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  • Writer's pictureLiya Khaimova

What about all that down time?

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

So, you're out in the big, bad, intimidating world and you're not getting much singing work, and there is so much downtime... Should you panic? Not at all (even though we all do).

Life after school

a desk covered in books because of the amount of schooling Liya has done

I got my masters on top of my undergraduate degree, but I took year off in between because a lot of s*** happened to my voice that made me question whether I'd ever sing again. And I am, but certainly not on a full-time level... yet.

I am a little over 2.5 years out of grad school and my life has changed in so many interesting ways since I graduated that celebrated day in May of 2016. And if it wasn't for the slow times after school, I don't know if I would be happy with myself the way that I am now.

Self-reflection is super important for a career such an opera singing one. We singers are basically throwing ourselves in front of people, begging to be judged, and then hired based on that judgement. And it's super easy to get lost in the anxiety of wondering whether that company you auditioned for liked you, or if that high C was the best that you could possibly sing, or if you were authentic enough when performing a challenging role. Our thoughts consume us, and we have to learn to tune them out sometimes to stay sane.

During school I was completely obsessed with my studies. I had a fire inside me during grad school that I didn't have in undergrad. I basically ran to class because I was so eager to learn. This differed greatly from my undergrad days when I would show up to my 8am music theory class with sunglasses on because of a hangover that could have been avoided... Hey, who doesn't party in undergrad?! But maybe I would be better at music theory had I taken the class more seriously...


Maybe it was because I knew I was paying for grad school on my own, or that I was at such a phenomenal school with such a stellar faculty that I HAD to take advantage of my classes, or that I was surrounded by some of the most talented musicians I had ever met. I don't know, but I was nuts about school, and didn't want to leave.

I performed a bit in grad school, but didn't get any mentionable roles because, again, I was dealing with weird technique and figuring out what exactly my voice wanted to do. Old rep felt bad to sing, new rep was daunting and didn't seem appropriate, and my passions started to develop in another creative aspect: directing.

But how can I combine both directing and singing?

Shouldn't I just choose one path??

Look, there are going to be sooooo many people telling you how to maneuver your career, and which is the "right" path to go down. But maybe that "right" path isn't your path. That's certainly what I am discovering about myself at. this. very. moment. every. single. day.

Ultimately, your career is up to you, and the work that you put into it is what will come out. Now, it may not happen as fast as you want it to, but nothing great happens overnight.

So, now that I've discovered my second passion for directing, I've been pursuing that on top of auditioning for YAPs (that's "Young Artist Programs" for those non-opera singers out there), and have started to form a path that seems to be authentically me.

When I first moved to Saint Louis a little over a year and a half ago I had ZERO connections. I only knew my boyfriend's family and THAT👏 WAS👏 IT👏. I didn't have any artistic connections to this city, and had no idea where to start. Well, fast forward to me moving there: I started sending out my resume to some local theatre companies asking when they had general auditions, or any kind of work needed within the theatre. This led to an Equity theatre company calling me and asking if I wanted to assistant stage manage a show they had coming up in October. I said yes, yes, and YES! After one show as an assistant stage manager, I was able to sign up for my Equity Membership Candidate Card. From there, I was asked back to assistant direct more shows, and just like that my season was booked with an Equity theatre company.

One of the productions Liya worked on in Saint Louis with Michael Dorsey, a director now based out of Los Angeles
A Tree, Falling at Upstream Theatre in Saint Louis, MO 2018, a play I assistant directed with Michael Dorsey

This didn't stop me from singing and performing, however.

I still auditioned here and there and landed a gig with a local opera company for the summer, which led me to meeting so many wonderful people within the community here in Saint Louis.

I continued lessons with my new voice teacher that I found, and started coachings with one of the top sought-after coaches in Saint Louis. Life was looking up, and I've been super busy since!

I had the pleasure of performing with St. Louis Shakespeare, a professional company, where, again, I met so many amazing actors and people within the industry.

Yet, I still have some downtime that sometimes induces a bit of anxiety...

But it shouldn't.

We are all on our own paths and we have to remind ourselves that our careers are different from everyone else's. We must take action into our own hands and not bank on anyone doing the work for us. We are our own bosses, publicists, motivators, gig-bookers, disciplinarians, and harshest critics. But, we also know when we need to ask for help.

Taking the time to reflect on our careers and lives is an important step that every artist and human being needs to take in order to grow. This time has let me figure out what I want in life not career related. Relationships and family are very important to me, more so than it ever has been in my life.


So, stay disciplined, my friends. We are in this together and don't think of "downtime" as a bad thing. It's necessary to recharge and grow.

With love and sincerity,


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