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“I started working full-time as a temp secretary all over the city—and I moved into the worst neighborhood in Manhattan.The building I lived in was actually a warehouse, and one floor had illegally been turned into living spaces.

Investing in yourself is expensive.” Michael Orlinsky, Chicago-based baritone, further elaborates upon the financial dilemma post-graduate singers face when trying to launch their careers.

“It is difficult because most organizations that accept singers at the student level are asking for tuition, while other companies pay very little,” Orlinsky says.

The cost of lessons, materials, coachings, auditions, and accompanists is expensive, almost to the point where you have to dedicate all of your money to just those things.

I have been overdrawn in my checking account more times than I can count, have had to post-date checks, and have had to speak with landlords and creditors.

To explore what singers sacrifice to pursue a career, I talked to singers from all stages of their careers—undergraduate voice majors to tenured singing professors to internationally acclaimed singers.

I first asked them, “What difficulties have you experienced as a performer?

Many struggling singers bounce the occasional check; skip a doctor appointment because they do not have adequate health insurance; eat another meal of top ramen; or forgo date night in order to pay back student loans, afford YAP application fees, or continue with voice lessons. In fact, I once had a voice teacher tell me, with much disdain, that I was not willing to suffer for my art because I liked to wear nice clothes and I lived in a decent apartment in a safe neighborhood.

At the time I was holding down several jobs while finishing my education so that I could pay for school, launch my career and, yes, buy the occasional pair of expensive shoes (I call that retail therapy).

“I had been at Oberlin for two years studying with Richard Miller and had just moved to New York to study with Beverly Johnson at Juilliard (Renée Fleming had lessons right after mine).

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