Life lessons from studying opera

I’ve been singing my whole life in one way or another. However, it wasn’t until I took an interest in studying opera and pursuing a career in music that I really learned a lot about myself, society, happiness and some of life’s greatest lessons. Obviously, my singing skills improved too. 🙂

In no particular order, here are some of the key things I’ve learned over the past few years on my opera singing journey:

  • The importance of kindness and supporting your fellow colleagues. You never know what sort of battle someone is fighting. Everyone has challenges on their journey – be kind! People will not necessarily remember details of how or what you did together, but they will very often remember how you made them feel. This transfers to everything in life… jobs, connections, friends, you name it.
  • How to get past hurt and insecurities (not completely, but… mostly). When you learn not to take rejection so personally and that not everyone’s opinion matters, you can live your life much happier. You also learn to rebound and become resilient from the rejection, which gives you confidence moving forward that you can recover from pretty much anything life throws at you. Having performed several auditions where I did not get gigs, I had to train myself to realize that its a numbers game and believe that I am still a talented singer, even if some of the opera singing world doesn’t see that.
  • Sensitivity is a good thing. I’ve often hated that I can be so sensitive about everything, hyper critical of myself, and very vulnerable at times with those closest to me. But in music, you transmit emotion and make people feel things and relate to aspects of a story, which can really impact them and their lives. Being sensitive to the emotions of the music, your colleagues, and your audience will only make you shine and be a better artist and human in the long run. My sensitive heart and logical brain still fight a bit, but I’m getting better balancing the two. And being sensitive is like a secret weapon when you’re a teacher, mentor, and manager, where you can pick up on non verbal cues from those around you. I’ve learned to accept it is a huge part of what makes me successful, and now I try and pass on that it is a quality worth embracing.
  • The value of hard work. When I was doing a combo of teaching, performing and web design, I’ve never worked so hard in my life. And I was never a slacker in my day jobs either… Overachiever and perfectionist have been my middle name for a long time. However, when you put in the work, the product speaks for itself. Opera singing is hard and requires many years of hard work and dedication… When I was singing everyday for 2 months in Italy, I grew in leaps and bounds. I also think this applies to doing work on ourselves to grow, dealing with our inner monologue and limiting beliefs. Again, the more I’ve stretched myself to tackle my own fears and learn about how I tick, my life purpose and what is important to me, the more life opens doors and send me gifts in the form of people and opportunities for further growth. All part of the journey.
  • The value of rest, taking care of your body, mind and spirit. I had a conversation with an engineering friend of mine yesterday. She was feeling the pressure of learning a new job, kids starting school, move, feeling settled in her new home and life. There’s a lot going on. I asked her what she was doing for herself and she said… Nothing yet. I recommended she change that and not to feel guilty about taking time for her. Work life balance is really hard, but I think we often put too much pressure on ourselves to succeed and carry it all, no matter what…. Until we break. If we stopped to rest and check in with ourselves once in awhile, it would make us happier and more productive in the long run. I now trust my body, take time for me when I really need it and if I catch myself being spun up and stressed about life, I take some time to ground, meditate and let down. I think it’s so important for everyone to take breaks and rest from time to time. Otherwise it leads to sickness, illness and can get us burnt out/hitting a wall fast, which takes much longer to recover from. Health of your body and mind is important!
  • Learning to trust that life is your biggest teacher. I truly believe it is, you just have to wake up and be aware of your surroundings. Expose yourself to art, be open to new perspectives and possibilities and know that every challenge you face is an opportunity for growth if you can see the lesson and learn from it. I believe if you don’t get it the first time, the lesson will keep coming back. 🙂 Life may disappoint you. As long as you have expectations, chances are you will continue to be disappointed if those expectations are not met. If you don’t communicate your expectations and expect others to read your mind, that doesn’t work either. Be open to growth and life’s lessons, it’ll change you and those around you for the better.
  • It’s ok to make a career doing something other than what you love. I have varied interests and in general, love life. I’ve pursued my passion and tried to find what drives me and fulfills me in life… I know that is teaching in some capacity. However, my personality is such that I like focusing on many different things and being well rounded… and that’s ok. There’s a place for people like me in the world too, to have a day job and do the things I love on the side. If I could combine my love of teaching, singing, eating, photography, IT skills, and travel into a nice little career package, that would be amazing. But I’m sure there would something else to add to that list eventually. There’s just not enough hours in the day. 🙂 I’ve accepted I can have a balance of activities in my life and career that will fulfill me.
  • It’s beautiful to express your emotions, and be true to yourself. Everyone will always have opinions about situations and some will judge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be true to yourself and express your honest feelings when they come up. Checking your intentions behind expressing your feelings to others from time to time is healthy – is it to prove you’re right, satisfy your ego or to hurt someone in an effort to try and make yourself feel better?  If so, ya might want to take a step back and figure out what is going on within you before you inflict anger or hatred on others. But to me, healthy expression of emotion is beautiful, like letting tears flow freely when something touches you. Don’t hold it in – let it out in whatever way works best for you!! 🙂
  • Life is too short – live it. Be grateful for what you have, live with integrity, know who you are and do what makes you happy. I see far too many people wish they could do something or try something and hesitate because of fear or insecurity… then they lose that opportunity because of injury, illness or death. Don’t hold stuff inside you! Tell people when you care about them, be in the moment and live life to the fullest! It really is short and you never know when it will end, so you might as well make the most of it now.
  • Love and happiness spread like wildfire. Look at how infectious children’s laughter is, how amazing it is to witness acts of love and how good we feel when we give to others expecting nothing in return? Carry on doing the good stuff my friends. Even if the media doesn’t like presenting good news stories, there are tons of good people in this world and good will prevail!
  • People can come into our lives for a short time and have massive impact on us. In my opera studies, I spent a few summers in Italy with amazing people. I would consider several of them to be very close friends, because of the amount of soul searching, mentoring, musical revelations, and awesome times I had with them. We connected over our love of music, shared deep and meaningful experiences and have created memories that I’ll never forget. I’m grateful to so many of them and am super glad we are still connected years later! This is not just true in music, but across the board in life. I’m a firm believer that people come into each other’s lives for a reason, even if we don’t know why at the time.

My singing friends, did I miss anything from your perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lots of love and thanks for reading,

Melly ❤️

About Melanie Anderson

Singer, basketball player, scotch enthusiast, Canadian.
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