The audition season is upon us: the time of year when YAP Tracker alerts have the power to incite instant panic, joy, fear, hope and disappointment (hopefully not all at the same time. The application process, from start to finish, is expensive and arduous. If we don’t live in a popular audition city, traveling to our auditions can be expensive and arduous. Making sure we sound and look our very best on audition day can be expensive and arduous. Much of fall and winter (heck, much of every season) is spent planning and preparing for the four to six minutes we might get in front of an audition panel.
Auditions are a special beast. We have roughly the equivalent of a long commercial break to convince a panel that the talent and skill we’ve invested our time and money in are worthy of their time and money. Auditions ask us to walk into a room of people we probably don’t know with music we’ve spent months or years learning, memorizing, and polishing and perform it with a pianist we’ve likely never collaborated with before. We have to be skilled at reading the room to see what kind of mood the panel is in and show enough personality to make us memorable, but not abrasive. We need to stand out in a sea of other sopranos in pretty jewel-toned wrap dresses and nude heels. We naturally spend a lot of time worrying over our aria package—what our starting piece says about us, what we know of their season, what the girl before you started with, what they’ll pick second, or weather they'll even pick a second piece at all!
All of this is to say that the audition room itself is a minefield. It’s important that we are in our best possible mental space to accomplish what we set out to from the moment we set foot in the room. So what to do about that crucial time in the waiting room (or hallway or stairwell) right before the all-important moment? Well, no two of us are exactly alike, but here are some of the basics:
1. Pack Right
The things you surround yourself in the final hour of audition preparation have the potential to be centering, calming, and anchoring. Find a favorite water bottle, make sure you always have that lipstick that just pops, and tuck your inspirational message du jour into the back of your binder. Familiar objects can become your talismans for audition luck.
2. Take Your Time
Few things can throw off your game like having to battle traffic or slow public transit and cutting it too close for your audition slot so whenever possible, give yourself the luxury of time. Make your own personal judgment call about the appropriate time to arrive that will give you the space you need to leave the bustle of outside behind and get your game face on.
3. Respect the Rituals
Some of us are talkers, some of us are strong silent types, some of us like to engage in yogic breathing and wall sits. Whatever your pre-singing style, know it and own it. If you’re a talker, be aware that not everyone likes engaging with a Chatty Cathy right before they sing. If you need solitude, be polite but remove yourself as much as possible. Pro Tip: Headphones are a universal sign for “leave me alone,” and your waiting room-mates won’t even know if you don’t have music playing!
4. Resist Shoptalk
There’s a time and a place for shoptalk. I love it as much as the next soprano. But if it sets you on edge to have someone pick apart your aria package or your choice of starting piece (and who could blame you), disengage and see Tip #3. If you happen to meet someone who you seem to really click with, plan to have a celebratory cocktail after and get down to brass tacks.
5. Beware of Frenemies
I like to believe that most of us sopranos are generous, humble folk who understand that while engaging in this line of work is competitive, we’ll get further by supporting one another than by ripping each other down. But I have encountered enough diva-rific behavior (across all voice types) to know that there are certainly exceptions to this. And sometimes it can come wrapped in a friendly-looking package, only to betray its rotten core later. In any case, know that those who try to intimidate or make you feel inferior are a) not worth your attention and b) likely compensating for their cripplingly low self-esteem, which is totally their problem, not yours.
I look forward to seeing you all around the halls of Nola this season. Good luck and Godspeed!