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  • Writer's pictureEric Ferring

On Arriving


“You have arrived at your destination.”

Thank you, Siri. But…are you sure?

 

What is arriving? Aren’t we always in a constant state of arriving? The destination always changing, evolving? 


I’ve had a personal mission statement since graduate school: I inspire action as a passionate, creative force. The beautiful thing about this career, and life in general, is that there are so many different ways to live your mission. There’s no “right” way. There is no “making it.” We are always in a constant state of arriving. 

 

As an operatic soloist, I’m always in this perpetual state of motion. Packing, unpacking. Trains, taxis, planes. Shuttle, to ferry, to bus. Warm-up, warm-down. Hydrate, steam, sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

In the often-solitary state that is our solo careers on the road, there is an abundance of time to think. To reflect. To assess, reassess. Perhaps overanalyze and obsess.

 

What is happiness (a great high-C? A great meal? A great spouse?)? Am I fulfilled by my work? Do I have balance between my career and life goals, or have I set life aside in order to build my career? Am I living my mission? 

 

These are some of the many tough questions that I have mulled over these past several months. How can I (and the collective “we”) create a work-life balance in the industry that feels healthy and fulfilling, and allows room for growth and evolution in other areas of an artist’s life? What could we create if we imagined and invested together in a future that allows artists the possibilities of having full-time careers here in America, like European companies provide their artists? What actions can I inspire to help build this more sustainable musical world?


What (little) I know about these complex questions is that we are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to imagine the answers we want to see. The possibilities are endless, if we are willing to create and build a bold, shared vision of the future that resonates with artists, our audiences, and the arts organizations that serve our communities.


And, while asking all of these questions, an opportunity came my way that challenged me to ask “Can I reorder what I’ve always done in a way that is true to myself and my mission, and yet brings me more balance?”


The answer? Yes.




Starting March 1, I will be joining the full-time staff at AGMA. I’ll be focusing my efforts on building member engagement and member education, in addition to helping to negotiate and administer CBAs (collective bargaining agreements). I’ll be working closely with the elected leadership and senior staff on national initiatives, including new organizing campaigns, and in implementing AGMA’s policies. 


And yes, I will also continue to sing! Upcoming projects include a debut at Haymarket Opera and at the LA Philharmonic, as well as returns to Opéra de Rouen Normandie and Lille. In addition, I’ll be recording a newly commissioned full-length album based on New York Times best-selling author TJ Klune’s fantasy book series, Tales of Verania, and I’ll still have my incredible teams at Fletcher Artist Management and Askonas Holt representing me as I enter this exciting chapter.




So, how did we get here?


For those who know me, advocating for artists has been an integral part of my journey. Although secondary to my primary work as an operatic soloist, artist advocacy has been an important dimension of who I am and aligns clearly with my mission of inspiring action as a passionate, creative force.


This has largely taken the shape of joining AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists—the labor union of singers, dancers, and staging staff in opera, ballet and concert dance, and concert choral performance in the US) first as a young artist representative at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, and then at the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

 

From there, I joined the Midwest Area Committee as a Soloist Representative, and then was elected to the Board of Governors of AGMA as a Midwest Soloist Governor. For four years, we worked intensely and tirelessly for our artists, for ourselves. For we are our union after all. This all the while singing principal roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and touring the world with Harry Bicket. I’ve had the great pleasure of performing in places as diverse and valued as LA Opera and Carnegie Hall all the way to Dubuque, Iowa, my home town. 


This past July, I was elected as the first-ever Soloists Vice President. Working with our incredible leadership and passionate, dedicated staff, we’ve vastly expanded our organizing efforts, improved working conditions and pay, and continue to engage our members through thoughtful member education. This has empowered and inspired more artists than ever before to join negotiating committees, run for the Board of Governors, create Slack channels, Facebook groups, union caucuses, and so much more. 

 

All with the same goal: Make life better for artists, while ensuring the strength and sustainability of our industry.


I’m thrilled to be joining AGMA, and in doing so, reordering the many dimensions of my life. It will look a bit different, of course, but I will definitely continue to sing, record, and make art in meaningful, consistent ways while passionately defending and advocating for my fellow artists nationwide. 


This unique opportunity is providing me the ability to inspire action and has reminded me of something very important:


What we do isn’t all that we are.  


I am a husband. Brother. Son. Dog dad. Netflix addict. Voracious reader. 

Executive Director. Project Curator. 

And, I am an artist, operatic soloist, and soon, a full-time artist advocate on the staff of AGMA!


Thank you to the countless number of friends, colleagues, family members, and supporters who have contributed to my professional growth. I will continue to honor the immense investments you made in me, and take your support and confidence with me, consistent with my personal mission, into this next reordered chapter. 


And, I hope to see you in Chicago, France, or over the airwaves in the coming year!


With gratitude,

Eric

 

If I can ever be a union resource or an empathetic ear as you perhaps try to answer your own complex questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!


 


Upcoming Performance Calendar:

March 22: Confidente d'Erode, La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista, Haymarket Opera

April 16, 18, 20: Don Ottavio, Don Giovanni, Opéra de Rouen Normandie

July 13: Seagle Festival Gala Honoree 

Newly Commissioned Album: Featuring music by Evan Snyder

And much more to come…


About the Author

Emmy-winning, Billboard-charting American tenor Eric Ferring is known internationally as “a prodigiously gifted lyric tenor” (Opera News) for his “fine, gleaming tenor” (New York Classical Review), as well as for having “a beautifully round and warm timbre, expressive, and with great finesse” (Olyrix). His expertise ranges from early bel canto repertoire and the music of Handel and Mozart to the origination of contemporary operatic roles. He has sung principal roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, and more. He has been seen at concert halls across the globe, including Carnegie Hall, and has released solo vocal albums with Delos Music and Lexicon Classics. Ferring is the Executive Director of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) and is Project Curator of Lexicon Classics.




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