Juan Carlos Acosta is a local singer. He read my post a few weeks ago, when another local singer said “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.”

Acosta wrote me to say that singer, Patricia Minton, is a friend and colleague of his, but he doesn’t know of anyone who is currently making a career “by only singing and only in San Diego.” This is one of the questions we’ve been asking in our local arts stories: How do artists make a living here?

He continued:

“There are a number of people who have had or continue to have major singing careers and call San Diego home but there simply isn’t enough work to make a reasonable living by singing alone.”

Acosta was born and raised here, did his schooling and work here. He’s been an off-and-on member of the San Diego Opera chorus (that singing gig that Minton mentioned in her comments about making it here as a singer).

Acosta’s point was that singers can make a living in San Diego, but not by only singing — they have to piece together other work in conducting or perhaps working administrative or box office jobs, too. Others make it work by traveling to other cities and singing there for periods of the year, he said. There’s just not enough work in San Diego to only sing, or to sing only here.

Here’s more of Acosta’s take on singing professionally here:

In school I had aspirations of being a professional singer and was fortunate to jump right into the San Diego music scene and quickly realized that the life of the professional singer was probably not for me. I have switched gears and am very proud to be a professional musician (conductor/church musician) who picks up singing gigs on the side. It is certainly possible for a singer to make a full time living as a musician in San Diego and many have done and continue to do it but it takes some resourcefulness and willingness to work several different jobs at once.

His path to this point was complicated.

I started off playing in bands in high school and although we were “paid” for our performances all that money went back into the bands. I started taking paying gigs as a senior in high school usually playing drums or something for choirs.

By the end of my freshman year at SDSU (2000) I had a job as a section leader in a church choir, that was quickly followed by Christmas caroling gigs and other random singing opportunities. The church job went from singing to directing at several different churches (not simultaneously), directing a community choir and other things. My first season with SDO was in 2003 and along the way I also taught piano lessons for a while and sung in various “professional” choirs in town.

These days, he said, he’s pretty busy with his church job with only enough time to sing in a few outside groups, but “I’m still having a lot of fun.”

Have a story like Acosta’s, or a different strategy for making it as an artist in San Diego? Share your story in the comments, or you can always drop me a line: kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org.

Kelly Bennett

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

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