In August of 2019 Norman and I were at a leadership conference and someone came up to us. We had just participated in a Q & A session and the event was about to wrap up. She said, "I think you two should focus on creating the culture YOU want to see in your profession and stop trying to fit into what other people say the culture of classical music should look like. Create the culture you want to live in, and invite others INTO IT. So get your materials ready, get your curriculum going, and start building that community because you two were made for leadership."
Norman went a little blue in the face and didn't say anything, and I was like, did he forget how to talk to people? I thanked her and then took him aside to find out what was going on! He explained that about two weeks earlier he had similar thoughts come to him and had actually started sketching a curriculum he wanted to build. I didn't think much of all of that because I was already super busy with Living Opera work. All the posts, DMs, coaching, emails, and live sessions were taking up enough of my time and I didn't want to think about adding another item to my agenda, in addition to my singing career.
A few months later, I received a random message from someone who went to university with me a few years ahead of my class. She said she had been watching Living Opera since the beginning and she thought it was great. She said she even thought it had the potential to be a business, which was pretty far from my mind. She then proceeded to tell me we needed to build a program, and gave me how long it should last, how many units it should be, and how much it should cost.
So then it was my turn to be blue in the face and wonder what on earth was happening?? I told Norman I thought I needed to start getting involved in his project and we began brainstorming. What would be helpful for our small but growing community of singers and opera fans? What mistakes would be have avoided in the beginning of our careers if we have known better? Not just the tips and tricks we give on social media, but the deeper stuff. We started hashing out ideas in our spare time and building the framework for our lesson plan.
All of you have lived long enough to know that oftentimes, life stretches us to uncomfortable places. I have always enjoyed writing, but writing a blog and writing a lesson plan are two very different things. We started consulting people about HOW to do what we felt led to create, and started studying. All of this took place in November of 2019, and lasted until January of 2020, when we went to Torino to work at the opera.
We created draft after draft, and there were many late nights spent in frustration. I think I told Norman I was going to kill him after reading one of his rough drafts - we have such different styles of communication!!! But actually, it helped us in our marriage believe it or not, and we found a new level of partnership in birthing this project. We realized that our unique giftings were actually extremely complimentary, even though they have very different functions. Norman is amazing at creating the structure of something, and I am able to fill it in. So once we learned this, we were able to complete our lessons with relative ease.
After we had the lesson plans drafted, we knew we wanted to record them and make them look amazing. I think you guys know our Youtube videos are NOT high level operations, and it seemed like a huge let down to work so hard to make quality scripts, just to use our phones to create the finished project. Thankfully, a good friend of ours, who also happens to have a studio at their work, said he would help us create our vision, so in March we flew to Orlando, Florida to do two days of filming. We got out of Europe just 3-4 days before the whole world shut down, and we wrapped filming on the ten-year anniversary of our first date. Seemed pretty meaningful and it was. I think I'm tearing up pretty hard in our final video.
So all this to say, yeah, we hope you sign up and take our course, that would be great and we know it will help you, but if that's out of reach for you, I hope you will get this takeaway from what I'm writing here today: PAY ATTENTION.
Pay attention to open doors, to signs, to the stretching, and to the burden you feel. Each one of you have something you are deeply passionate about and want to share with the world. Each one of you was born with a purpose that needs to be unlocked and cultivated to better this world. This journey of becoming a singer, even a mature person, will require much self discovery. If you will submit to that process, you will be shocked an amazed at what will happen in your life, and the lives of those around you. Two years ago we were close to leaving this industry completely, and now, we are leading a fruitful movement within the opera industry. If you are reading this message, then you are part of that movement.
Thanks for being here.
Soula Parassidis, featuring Christos Makridis in Forbes