Creating your own opportunity
How Emily Budd turned her passion into her livelihood
by Clay Neely
Imagine a career that revolved around a seemingly endless series of job interviews. For Emily Budd, it’s a lifestyle that she couldn’t imagine living any other way.
“In this business, you’re always auditioning,” she said. “You have to possess the desire to want to do that, no matter what.”
As both an actress and teacher, Budd is not only attempting to create her own niche, but also constantly striving to raise the bar she has set for herself.
Budd has spent the majority of her career working in a myriad of roles that have all revolved around the field of the performing arts. Her versatility has proven to be one of her greatest assets – a self-made artist who is always searching for new ways to utilize and impart her own natural abilities to students.
Growing up in Newnan, Budd sang with her church choir and always told her father that someday she would be an actress. However, it wasn’t until a close friend told her that she had a pretty voice that the light bulb went off.
“Moments like that really stick out in your mind,” she said. “It was like ‘really?’ and it gave me the spark and confidence to start pursuing this possibility I had envisioned.”
After finishing both college and grad school for vocal performance, Budd kept a steady day job but was constantly looking to find new opportunities to help explore what her true calling really was.
However, after she began noticing her co-workers getting laid off at her day job, she made a promise to herself: If she was going to struggle, there was no better place to do it than New York City.
As an aspiring actress and singer, Budd felt moving to New York City was almost a requirement – believing the city to be a mecca for those who share the same passions that she does. In 2008, she packed up and made the move.
“Living in New York City is just one of those things that you can constantly say ‘well, someday’ and procrastinate, but I knew it was the right choice,” she said. “The time was right.”
Once enveloped in the performing arts scene of New York City, Budd performed with companies such as One World Symphony, Dell'Arte Opera, New York Lyric Opera, and Upright Citizens Brigade, as well as a cabaret series at The Duplex Theatre.
“The more I learned about the business, it allowed me to shape and direct myself toward projects that I believed were in demand,” she said.
Budd began to realize the value of self-marketing. While she initially focused on opera, she slowly began to realign her focus on musical theater, noting a greater demand in opportunities.
During her residency in New York City, no matter what realm she found herself working in, she played toward her strengths – tirelessly providing voice lessons as a means for supplemental income.
“Teaching has always felt natural so it fit in with my life perfectly,” Budd said.
Ultimately, Budd wound up leaving New York City and moving to St. Petersburg, Florida – now attesting the relocation as a master plan constructed by her future husband, Candler.
Once she returned home to Newnan, she immediately set out a game plan for herself. Knowing that the Serenbe community had a playhouse, she reached out and inquired if they had a theater program in place.
Soon, she found herself as a camp director and teaching artists for the Serenbe Playhouse – creating an education program that includes theater classes, touring productions, outreach programs, drama clubs, and summer camps for children and teenagers.
“In the arts, you create your own opportunities,” she said. “You have to be able to recognize your strengths and where they are best utilized.”
Since her return, she has also opened the Emily Budd Vocal Studio, which provides one-on-one vocal lessons to both beginners and professionals.
Budd attracts a wide variety of students. Some are extremely technically oriented – focusing on the physical elements of voice training, while others are inclined to hide and slowly be coaxed out of their shell.
“As a teacher, you have to tailor yourself to the needs of each student,” she said. “In a way, you almost become a therapist. Because you can’t hide behind your voice in the same way that you can with an instrument. You have to carefully work with someone in a way that establishes trust and allows them to become who they want to be.
Not only does Budd work with her students to improve their vocal performance, she also imparts the need for less-experienced students to come into their own – noting that singing requires a certain amount of personal acting.
“You have to play the part that you are singing,” she said. “Even if you don’t consider it to be ‘proper’ acting, you ultimately have to create some kind of presence in yourself in order to properly convey what you’re attempting to say in a song. Mental hurdles play a huge role in learning the craft.”
Because of the wide demographic under her tutelage, she imparts lessons derived from every experience she’s seen in her career. Now that she’s home and will soon be raising a family, Budd is hopeful that her business will continue to thrive as she becomes a more established and permanent fixture in the community.
“It always seemed like every place I went, I would get some momentum going and then I’d relocate and have to start all over,” she said. “Now that I’m home in Newnan, I hope that I’ll be blessed with more opportunities to teach because it’s what I love. When I’m performing or teaching, I’m happiest.”
“I always teach my students that they’re giving a gift,” she said. “If you hold back, you’re not sharing with the world.”