About My Job: The Baroque Countertenor


by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

Being a sort of lower level, highly-specialized professional classical vocalist is really fun (I sing mostly in smaller pro choruses and as a soloist in local concerts), but can be annoying. For example, whenever I tell anyone what I do, they try to helpfully summarize by declaring I'm an "opera singer," which I'm absolutely not. Then when I tell people that countertenors sing in their falsetto voices, they also helpfully summarize, "like a castrato?" No, there are no more castrati in the world, sorry.

Most annoyingly however is how, especially in North America, many assume that because singing is a wonderful gift and so much fun to do, I shouldn't worry too much about remuneration. I can't live exclusively off my earnings (although if I lived in Europe I probably could), and I am paid a fraction of the money of my instrumental counterparts, even though my skill is just as specialized. I find too many people associate the words "community" with "choir"and friends of mine continue to express incredulity that I as a professional chorister with some of the best early music groups in North America should deign to get money for it. Working in the arts, as liberating and wonderful as it is, is a specialized livelihood, and it's really hard breaking through the culture here where kicking a ball accurately is worth millions of dollars whereas perfect sight-reading, constant vocal practice, and good knowledge of period performance and ornamentation is considered a fun hobby for just about anyone.
Jump to comments

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The U.S. is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe


A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."


Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion