump at any opportunity for formal study – honestly, I still haven’t ruled it out just yet.

Have I been held back because of my lack of formal music education? To a small degree I would say yes, but so far I am happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of my private teachers, coaches, programs and the courses I’ve taken. I’ve received some amazing advice from many people and learned a LOT from working professional singers and musicians. Sure, on paper, I don’t look as great as someone who has a Doctorate in Vocal Pedagogy or a Masters in Music Performance and I don’t have a network of professors helping me. I’m realistic in the fact that most people with music degrees have more knowledge than I do on some topics. There are times when I apply for auditions that I’m denied because I don’t have the degree or lots of experience. Yet. But I am getting there and continue to grow. I have JUST started to feel confident enough in my own technical abilities as a solo classical singer to put myself out there. I’m auditioning more now and starting to get work. I LOVE working on my craft and practicing. And teaching others has helped me immensely in understanding myself and my own vocal technique, so I am VERY thankful to all of my students for that. I love all of my students – watching them grow and feel good about their singing inspires me to no end. Yes, sometimes I feel like people don’t think I’m serious about classical singing because I didn’t invest in formal schooling when I was 18. But I figured it out a few years later and I work hard, trying to learn as much as I can from reading and working with others; I feel good about where I am. I sacrificed a very different, but great career to focus on my music and I have not yet regretted that decision.

I believe a huge part of life is being able to persevere – acknowledge your feelings, have your disappointing or down moment, then dust yourself off, get back up and start working again. Never give up on something you love. I feel like I’m becoming somewhat of an expert at getting back up. Every time I do, I feel stronger. I’m realistic, but I continue to work towards my dreams of singing around the world and teaching music for a living. I want to bring joy to people, continue to evolve as a performer and be able to help others feel something from the stage. I want to foster talent and encourage others to share their musical gifts with the world. And since February of this year, I want to help artists of all types embrace technology and teach them how to market themselves, build websites and more! It’s been very gratifying to combine my singing, teaching and IT skills into a living. To quote Dori from Finding Nemo, I will ‘just keep swimming’… Or singing and teaching in my case. 😉

Why am I sharing this? It’s part of who I am and I’m no longer afraid to hide that I have failed before and continue to make mistakes. I will continue to succeed in getting back up and growing from all of my experiences, forging my own path. I am so grateful to the people who have helped lift me up, encouraged me, believed in me and helped me improve my artistic abilities. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that incredible support! But it certainly hasn’t been all cake! 🙂 I’m here to tell you that I’m not invincible. Just like everyone else, I have my bad days and wonder if the choices I have made are the right ones. I accept that not everyone will understand or support me on this crazy journey, which makes me appreciate those who love and support me even more. Just keep singing. And teaching. Now that I’ve written all of this down, I must say, I feel a lot better! Time to get back up and get back to work – thanks for reading!

About Melanie Anderson

Singer, basketball player, scotch enthusiast, Canadian.
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4 Responses to Forging your own path – it isn’t all cake!

  1. nao says:

    I’m so proud of you for doing what you’ve done for your singing. I know how tough it would be to leave something like you had going in your career. Your talent and great personality will get you where you want to end up in your singing career. I know it’s not easy but I believe in you 🙂 sending you some positive energy on your way! Love.


  2. Kerrie says:

    Mel – Thank you for sharing your thoughts so honestly and so beautifully. Your self-awareness is truly inspiring, and so are YOU! Just think: your hard work has resulted in a “day job” that’s a journey of creativity and inspiration, using the gifts that you have received to share beauty in the world – something that most of us have only dreamed of doing. Please trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. Focus only on the good stuff and ignore the poo-poo heads. And most importantly: just keep singing!


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