Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Singing Stateside - getting work (and Visas) in the U.S.

As much as we'd all love it to be true, there's just not enough work up in Canada to make a fully fledged career. If you want a chance at doing this full time, you'll have to head elsewhere for at least part of the work.

Europe is great. It's easier to get E.U. work visas with an offer, and German Fest contracts, if you can get one, set you up for a year of paid (hard!) work. There's a great blog by an English singer called "An Englishwoman Abroad," who is writing her experiences down. I particularly like it because it's about the experience as a whole, not just the music or house.

For most of us, though, the U.S. is definitely closer. The initial investment of flying to Miami to sing your two arias is significantly less than making your way to Dortmund to do the same. Factor in same languages and the fact that you can be home on weekends if you need be and it's a great place to start expanding. The question is how.

A lot of singers enter a catch-22 when they try to audition down south: A lot of small and mid-level houses need for you to already have a visa before they'll hear you. It costs a lot of time and money for them to arrange one for you so you'd better be pretty awesome to get them to do that. (If you're reading this blog post, instead of getting your rep at CAMI to arrange your visas, it's not you I'm afraid,) The kicker is that you need a contract signed and in hand to get a regular performing visa yourself.

So what do you do? Everybody's favourite forum had a little thread on this last week and I think that it pulls together some really valuable information. The main things to get out of it are that college teaching is a great way to get a visa, and that the American Federation of Musicians (if you're a member - most singers are not,) can help grease the wheels for a price. Some YAPs, particularly non-paying ones, can be easier to get visa for and, above all, competitions are your best friend: If you want to attract the kind of attention that makes mid and mid-upper (B) level houses get you a visa, win a competition.

Or marry an American.

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