This is not a sentence you want to hear your doctor say when you are only 23 years old. One week ago, I was graduating from college and on my way to a promising career as an opera soloist. Now, I’ve been in a hospital and I’m facing a life-changing diagnosis. I remember giant, hot tears falling from my eyes. I was so shocked, I couldn’t even blink. My doctor reassured me that I had the “best kind” of cancer and that it was highly treatable, but not without risks.
As I outline the risks of surgery, he continues, explaining that if things really go wrong, the procedure could leave me speechless. Not being able to speak is one thing, but not being able to sing? At that point in my life, singing was the only thing I cared about. It was my passion – and worst of all – my identity.
Fortunately, when the day of the surgery finally came, everything went well. However, the rehabilitation took a long time. I lost a lot of weight, and my voice didn’t work the way it used to. I felt that I had to start from scratch and all my plans were shattered. I crashed. But I didn’t give up. I started working out every day, like I used to. It was boring and frustrating, but I just kept moving forward.
A new beginning
I had no idea that a local entrepreneur was about to change the course of my life.
He said he had been listening to me for a while and thought I was talented. He asked me about my future plan, and told me that if I wrote him a business plan, he would help fund my vision. I didn’t even know what the business plan was at that point. But somehow, she understood it, and made him a proposal. And, according to his word, he financed my vision.
I went to Germany, the opera capital of the world, to try my luck. I was full of hope, but it wasn’t long before I realized that I lacked many skills to excel in my field.
While I had graduated from a very good music program in Canada and could sing quite well, I wasn’t ready for the “business side” of the music industry. But I kept trying, and eventually, I was able to build the experience I needed on my own, without guidance from an expensive degree program or agent—the paths most singers learn to follow.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the skills I was gathering would later serve as the foundation for the work I would eventually do at Living Opera, the company I founded to inform, equip, and empower artists to build lasting knowledge and competence beyond their formidable artistic talents.
It wasn’t until those knowledge gaps were filled that I experienced my first “big break” and landed a job at the prestigious Aix-en-Provence Festival, eventually continuing to sing around the world until the global shutdown of 2020.
push it forward
While the opera industry has allowed me to realize my dreams of a singing career, when I started Living Opera in 2019, I noticed that many of the artists I interacted with were experiencing the same professional issues that I overcame. It seems like not much has changed in the 10 years I’ve been singing professionally.
I began looking for ways to connect singers directly with benefactors and opera lovers in hopes of repeating the good fortune I had earlier. Living Opera’s first “Hope Sings” initiative failed when we couldn’t secure $50,000 to pair dozens of professional singers with hospital patients (via Zoom) during the pandemic. I was disappointed, but I kept trying to find a solution. With billions of dollars spent on philanthropy in the United States alone every year, I was sure to find a source of funding for the emerging artist community.
I had a moment in November 2021 when I attended NFT.NYC and learned about the potential of blockchain technology in rallying seemingly different communities around social issues. I was hooked. I quickly expanded my company’s focus from education to developing digital assets that could be used to fund charitable activities.
I discovered how blockchain can securely connect people to each other securely, eliminating middlemen and overhead costs that complicate the process and increase the cost of traditional grantmaking. When I learned about NFTs, I saw them as a way to bridge the gap between artists and philanthropists. Now, as we prepare to launch the Living Arts DAO (Decentralized Independent Organization), I believe we have finally come up with a solution that will fund our artist community and take our philanthropic aspirations at scale.
While singing continues to be my passion in my life, and I am very happy about my performance opportunities next season, the work I do to ensure that the artists who come after me have something worthy to inherit drives me day in and day out. You should hear their voices, too.
Sola Parasidis He is the CEO and principal founder of live opera. She is also an international opera singer, speaker and passionate advocate against human trafficking with a BA in Music from the University of British Columbia.
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