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Black Professional Singer Finds His Calling Connecting with Audience Through Song

Have you ever considered a career as a professional performer? In this interview, Milton Davis shares his story of how he went from singing in the church choir, to making a living as a professional musician and singer. He shares the ups and downs of living on a fluctuating salary, and explains how he has handled some surprising situations!

My name is Milton Davis, and I work in the entertainment industry as a singer. I have been involved in this field for approximately 8 years. I would describe myself in three adjectives as “artistic” (hopefully), “sensitive,” and “impatient,” especially when it comes to inspiration.

My ethnicity and gender are black and male. I think that everyone’s ethnicity and gender hurts and helps them to a degree. If an audience is used to seeing a certain type of music that is stereotypically associated with a certain ethnicity and gender, then whatever you do will go over well. For instance, as a black male, it is easy for me to “put over” a rhythm and blues or a jazz song to an audience. They may be less enthralled with my performance of “Sweet Home Alabama,” no matter how well I perform it. I have experienced discrimination, but the good thing about the entertainment business is that if you have enough talent, you can overcome anything. Talent wins the day. Simply sing the song as best you can and let the chips fall where they may.

What I do is try to give people a feeling that they have had before. I give people comfort. I am a mental doctor – a mentalist! My work entails not only singing, but many times creating an entire program of entertainment for an event. At my level, people really hire me off of my reputation and expect me to come in and wow the crowd, no matter what. The most common misunderstanding that people have of my profession is that it is not mostly business. The music business is 10% music, 90% business.

I rate my job satisfaction at a 10, without a doubt. There is nothing that I would rather do.

This job does move my heart. I get to connect with people in a way that most people only dream of. I have definitely found my calling in life.

Something unique that readers should know about my situation is that my entire family was into music. They used it as a way to escape the hardships that they faced. Since they faced a lot of hardships, they got pretty good at performing music, and I just followed along and turned it into a profession!

I got started in this line of work by performing at my local church. I was soon discovered by some promoters who had me travel to do some gospel shows, and my reputation just grew from there. I took time off to go to college, but after that it was right back to professional singing. I would not change a thing about how I got into this business or my experiences with it.

What I learned the hard way is to get paid before you sing, even at a gospel show! The audience might be “righteous,” but the promoters and the event planners are all business. So when you deal with them, you have to be a complete businessman as well.

The strangest thing that has happened to me is a friend of mine calling me to do a country themed show. I thought that he was asking me to do a more jazz oriented show, because that was what most of his bookings were. I walked in, and everybody looked at me strangely. Fortunately, I practice all types of music, so when I got on my piano and started playing “You’re My Honeybee,” they all accepted me. It was a great show.

I get up and go to work to make people happy. I get proud when someone comes up to me and says that my music has helped them through a tough time.

My job is stressful only because I have to do so much to just sing. However, I can take time off whenever I want to.

Here is the part that everyone will want to hear. A good salary range for a working singer like myself is anywhere from US $40K to about US $90K. I do live within my means and it is ok.

I do not really take any vacations, because I love what I do. When I am not touring or gigging I am writing.

The single most important thing that I have learned about the working world is that you are really responsible for everything that you have. Look around you. If there is something that you want that you do not have, then there is something that you need to do that you have not done.

I would tell a friend considering my line of work to make sure that he brushes up on his business administration skills and maybe take a tax preparation course at a community college.

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  • I can relate to this story because I want to be a movie director. The ways I can relate is that my family is very much into movies and I am the one pursuing a career in them. It took me a few years out of high school to really set my sights on going to film school, I think that having a break from schoolwork can help give us an idea of where we want to go in life. I also relate to this guy because I also just want to reach out to people and make an impact in their life, something that I think is relevant to everyone in the Entertainment business.

  • I loved reading this article. It shows that music plays everyone’s love strings. Despite the different types of music gigs Mr. Davis received, he never let them intimidate him. He has a strong passion for what he does, which I can relate to myself. You get up to make other people happy which in turns, makes you happier. When you find a career like that, you have found a career of a lifetime. This is the type of passion I want for my future career as well. Thank you Mr. Milton Davis for being an inspiration to my future goals.

  • What is so interesting about this article is his statement that everyone’s “ethnicity and gender hurts and helps them to a degree.” I completely agree with this, and can resonate with this article strongly. I am a thick-bodied, Hispanic woman, pursuing a degree and career in acting. And very typically, I will get cast as the stereotypical best friend or fiery, sassy, Latin woman. Which helps me because when I graduate from school, I have a specific niche that I fall into. However, what hurts me is that I will possibly be limited to those roles. But this does not discourage me from creating new roles for people of Hispanic descent and women in general. I want to create and perform in roles that don’t generalize women as crazy, loud-mouthed people.

  • As an African- American woman, this story really speaks to me. I have always had high respect for artists (music artists, visual artists, writers, etc.), and with my passion in visual arts, I’ve come to realize it’s a tough world in the arts. I’m often stereotyped because I am a black woman, and having to over come those has been tricky. But I can also say that I use my culture to my advantage. I am able to channel the things that my people have gone through into my artwork. It gives me motivation, and often times becomes my muse. I love that the author in this article has found something that he is so passionate about to turn into a career. And he is right, the hardest thing an artist has to figure out is how to get paid for their work. While I do create art for my own happiness, I design for others and I expect to receive a profit. This is something that I will have to overcome.

  • Yes, ethnicity and gender hurts and helps me to a degree. While I am not actively involved with music, I do perform poetry every now and then. Because I am a woman who speaks about lesbian love and my experiences as a lesbian, I am looked at differently. “A woman she write about men,” an older audience member told me. That still never stopped me because I would get more positive feedback than negative feedback. 

  • This article is very inspiring. I am currently a Dance Major and dancing in front of a crowd brings me so much joy because I know I am making someone feel something. Knowing that there are artists out there who overcame their stereotypes gives me hope that I can also do the same. After reading this, I am even more motivated to believe in myself do what I love because there is honestly nothing else I’d rather do than share what I have with the world.

  • Hi Milton,
    It’s really nice reading your story. Just like you, I also do some professional singing and I can relate to your background and what got you into singing. My story is quite similar to yours in the fact that I grew up in one of the developing countries in Africa where having electricity was considered a luxury. I remember our neighborhood would go days without a blink of the bulb and all we had as little kids was to create our fun so most often, we began to sing. We sang popular hymns like ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Lean on me’ etc to get past the horrors of living in darkness- literally! We harmonized, modulated, and created our own ad-lib without a care in the world how good or bad it sounded. We just wanted time to pass and for us to have that good feel feeling (which I later grew to know was endorphin) rush through our veins to ease us from the depression of our poor living condition.

    Fast forward to 2004 when i was lucky to visit the United States, I discovered how uneasy it was for me to leave singing because of how it had positively helped me overcome the darkest moments of my childhood. I continued to sing and inject positive lyrics into my songs because I know how much healing and relaxing good music to be in the development of the mind and soul. I’m currently taking some time off for my Graduate degree now my music album is somewhere there in cyberspace, hopefully helping someone go through any trying times they may be having right now.

  • I truly do love this article because it brings out the problem in today’s society on how we pick at how being a African American(black) rapper is stereotypical. Not saying that he was a rapper but bring up a fact. I am a musician and an all white neighborhood and I am mixed. I tend to see people dislike what I’m doing because of either how I’m being different and or how I am doing the “out of extraordinary”.
    This man put together his life piece by piece and it really surprised me that he could make a living of of what he loves doing which is another reason I am pursing my dream. It as if people don’t want us to better ourselves in our hobbies, but instead to jump in a line along with the others and do as we are told.
    Responsibility is stated an I thoroughly believe that with great power rather you are an artist or doing your dream job up on top, to even controlling your entire life; comes great responsibility.

  • This article has knowledge me to understand that many different types of people are also stereotyped based on their skin color, gender, and culture. I may not be a singer like Mr. Davis, however we both are devoted enough to push passed our challenges and manage to be successful. Our ambition is to help people with our skills and talent. I’m welling to devote my time to graduate college and get accepted into the medical school, after striving for my goals, just like Mr.Davis, I want to help many African countries as a traveling doctor and the only way I could pursue my dream is to overcome the obstacles by using my talents. “I have experienced discrimination, but the good thing about the entertainment business is that if you have enough talent, you can overcome anything. Talent wins the day.”(Davis)

  • I loved this article. As a black female singer, I oftentimes get stereotyped into a certain genre before I even open my mouth. This thing is, if I perform well enough, those stereotypes are thrown out of the window. It may be a struggle, but when I see people singing along with me, clapping, and dancing, I know that I’m doing my best to entertain them.

    I’m just getting started in the industry and the tips that Milton gives are extremely helpful. As a current, full-time college student, I plan on taking a tax preparation course, as well as a business entrepreneurial course to make sure that I am successful in my endeavors. Having the proper training and knowledge, I feel, are important to being success.