I had considered beginning this glimpse into my musical journey with something to the effect of: “I’m just a scared little countertenor trying hard to make it in the big, bad world of Classical Music.” I suppose that in making such a confession, I have done just that. However, a more appropriate introduction might read: “Hello, my name is Bryan DeSilva. I am writing this column to give you a view of the mundane, yet necessary details of my fascinating musical life so that you might understand what building a career looks like from the inside.”
When the editor asked me to write for The Countertenor Voice, I was a bit intimidated. Had I been asked to review recordings or performances, or even to share my thoughts on the climate of early music in America, I would have had plenty to say (as readers will learn, I have no shortage of opinions). This was not the case, however, for I was asked to chronicle a day in the life of – well, me. If I might be so frank, I think that my life at this juncture is a bit boring, or at least it might appear so to readers. And yet, as we talked I became convinced that I have something to share of use to readers who find themselves at the same crossroads – with knotted, ominous signs pointing this way and that, reading “Budding Performing Career,” “Extended Graduate Studies,” and even the dreaded “Dead-End Office Job.”
And so it is from the cool glow of your computer screen that I extend a hand of introduction. My name is Bryan. I am a countertenor and have been singing as such for almost ten years. I am working toward the completion of my Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia. After I complete my degree, I plan to remain in school for another year in Boyer’s Professional Studies Certificate program – a victory lap, if you will…
For a time I was a bit embarrassed by this and even felt the need to make excuses, as if admitting that I may not be done was some sort of personal shortcoming. “Well, you know, I can defer my student loans for another year!” I thought long and hard about my options for this next year, and I came to the conclusion that I still have unfinished work to do. This may seem like a moot point because, after all, don’t all musicians have unfinished work? Aren’t we all just students in the proverbial school of life? This may be true, but there are certainly many things that the protective and nurturing embrace of an academic institution can offer to a blossoming musician. One may be hard-pressed to accomplish as much on their own given the rigors of “real life.” For one thing, the cost of weekly voice lessons can be overwhelming outside of a college or conservatory atmosphere, whereas student loans, merit grants, and scholarships ease that burden, even if only temporarily. Many schools are also quite friendly and supportive of students who choose to pursue independent projects. For example, I plan to mount a concert production of Handel’s opera Orlando next year (rest assured, you will be hearing more).
I am indeed at the crossroads of student life and a professional career. It is at times a frightening place, but I do hope that the sharing of my experiences will bring a little comfort to us both, writer and reader.
Next month, I’ll tell you all about compiling an audition recording and competition application (and hopefully have good news to share). More on the pitfalls (both the ones I see and avoid, and the ones I fall into) of that process soon!