No Back-Up Plans

Sarah Shetchman

Sarah Shechtman

Vocal Pedagogy

No Back-Up Plans

From as long as I can remember, I was always singing. My earliest memory was when I was a toddler and my mother was studying for the bar exam. My grandmother would take me out for long walks where she would sing a song called "Daisy Bell." She would teach me the song by singing the first few words of the line, and then she would wait for me to finish.

“Daisy Daisy,
Give me your answer, do!
I’m half crazy,
All for the love of you!
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’ll look sweet on the seat
Of a bicycle built for two!”

When I was basically old enough to be allowed into a theater, my parents took me to my first musical: Les Misérables. At age four, I sat through all three hours, focusing intently during the entire show and enthusiastically leaping off of my chair in a standing ovation as the last chord was played. My mother tells me that as soon as I got home, at 11:30 p.m., I demanded a broomstick and immediately began sweeping the floor of the kitchen, singing "Castle On a Cloud" as loudly as I could. The dream started there, and I haven’t stopped dreaming since.

My dreams continued when I started looking at colleges and landed at Boston Conservatory. As soon as I walked through the double doors of 8 Fenway on my first day of orientation, I knew I was home. The faculty welcomed me with open arms, and I grew more as an artist and as a person than I ever thought I would. I graduated with three degrees from the Conservatory: Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, Master of Music in vocal performance, and Master of Music in vocal pedagogy (which I achieved in one year). In my last year at the Conservatory, I was given many opportunities to serve as a student recruiter for the school. This experience sparked a brand-new love that I didn’t even know I had: admissions. In January of 2015, my love for admissions became a full-time job, and I became the new theater and voice representative in the Admissions Office.

As I went through a metamorphosis, changing from student to staff member, the faculty and my fellow staff embraced me and welcomed me into the family. It is a family I cherish every single day.

I know people often think that I exaggerate when I say I have my dream job, but I truly do. While I am still an active performer, I am able to combine my artistic passion and knowledge with the love I have for Boston Conservatory at Berklee. I am given the privilege of traveling the country recruiting and auditioning students whose passion I know quite well.

I love giving information sessions with current students and faculty and watching the applicants’ faces light up as they hear of all the opportunities that they would be able to take part in at the Conservatory. I love seeing an applicant fall in love with Boston Conservatory. I love seeing an applicant become inspired by the faculty as they interact with them during their audition. I love watching an applicant bound out of the room after their musical theater dance call or their contemporary theater ensemble audition, shouting, “That was the most fun I have ever had in an audition!” I love seeing an applicant with their instrument in tow walking proudly into their solo audition. I love seeing an applicant nervously reciting their Shakespeare monologue or their Italian art song seconds before their audition and then proudly exclaiming, “Nailed it!” as they rejoin their anxious parents in the waiting room.  

And I love seeing an applicant who has completed their audition and has been accepted to the Conservatory come for a visit and turn to their parents and say, “I know this is where I want to be.”

While all of this is a dream to me, I am often faced with the dreaded question: “So this was your back-up plan? You have three degrees in performance, and yet you are an assistant director of admissions?”

It’s hard for me to hide the disappointment and disdain I feel when ever I hear this. I don’t understand why people talk about a "back-up plan" when exploring the idea of getting an education in the arts. I have heard people say to me or others,  "What if you don't make it to the Met or the symphony orchestra or to Broadway? What is your back-up plan?"

To me, life has no back-up plans. You may have a plan in life that takes a different turn or ends up changing, but that's not a "back up." That is just the way your life path takes you. Being the assistant director of admissions was never my back-up plan. It is where my life's journey took me, and I couldn't be happier.