Jan 11, 2021
My guest today is opera singer, business coach, and writer, Maren Montalbano.
A graduate of Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, Maren has sung at Carnegie Hall in NYC, Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, multiple theaters in Europe, and even performed on stage, get this...with the Rolling Stones. Wow.
But Maren's career has suffered right along with the rest of us during this past year, but that didn't slow her down.
When live performances disappeared during the pandemic, Maren turned her focus to the online world: writing, producing, and premiering a one-woman show called The Bodice Ripper Project as an interactive digital performance at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
That show, along with the accompanying podcast of the same name, became an exploration of sexuality, feminism, and the journey to self-empowerment through the lens of romance novels.
Guys, if you haven't listened to The Bodice Ripper podcast, put it at the top of your list...it's super fun and you might even learn a little bit about opera while you're at it.
Maren is passionate about uplifting and amplifying new and diverse voices in classical music, which has fueled her work as a business coach for musicians.
We're going to debunk some singer stereotypes, hear about Maren's experience working on a cruise ship when she was only eight years old...
You’re even going to learn what it means to slow down, meditate and move at what Maren calls "the speed of plants". That actually sounds pretty good given our world these days.
Alright––let's get to it and dig into my conversation with Maren Montalbano.
Maren's Current Program: Inspiration to Implementation
Here is a link to the YouTube video we talked about on the show...it's a must watch!
Honesty Pill Links
The Online Business Accelerator-6 Month Group Coaching Program
I am an artist who is passionate about elevating and amplifying new and diverse voices into the world. My world is one of classical music, which has traditionally been riddled with systemic racism, sexism, and classism. I believe right now in this industry we are undergoing a paradigm shift, and that the institutions which have been upholding these oppressive systems are crumbling in the face of the pandemic.
Individuals have much more influence now than they ever have, and I am excited about creating a new, more equitable paradigm - not only in classical music, but across the world.
My music career began at age three on the violin (my mom is a violinist, and she started me in on Suzuki, which she was also teaching). I ended up getting quite good: landing concertmaster of my middle school orchestra in 7th grade and taking private lessons at San Francisco Conservatory. I was being groomed for the Tchaikovsky Competition…but there was a lot of pressure to practice all the time, and it made me miserable. It was my mother’s dream, not mine, that I be a virtuoso violinist. I quit violin at age 13 and focused on singing.
As a singer, I find my voice makes me a conduit between the tangible and the intangible. The music I sing communicates to something deeper that resides in all of us, and helping people tap into that well feeds my soul.
My one-woman show, The Bodice Ripper Project, was born out of romance scenes I used to write backstage at the opera. I read them aloud to my fellow cast members in the dressing room, to everyone’s delight, and someone suggested I set it to music. That idea turned into a one-woman opera/cabaret hybrid show, which then evolved into an interactive digital performance at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival (thanks to COVID), and even an accompanying podcast of the same name!
Writing the show provided much-needed focus for me during stay-at-home orders, but it also created a unique opportunity for me to explore an incident of childhood sexual abuse in my past, transmute that pain into art, and in the process, heal and empower myself. The transformation that I experienced working on that show was profound, and I will be ever grateful to the time I was given in this pandemic to slow down and really process these deep wounds.
In addition to writing and performing, I also am a business coach for musicians. I worked for many years in arts administration (most recently as the Operations Manager for the GRAMMY Award winning choir The Crossing), and I see so many people in the classical music field come out of music school with lots of technical know-how on their instrument but very little practical real-world experience. This makes them more likely to look to a larger organization like an opera company or a symphony for job stability...but those gigs are very competitive, and as I mentioned above, the entire job search is rife with systemic oppression.
I believe there is a better way for artists to get their voices heard. Creating and producing your own art is easier than you think, and I use my experience in arts administration to teach the basics of marketing, budgeting, fundraising, and networking to my students. Artists I work with are able to use the skills I teach to produce their own tours, albums, and recitals, bringing their work directly to the audiences without the need for a gatekeeper.
I’m entering into my second season of The Bodice Ripper Project podcast, and this season will be focused more on other artists and their stories. I always ask my audience how they will rip their own bodice and let their true selves out...so as I interview authors, composers, and performing artists, I intend on finding out more about their creative processes and what the metaphor of bodice-ripping means to them.