Jaclyn Grossman is a soprano, arts administrator, founder of The Phoenix Leadership Project, and developer and facilitator of Opera.ca’s new Emerging Artist Fellowship, a program for fifteen select Canadian emerging opera artists to participate in a year-long development program of consultations, mentorship, and professional workshops. Developed to help address the many troubles facing Canadian artists due to COVID-19, it aims to inspire artists to pursue multi-faceted careers with alternative paid work opportunities both inside and outside of their fields. The application for the fellowship can be found here and is due Sept. 21st, 2020 at 5:00 pm EST.
In celebration of this exciting new Fellowship, we asked Jaclyn a few questions over email.
The new Emerging Artist Fellowship is very exciting! How did you develop this Fellowship and what inspired you to do so?
Over the past two years, I have had the incredible privilege of participating in Opera.ca’s Educational and Professional Summits. These weekends brought together training institutions, opera companies, and artists to discuss issues facing our industry and ways to create positive change. During these Summits, I quickly realized I was one of a few emerging artists in the room. At the Vancouver 2020 Summit, the idea for the Fellowship was fueled during an ideation session where we discussed how best to amplify and include emerging artists in conversations about what is best for their development. I began to ask myself how emerging artists can take part in a conversation they aren’t present for? Why aren’t they present? What is the barrier to entry and how can I help remove it? The Summit helped me realize that many of my peers had not been afforded the same development opportunities that I had been.
Inspired by the Summit, I reached out to the Opera.ca team with the idea of creating professional development programs facilitated by and directed towards emerging artists. The Opera.ca team was incredibly supportive of this initiative. Developing the program has consisted of drawing on my past leadership training experience, consulting with experts in the sector, and most importantly, reaching out to emerging artists to understand their needs in various stages of development. For too long artists have been at the mercy of an ever-changing industry, and I believe it is time to empower artists to take control of their careers by giving them the skill-set they need to thrive in any environment.
Through the year-long Fellowship, Fellows will work with carefully selected mentors, conduct strategic consultations with emerging artists, take on leadership roles at Opera.ca’s Annual Summit, and receive training on financial literacy, time management, project management, productivity, and arts advocacy. How did you decide upon these subjects and why are they important for young artists?
My goal is to equip emerging artists with the skill-sets they need to confidently pursue any opportunity they are passionate about. The program is heavily influenced by consultation with emerging artists at various stages of their careers. I’m passionate about ensuring that all artists have a working knowledge of practical skills. These include topics such as financial literacy, time management, and project management, all of which can help an individual pursue work in any professional field. They are also easily transferable skills which are essential when planning a recital tour, directing a production, or starting an opera company. Oftentimes, these practical business skills are not offered to artists in our technical training, which limits us from being fully capable and independent artists.
We intend to tailor the program to each Fellow by assessing their needs and goals. The mentorship side of the program will focus on supporting growth and fostering connections with mentors who can both see the finish line and understand the Fellow’s journey and specific needs. Other elements of the Fellowship will give artists across Canada a strong voice while Opera.ca and the sector as a whole explore what our industry can look like in a post-COVID-19 world.
Much of your work outside of performing has been about helping other artists. Where does this passion for helping others in the industry stem from?
Growing up, I was very fortunate to be part of many personal and professional development programs. I often found myself running from a rehearsal to voice lessons, to a leadership conference, then to a charity meeting. These experiences fulfill me and have shaped me into the artist and professional I am today. I took the skills that I learned for granted until I began my formal voice training, where I was discouraged from having more than one professional focus. I feel that I am in the position now to share the skills that have shaped me into a well-balanced artist. I believe that learning is a cyclical experience: there is always someone ahead of you that you can learn from, and there is always someone that you can help, and oftentimes we learn as we teach. My work with emerging artists has fuelled my own creativity and has helped my own development as much (or more) that it has theirs. Regardless of where I am on my journey, I know it is always possible to learn and to lift others up.
As a recent Opera McGill graduate, you experienced firsthand the different experiences the program provides in addition to performance. Outside of performing, what were you involved with at Schulich and how has this impacted your professional development?
My time with Opera McGill helped me realize that it is possible to marry my passions. Patrick Hansen, along with my voice teacher John Mac Master, were quick to assure me that my interests beyond performing made me a better version of myself, rather than the narrative I was used to: that my varied interests made me an inferior artist. During my degree, I worked as the Opera McGill Office Administrator, a stage manager as part of the Opera McGill Experience, and attended Opera.ca’s Summits as a participant and Logistics Coordinator. In the average opera program, none of these opportunities would have been available to me. Opera McGill tailors its program to meet each student’s needs and interests, allowing us to learn essential skills that will serve us on “both sides of the table” and beyond the rehearsal room. Instead of being discouraged from exploring my various interests, I was celebrated for my initiative. I am excited by the prospect of giving other artists the tools, confidence, and support they need to unabashedly pursue their passions