Artist & Entrepreneur: Being a 21st century musician
- Written by VOCE NOVA
We are singers Natalia Tsvi and Gilad Paz, and together we are VOCE NOVA, a crossover music duo specializing in combining the luxury of classical music with the excitement of rock and pop music. Seen around the globe on America’s Got Talent, we put a new twist on your favorite songs with brand new arrangements and exciting original mashups that seamlessly weave classical instrumentation and a modern sound into a dynamic, high energy performance that can be customized to fit any event!
That, dear fellow artist, is our elevator pitch. Why did we decide to open with our elevator pitch? Because being a musician in 2022 also means being an entrepreneur and treating your music like a business.
You know how it is. As musicians, there are so many voices telling us that if we think about making money from music (read: think about it as a business) we’re “sellouts” or “aren’t passionate” about our art. They tell you that if you don’t do music 100% of the time you’re “not a musician”, or a slew of other tropes about the bohemian lifestyle that have been perpetuated by pop culture for at least 170 years. “Scènes de la vie de bohème”, on which Puccini’s famous opera “La bohème” is based, was published in 1851, folks!
Yes, there was a brief period of time when artists could (kind of) afford to live in cities like Paris and New York, while solely pursuing their art and barely making any money. But then again, for centuries, the most prominent musicians, like Mozart and Bach, were supported by royalty or by the church, and more recently by wealthy patrons who took musicians under their financial wing.
But those days are gone, and in today’s economic climate, musicians have to be resourceful, innovative, and business-oriented to create a performing life.
Neither of us was ever drawn to the romanticized life of a starving artist. This applies, first and foremost, to the way we approach our music business. While many musicians first create a show and then try to figure out how to sell it to an audience, when we started working on VOCE NOVA we actually used a “reverse engineering” tactic to figure out what kind of act we wanted to create. First, we thought about what we bring to the table that’s unique and sets us apart from other acts and musicians, which for us, was our ability to sing both classical and pop repertoire in a way that’s authentic to the styles of the genres. Then, we envisioned our goals for this act, and actually talked about the annual income we were hoping to earn from our performances. The next step was to figure out what kind of audience would be able to pay the kind of prices we wanted to charge for our shows. All signs pointed to corporate events and a high end clientele, so we did the research and came up with a catalog of songs that we were excited about (which would also appeal to that audience) and started building the show while utilizing all of this information. Since officially launching the act in April of 2019, we have performed in various settings, from corporate events to yacht & charter shows to weddings, and even got featured on America’s Got Talent season 15 with our rendition of Verdi’ “Libiamo” with a Moroccan dance beat.
While performing life is what we love most, it doesn’t always pay the bills, and this is where the entrepreneurial aspect of being 21st century musicians comes in. In addition to being performers, we have also both created our own businesses that happen to be music-related, and that help us bring in more income to support ourselves and our performing careers. Natalia created a holistic vocal coaching studio, where she helps singers find their true, authentic voices for years to come. She is also a certified success coach and hypnotherapist, and she integrates these skills into her work with her clients. Gilad is a certified mindset & business coach and consultant, and the founder and CEO of The Marketable Musician, where he helps musicians create the artistically-fulfilling lives of their dreams. The pillars of his coaching philosophy are “Fearless Performance, Financial Empowerment, and Artistic Freedom”.
Remember those voices we mentioned earlier? The ones that try to undermine you as a musician if you don’t prescribe to that starving artist lifestyle? You have full permission to put them on “mute” and never listen to them ever again! We’re here to tell you that in no way do we ever feel like our work outside the stage has come at the expense of our performance careers. Even more to the point, helping other artists through businesses that contribute to our financial stability has given us the ability to invest back in our music business in ways that would not have been possible with performance income alone, at least at this point in our careers.
The notion of what the life of a musician looks like changes with the times, and as a musician living in the 21st century, you have the power and the freedom to create the kind of life you want for yourself. You don’t need to apologize for wanting to live comfortably, or for making money from your music and from other sources, or for creating an artistic career that is sustainable and healthy. We urge you to follow your own path with no reservations, to live the kind of life that will make you happy every day, and to pursue success in the music world from the powerful position of being a musician and entrepreneur in 2022.
In a perfect world, soprano Natalia Tsvi and tenor Gilad Paz – the unique classical crossover voc
Testament to their unique stylistically eclectic approach as what they call a “gateway drug to classical music,” VOCE NOVA may not have won the hearts of the AGT judging panel, but it’s likely that had there been a full crowd behind them, they all would have been on their feet dancing, their hearts pounding and mouths agape at the duo’s infectious energy, risk-taking arrangements and overall sense of joyful fun.
Before they auditioned, Natalia and Gilad honed their act performing before diverse audiences everywhere they could, even holding court at open mics and karaoke clubs in the NYC area during the duo’s early stages. When they sang this same version of “Libiamo” at a dive bar in Brooklyn, the crowd – full of rappers and spoken word artists – lost their minds. As it turned out, the feedback was prophetic of what they would continue to hear after officially debuting VOCE NOVA in 2019. Folks who had never heard opera before were suddenly excited about it, surprised how much they loved it, in awe of the duo’s chemistry and stage presence. AsNatalia says, “They can’t always explain why, but their body just moves. They find themselves shaking their butts and clapping to opera!”
Since making their debut at a high profile fundraising event for a new artist group collective in NYC, VOCE NOVA has honed its craft, perfected its style and expanded its repertoire entertaining at boat shows, wedding expos, event planning conventions – and performances at weddings, including one high profile affair where they led an opera flash mob. Their reputation is earning them renown beyond New York, and they were recently contracted to do corporate events in the greater Washington, DC area.
VOCE NOVA brings their bold array of musical dynamics to their latest single, a dramatic and daring yet wildly irresistible mashup of Schubert’s timeless “Ave Maria” and Hozier’s 2013 hit debut single “Take Me To Church,” its title stylized (like many of their other recordings) “Ave Maria vs. Take Me To Church.” The track begins with Natalia in fine operatic form, singing Latin over a prominent church organ. Just when they’ve got us in Mass mode, Gilad in his pop voice sings “Amen” and dives into Hozier’s impactful, instantly recognizable hook. Then she returns with more “Ave Maria” over a rock guitar groove, leading to the song’s climactic segment where the two sing their individual songs at the same time creating a fascinating point/counterpoint. The piece closes with her singing a towering “Amen” and the two joining forces singing soaring high notes in harmony for the triumphant final chorus.
“At first it struck me as being a bit risky, because we were mixing the sacred with the profane and that could offend some people,” Gilad says. “Not every idea for a mashup strikes us as immediately opening itself to our brand of musical fusion, but this is one that made sense as soon as the words came out of Natalia’s mouth. Because we are veteran business people, we immediately honed in not only on the creative but commercial potential as well. It developed into a brilliant and intuitive mashup.”
“The proof was in the pudding, as they say, when we performed it recently at a non-profit in Soho for an audience that included several women from a gospel church,” says Natalia. “They freaked out about it, and we thought, ‘If the Christians love it, we’re good!’ Of course we know some may not take it as well or interpret it their own way, just as some traditional opera and classical folks won’talways like what we do. The way Gilad and I see it, we’re not hurting the quality of opera music, we’re bringing a fresh audience to it. VOCE NOVA, by its very definition as a fresh voice in crossover music, is all about breaking the rules and singing arrangements outside the box. This is 2022. It’s time transcend boundaries, create bridges and make this our own musical truth.”
Though VOCE NOVA creates its mashups with the energy of live performances in mind, the duo has recorded and released a batch of well-received singles over the past year, starting with straightforward duets of “O Holy Night” and “Time to Say Goodbye” and more recently including their most streamed song “I Will Always Love You vs. Come What May,” “Libiamo Remixed” and the supercool “Habanera vs. Smooth,” which blends the familiar piece from Carmen with the Santana Latin rock classic. All songs in the VOCE NOVA catalog are original arrangements created especially for the duo by top music producer Assaf Averbuch.
Natalia and Gilad met in February 2018 when both were invited to sing at a house concert on the Upper East Side showcasing opera hits. Getting together before the show to discuss repertoire, they quickly realized they had extremely similar life stories and paths in the music world. She was born in Belarus, was raised in Israel from the age of three and came to the U.S. to study opera after her mandatory Israeli Army service. Gilad was born to Israeli parents in the U.S., moved to Israel at age three, came back to the U.S. during his high school years and returned to Israel for five years, including service in the Israeli army. Gilad then returned to the States to study classical singing.
Both grew up singing in youth groups in Israel. She earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Music Performance and Voice and Music Education from Brooklyn College Conservatory and he earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Voice Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. When they met, she had recently recorded a classical crossover album and he had created a classical crossover concert concept.
During that first concert, they performed together, they sang a traditional duet of “Libiamo,” never realizing that just a few years later, they would be using their twist on it for VOCE NOVA’s AGT audition piece. “We knew we were destined to work together,” Gilad says. “From the start, I felt that we both towed that line as classical singers who can also expertly perform other genres, which allows us to switch back and forth naturally. We knew we could create something special in the crossover realm. We started our repertoire going for a broad appeal, combining our voices on ‘Time to Say Goodbye,’ ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Hallelujah.’ Then one day, Natalia came up with the idea for a mashup of ‘Havana’ and ‘Besame Mucho,
“Now,” the duo adds, “we will always be aiming to push boundaries with something that is different but that is truly who we are. One of our dreams is to do a VOCE NOVA performance with a full symphony orchestra. ‘Ave Maria vs Take Me To Church’ is a means towards that goal, a song that synthesizes the essence of what we do and the realization of what we first envisioned for ourselves back in 2018.”
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