Monday, January 25, 2016

Art for Art's Sake

Ars Gratia Artis

My vocal studio opened in 1979. Teaching is a passion. I love sharing what I’ve learned with people who want to unlock their voices and learn to use them more correctly and effectively. I’ve had very few students who didn’t show at least some improvement from the sessions we had, and some developed dramatically and became singers.

There is a difference between singing and being a singer. A lot of people sing. Of the hundreds of students who have passed through my studio, a handful have become singers. Of that handful, at the present time two that I know of are making a living as professional singers (I am including only opera and musical theater in this category).

So by that criteria, only two have thus far been successful. But so many more have gone on to use their music in so many diverse ways: teaching – both in private studios and schools, performing in amateur productions, directing choirs, singing in choirs of all kinds. performing in rock groups. And enjoying every minute of what they are doing. That is success, to my way of thinking. Some of my former students performed professionally for a time and then moved on to pursue other careers. They still find a way to sing.

It’s a very tough profession, and even arriving at the pinnacle of success has no guarantees. American tenor Marcus Haddock, whose Met debut I witnessed, was near the top of Opera World when he suffered not one but two massive strokes which ended his career. I’ve seen students come very close and have doors slammed in their faces. Yes, luck is very much an element in the performing arts … being in the right place at the right time. And it’s true that the best singers are not necessarily the ones who get the breaks.

So why even try, if it’s that tough? Because if it’s what you love, you have to find a way to do it. You have to measure success differently. Taking part in a community musical production can be enormously rewarding. Singing with a church choir can feed your soul. Teaching music to Sunday School students can give you untold riches, just watching little faces glow because they’ve learned and maybe performed a new song.

Music is a universal gift. If it’s touched your life … you have to give back. That’s just the way it works. We call it “art for art’s sake,” but it’s more than that. It’s being a part of something that is so vast and wonderful we can’t even explain it.

I’ve addressed this from the standpoint of vocal music, but it’s true of all music. And of all of the creative arts. I’ve certainly learned that since I started writing. I know I’ll never be on the New York Times Best Seller List or have a book made into a film. But it’s a thrill to read a new customer review on Amazon. It makes me happy to have someone stop me and tell me they’ve read and enjoyed one of my books.

And honestly, what would life be without the arts? Again, I speak primarily of music (which I also write about in all my novels). “The universal language,” we hear it called. We speak of “the music of the spheres.” It’s everywhere. We are surrounded by musical sounds.

Love it. Enjoy it. Sing. Play. Dance. Act. Write, paint, draw, compose. It’s part of who we all are. It’s what moves life from dreary to dazzling, from morose to magnificent, from gloomy to glorious.

Art for Art’s Sake!

GiuseppeVerdi, Un ballo in maschera, 
Chicago Lyric Opera 2010