I picked a few stories for this week’s arts report that highlighted the day jobs local artists hold, from waitressing to plumbing. A reader wrote to remind me that non-artistic side jobs aren’t the only way to make it.

“It IS possible to work full time as an artist in San Diego, and for some years I was one of the few singers who did that,” wrote Patricia Minton.

But it’s not easy, said Minton, now semi-retired and living part time in Palm Springs. She says most symphony players she knows are able to make a living by playing in the orchestra and from teaching private students. Some pick up a few other gigs in community orchestras or bands.

“Certainly if you are any kind of classical musician you have to pile up about half a dozen jobs to make one full-time living,” she said.

But for singers, the balance is trickier. I found Minton’s breakdown of how a singer makes it work interesting.

Here’s her (exhausting-sounding) weekly singer schedule, centered around being in the large choir that sings alongside the soloists in opera productions:

The core job is San Diego Opera chorus. This is an audition-only, union chorus that works about five months of the year. Rehearsals are every night except Thursday during the week, all afternoon and evening on Saturday, and sometimes Sunday nights.

On top of SDO you have a church job as a soloist or section leader. Thursday is “church choir night” in San Diego, so you do a weekly rehearsal plus 1-3 services on Sunday morning. The combination of SDO and a church job means that you work seven days a week for five months. Then if you have a solo-quality voice, you hire out as a soloist to church choirs, community choirs or orchestras that are doing larger choral masterworks (usually at Christmas and Easter) and need soloists or section “ringers” for their choirs.

During the day you teach voice students. For some years I sang with a quartet that did Christmas caroling and party entertainment, and in 1998 I bought a talent agency and ran that business during the daytime and did SDO at night and on weekends. I also sang with a professional chamber choir that sandwiched its rehearsals around the SDO schedule. For a singer it takes 4-6 jobs to make a living year-round. Naturally it’s more difficult between June and December when SDO is dark.

Now that’s she’s living much of the time in Palm Springs, Minton said she dropped her church soloist job in San Diego and quit the San Diego Opera chorus. She still works at the talent agency, she’s a freelance singer, and she has another church job and some more students.

“So in the end I guess I only retired from [the opera],” Minton said. “I’m not really aware of another singer in San Diego who sings full time or who makes a full-time living from music.”

Do you know a singer who makes a living this way? Leave a comment below or send me a note at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531. You can also follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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