This month’s feature interview is one of BOC’s illustrious alumni, soprano Rachele Schmiege. A graduate of New England Conservatory and a BOC Member for 5 years, Rachele propelled herself into a career of singing numerous roles all over the country, as well as with many New England regional companies.
We talked to Rachele about the challenges and joys of a life of a singer balancing gigs, day-jobs, traveling and much more! Find out more about Rachele on her website: http://www.racheleschmiege.com/
What job did you have when you were in BOC? (i.e. – committee, team, staff, etc.)
I had numerous jobs while I was in BOC: Christina English and I were membership Co-Chairs for a while, then I was on the special events team and later I became the Special Events Chair.
What roles did you have with BOC? Which one was your favorite?
I was in the inaugural production of Iphigénie en Aulide as the Goddess Diana. Other roles included: Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute, Beth in Little Women and Frasquita in Carmen, Voluptua in Pizza con Funghi and Blanche in Dialogue of the Carmelites.
What’s something that you wish you would’ve known about a singing career when you were leaving graduate school? In other words – what DON’T the conservatories tell you?
At the time, New England Conservatory did not have any entrepreneurship classes. I’m pretty sure about half my graduating class believed that they were going to graduate and step right into a Young Artist Program, The Metropolitan Opera or a busy singing career. As great as this would have been, this is not the reality of classical singing: there is a lot of hustle, a lot of “thinking outside the box,” and a lot of hard work and heartache. I had to learn these lessons as I went along and sometimes they were hard lessons. I’m happy to report that NEC now has a great Entrepreneurship Program and I volunteer as a mentor to help guide young singers.
There’s a lot of debate going around about YAP’s and their function as catalysts for young artists into careers. What’s your take on this, and did you find the YAP’s you participated in a worthwhile experience?
I was fortunate enough to have a few different Young Artist experiences that have shaped my current musical career. They provided contacts, experiences and useful tools to fill the void between graduate school and a singing career. I think that the right program can really help a young career move forward, but some can really burn a singer out. I have known talented colleagues that have been used and abused by these programs. Do your research and talk to colleagues to find out which might be the best fit for you! Also, Young Artist programs are not the only way to start a career: get inventive and make opportunities if you find that this road is proving to be challenging.
Do you have a dream role? Have you sung it yet? If yes, what’s a role that you haven’t sung that you can’t wait to sing?
About two years ago, I closed La Traviata with Hubbard Hall Opera with an amazing sense of accomplishment and dread. I had just premiered my dream role… what next? Since then, I have created a larger list of dream roles, but I also want to perform La Traviata again. Once you fall that deeply in love with a role, there is an intense need to do it again. I can’t wait until the next time!
What kind of music do you listen to beyond opera and classical? Do you have a favorite band or artist?
I listen to everything! I love pop, club, country, disco, golden oldies… you name it, I will probably listen to it. I do love opera, but often my ears need a break and a simpler chord progression.
What’s your favorite piece of music (opera, song, theater or otherwise) and why?
Verdi’s Requiem … do I really need to explain why? Its glorious!!! Grab your drink of choice and really listen to the piece. I discover something new every time I sing or listen to this piece.
On singing careers – Do you think the nature of making a career of singing in opera is changing? If so, how do you think the experience of BOC can help a young singer prepare for their next stage?
When I was in BOC, there was a great sense of team work. I know that my experience in BOC as the Special Events chair helped me to land my first day job… and let’s face it, we all need help paying the bills between and during gigs. Sadly, making a living as a singer is a hard road and very few singers can make this their sole job. I know singers that are singing at the best houses in our country and also working at law offices, yoga studios and marketing firms. BOC taught me valuable skills: how to solicit companies for goods and services, work with donors and confidential information, teamwork and running a committee. Paying the bills is not really optional… Having a correlating career is often necessary and developing your tool box of skills will not only help you in your opera career, but help you everywhere in life.
On opera as an art form – How do you think opera is evolving and changing with the times? Or do you think it’s staying the same? Do you prefer opera to be reinvented or remain the same?
I think companies have to evolve and reinvent to keep their doors open. Gone are the days of resting on laurels and assuming that the company process is “good enough.” PR and Marketing is key and social media is not an option. The one thing that should stay the same is the quality and the standard of productions: great singers telling a worthwhile story. Personally, I love a good show: reinvent it, keep it traditional, set it in Vegas… As long as it makes sense, I see nothing wrong with it.
What are some of the sacrifices you’ve had to make in order to be a successful singer?
I would not call them “sacrifices” per se, but I have made choices to advance my career that have taken me away from family, friends, vacations and life events. On the other hand I have also made choices not to advance my career by turning down gigs that have not paid enough that were a “great opportunity” or took me away from home for too long. The key to this career is balance and making decisions that are right for you in the moment and at that stage in your career. Sometimes there is regret, but you can’t beat yourself up over the things that “might” have happened.
What’s next for you?
I have a very exciting 2015-2016 season! This year I am revisiting favorites, playing a fairy tale princess, reuniting with favorite colleagues, returning to opera companies and making company debuts! Stay tuned and find updates on my website at: www.racheleschmiege.com