Power of the Brand: Or, how I stopped worrying & embraced #OperaGeek

Power of the Brand: Or, how I stopped worrying & embraced #OperaGeek

It isn’t exactly a state secret – especially if you follow my Twitter or Facebook – that I’m KIND of a nerd. And by kind of, I mean full blown. So, here is an experiment. Close your eyes.

Picture your image of an opera diva.

Maybe you see Maria Callas, Diana Damrau, Joan Sutherland…maybe you just see a lady with horns on.

What I’ll bet you DON’T see in your mind’s eye is someone dolled up to the diva nines….playing a Gameboy. Or wearing a Legend of Zelda necklace, or geeking out over any number of videogame, fantasy, or science fiction topics while rehearsing for Mozart, or Verdi, or Puccini.

Thats ok. For a long time, I thought they had to be two separate things, too. Through school and college, I was always the weird, nerdy kid; the one who would be playing the newest Final Fantasy while everyone else was at a party (we don’t speak about 8, though. Shhh.). Through the first few years of my career, through my first management, I tried to cultivate this ‘only speak about opera/the arts, keep the diva face on’ idea. At my first manager’s request, I even removed some of the backstage pics of me playing gameboy, reading fantasy novels, etc and replaced them with all pictures that more fit the idea of ‘an opera singer’. I don’t blame him; for a long time, that is kind of how a career was built!

But now? Right on my current artist agency’s website, when you click ‘media’ under my link, is the image of me fully kitted out, playing A Link Between Worlds on my Gameboy. My twitter handle?? @TheOperaGeek. You can follow me across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with #OperaGeek. I happily post screenshots, discuss (and rage about) current games, show off my Game of Thrones Halloween costume, lament my horrible rolls in Dungeons & Dragons, and interact with sci-fi and fantasy groups on the same accounts I announce new roles, concerts, and appearances.

What was the change? For me, it was about meeting the right people, who opened my eyes to the shift in humanizing artists; my manager, Kathleen Berger; my teacher/artistic advisor to management Susan Eichhorn Young; and the wonderful James Mowdy of b|spoke Branding, who specializes in helping artists – especially in opera – find their own unique ‘brand’. I hadn’t really thought about it until this wonderfully supportive triad came into my life, but we singers ARE more than just performers – each of us constitutes our own unique brand, and can bring an individuality to everything we do. Where is the fun in cookie cutter renditions of roles? How do the notes speak for you, and not just for every other person who has sung them?

One of the things Susan blogs about and constantly sends home with those of us who work with her is the idea of finding your ‘authentic voice’. For me, the glamorized, always-on opera diva personality was certainly a part of – but definitely not my entire – authentic artist self. When I asked her about how she feels me embracing the power of the personal branding helped me land several more auditions as well as bookings, she said, “Nothing speaks louder than authenticity! You’ve embraced yours and don’t have to ask if it is okay to do it! Knowing and claiming it gives you power and possibility and a focus that says you are enough! You are more than enough! When you realize that, as an artist, more possibilities present themselves!” When I sat and thought about this, I realized how right she was; much of my worry and issues around auditioning came from my concern that I be exactly what THEY wanted, instead of being myself and letting them see how that could work for what I was auditioning for.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be able to be yourself when you are in an art form that so often requires you to become someone else. That is a blog in and of itself!

…but first, I gotta go finish Breath of the Wild. Hard mode, of course. What, you think this is a GAME?

Posted on: November 14, 2017Kelli Butler

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