Networking to Norway
Now boarding those passengers seated in zone B. David McCune joins the line with a scarf wrapped around his neck, hot tea in hand. When your voice is your livelihood you will go to any length to protect it.
David is flying from Sofia, Bulgaria, where he now lives, to Norway for a performance. He is a freelance vocalist, singing in choirs or as a soloist.
Splitting time between Bulgaria, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and Canada makes for a lot of air travel. “When the person beside you is coughing you hope you don’t get sick and that you can still sing well!” says David.
When he lands in Norway, he will head straight to rehearsal, which lasts for about four days leading up to a performance—four to six hours each day.
“Every single time I open my mouth in rehearsal, that’s an audition. It’s always real-time evaluation. Every time I make a sound, or don’t, that’s my job on the line. It can be a scary thing but it’s actually quite enjoyable,” David says.
David’s parents got him started in music at an early age. He has sung in choirs and played the piano his whole life. “It was something I really enjoyed but never something that I considered doing as a career at all,” David explains. When he turned 17 he began taking piano more seriously, thanks to a teacher who encouraged him and pushed him to excel.
The McCunes were always supportive of David pursuing music. All of their six children have participated in music at some level. “I’m the only one who pursued it full-time, but my parents should have known that was a possibility when they put all of us in music,” he jokes.
Retracing all the steps that got him here, David confesses that at 17 he still didn’t fully know what he wanted to do with music. Then he went to a King’s open house. “I walked by the music table and Dr. Segger talked with me. He was inspiring and I learned a lot, so I applied. Once I was in the program I realized it was a perfect fit for me.”
As a piano major, David started taking voice lessons for fun on the side. He would later earn his post-baccalaureate performer’s certificate in voice at King’s. “Turns out I had sort of just missed my calling. I loved piano but discovered I was better at voice—now it’s actually my career,” David explains.
David sang bass in Pro-Coro, a professional choir in Edmonton, at the end of his first year of university. When the opportunity to sing with Pro-Coro first presented itself, two directors David worked with recommended him for the position. “I got a chance,” he says, “without going through the usual process of auditioning, to sing with a professional choir. The conductor was impressed with my performance and invited me back to be involved in more projects.” The years he spent in professional choir laid the groundwork for David. Without knowing it, he was building a network that would connect him with professional performances on another continent.
“So much of this career is networking. In this case it was Pro-Coro that got me into the Canadian National Youth Choir and World Youth Choir. This got me connected with two friends who first brought me over to Norway to do a big recording project with the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir. Now I’m on a two-year contract with them!”
As a freelance musician David gets to see and perform in many places of historical significance. One that stands out for him in particular is a choir concert in the 11th century Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway.
Like any new job, joining the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir came with a learning curve, but David felt prepared. “The music faculty at King’s were really supportive of me doing professional work while I was still studying, and I’m grateful for that. Through this, I was in a good position to make the leap to Europe when I graduated. I learned about as much from performing as I did from university. King’s gave me my theoretical and technical background and my voice teacher there was absolutely irreplaceable.”
David says he had some reservations at first about whether music could be a reliable source of income. Now though, he says, “It seems like too much of a coincidence that I spent my whole life doing music yet never thought I should pursue a career in it.”
David is currently applying for his long-term visa which will become his residence permit. His long-term goal is a move to Norway, the Netherlands, or Germany to continue a lifelong career in music.
By Sandra Thiessen
Common Threads: Stories from King's Alumni
David McCune, Bachelor of Music '17