Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sexi Soprano and the City: Subway Hacks

When I think of stressful situations, no doubt being stuck on a subway that is being "momentarily" held on my way to an audition is one of them. It’s important to not to let the MTA get you down! Not only is the subway an excellent resource for getting from Point A to Point B, but also an incredible opportunity to do some self reflection, audition pump up, and meditation – even with the guy next to you doing “The Manspread” and the "It's Showtime!" dance crew doing their newest routine on the platform. There are plenty of subway hacks that can make your commute easy and stress free:

1. Maps. When mapping out your route to your audition, don't use Apple Maps. Instead, use Google Maps, Transit, or HopStop. I know everyone has their favorite GPS/map planner, but these are the most accurate ETAs and subway routes. Try KickMap for a quick NYC subway map reference.

2. Plan Your Route. Plan out which direction you will need to walk once you're out of the subway. This is really important and can shave a couple minutes off of your commute! If you are going to Nola Studios and taking the 1, C, or E train, you are going to have to walk north a few blocks. Plan accordingly and sit either at the front or the back of the subway, depending on which direction you are coming from.

3. $19.05 rule. When it comes to buying your MetroCard, memorizing the $19.05 rule will save you a few pennies. Haven't heard of it? Essentially, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority made close to $50 million dollars last year ALONE on unredeemed balances on your MetroCard! When you buy your MC at the kiosks you are given a few payment options: $9.00 for 3 rides, $19.00 for 7 rides, or $39.00 for 16 rides, as well as weekly/monthly unlimited. When you select one of these quick pay options, you will have a unavoidable remaining balance of $1.95, $2.45, and $0.95 that the MTA gets to pocket. Frustrating, right? Instead of using these trickster shortcuts, select “Other Amounts” and type in either $9.55 (4 rides), $19.05 (8 rides), and $38.10 (16 rides). Your remaining balance will instead be $0.03, $0.00, and $0.01. If you find yourself getting through MetroCards quickly, consider buying  a weekly or monthly unlimited card. Do the math by averaging how many times you swipe per day and see if it is cost effective for you to do unlimited. Also, never throw out an empty balance card: keep the same one to refill so you can avoid the $1.00 new card fee.

4. Bring Headphones. Your headphones will be your most important accessory! Listening to music is great, but I’d like to introduce you to binaural beats. Binaural beats, sometimes called Isochronic Tones, are two slightly different beats pumping through each ear of your headphones. These beats are then processed and reconfigured by the brain as one beat. For example, if your right ear is receiving a beat of 300Hz and your left 310Hz, your brain will perceive the binaural frequency at 10Hz. All the science stuff aside, when you induce certain frequencies into your brain, it likes to match it. With beautifully minimal visuals and an added rain sound function, my favorite app is appropriately and simply called Binaural. If you want to induce a focused and calm brainwave, you might select the Theta setting at 4-7Hz. Any lower and you might fall asleep, so be careful! Likewise, if you are trying to catch some z’s, make sure you don't set your beats to a Beta or Gamma  setting, which promotes high functionality and activity! If you're not so into the beats, try a white noise app or even Chakra tones.

5. Set Your Intentions. Once you have your beats or tunes going, either let yourself close your eyes or do some reading or reflection. This is a great time to set a goal for your audition. Try not to set intentions surrounding technicalities – “I want my high C to soar" or "I want to nail that coloratura passage " could instead be "I am grounded and expansive" and “I have abundant energy and precision”. I find it much more effective to set an intention while in a Theta state rather than right before I go into the audition room or waiting in the holding area.

6. Scent. Bring something that smells good along for the ride. Scent is one of our strongest senses and yet we rarely use it for triggering relaxation or invigoration! It can be anything from essential oils, your favorite perfume, or maybe even your sweetie’s sweater. Whatever it is, something that will mask the myriad of subway smells bombarding you will make your commute a little more enjoyable! 

7. Snacks. Having a snack handy can be very helpful for subway commutes. We all know what it's like to be hangry and let me tell you, there is no worse place to be hangry than on the NYC subway! This leads me to...

8. Sanitize! For the love of all things holy, have hand sanitizer! I don't need to tell you how many people have touched that subway rail or how long those germs can last on any given surface. Take an extra step to keeping yourself healthy this audition season. I love “First Class” by Kiehl’s. Besides it’s potent sanitizing properties, it smells heavenly. I never travel without it!

Photo courtesy of Oliver Palta via Flickr

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Defining you brand: a webinar for singers

Graphic designer/singer Rachael Colman discusses her tips, tricks and secrets to defining your brand with your resume, website and headshots. Get the scoop from someone in the business that can point opera singers in the right direction to define who they are, and be accessible to companies. Visit for more of Rachael's branding articles as well as FREE information, support, guidance and insight into this career.

You can find Rachael at

Want to read more about your brand? Check out these tips by Rachael:

5 Tips to Defining Your Brand
The Do's and Don't's of Your Perfect Headshot
One Page Only: 6 Tips to Shape Your Best Resume
5 Steps to Create Your Professional Website

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

3 Unconventional Ways to Pay For “Yaplication” Fees

By Lily Guerrero

It’s “Yaplication” season and everyone is scrambling to make some money for those application fees for the upcoming audition season! The trouble is, most of us have just moved to a new city for grad school, came home from a summer-long YAP, or are freshly graduated, which means you’re probably unemployed or scrambling for a day job. Here are some off the beaten path solutions to pay for your fees without dipping into your savings account!

1. Donate Plasma. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: I hate needles! But I promise that if you have survived donating blood, you will survive plasmapheresis. On your first visit, you’ll start by answering some questions about your health, and then they will take some basic measurements (weight, blood pressure, temperature, etc.). Next, you’ll be directed to the donation floor, where you’ll lay on a large upright bed and get hooked up to a machine that separates the plasma from the rest of your blood. The entire process takes between 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how much you weigh and thus, how much plasma you are allowed to donate. Most places have free WiFi, so you can work on your Yaplications while you lay there! The money is immediately loaded onto a pre-paid Visa card, and you can check your balance online or by phone at any time. If you go twice per week, you’ll make between $30-60, which is enough to pay for at least 1 or 2 applications per week! Find a location near you by checking out the websites of various donation centers like Biolife, Octapharma, or CSL Plasma.

2. Task Rabbit. If you like running errands or working with your hands, Task Rabbit is the website for you! First, sign up to be a Tasker, then navigate the website to find your city and its available tasks. Common tasks include walking dogs, picking up groceries for the elderly, helping someone move heavy furniture, or repairing household items. If you don’t live in a large metropolitan area, you can also sign up to be an online Tasker and do work like data entry or editing. Task Rabbit  handles all the transactions online so there isn’t any worrisome cash handling involved.

3. Take Lessons. You already teach voice lessons to the students in your immediate vicinity, but why not register to teach someone via Skype? On Take Lessons, you can offer your services as a voice teacher to a wider audience and get some extra cash flow. You get to pick your hours, rates, and location if you want to work out of your own home, online, or travel to your student’s! You can also sign up to teach other skills such as, crocheting, foreign languages or any other specific subject. 

These are just a few examples of ways to make some fast cash on your own time. Don't let all those application fees deter you from applying to programs! What other ways do you know of to make some fast cash? Comment below!

Photo courtesy of Junior Libby via

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sexi Soprano Feature: Caryn Crozier

Photo credit in order of appearence: Erin Deuel, Lisa Crozier, Randall Outland, Terry Schilson, Randall Outland, WVU School of Theatre and Dance, Lisa Crozier, Susan Schilson, Terry Schilson, Katie Hensley, Lisa Crozier, Erin Deuel, Lisa Crozier

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Navigating Young Artist Programs

By Stacy Dove

It’s that time of year. You sit down with your laptop on a daily basis and scan the ever-growing list of audition notices, determining which ones you’d like to apply for and which ones can wait. There are many factors that determine your decision: their selected repertoire for the season, past audition successes or failures, how you and your team are feeling about your current repertoire and technique, your experience … the list goes on and on. The process can feel overwhelming, not to mention the fees you rack up with each application. How does a girl determine which programs she’s right for? Which programs are worth your $40 application fee? The programs with which you have a real shot for being heard?
  • Start with the Opera America Website. They have a great list of companies here: showing their Budget Level. If you’ve never worked professionally before, logic would say that you probably shouldn’t be applying for top tier companies like Wolf Trap, Merola or Florida Grand right out of the gate. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but you want to give yourself the best possible chance for success. 
  • Take a real look at your experience. Did you have the opportunity to perform multiple roles during your educational or past Young Artist experience? While there are some companies who are willing to help you build your resume, there are others who are looking for experience. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically expect from those reviewing your application.
  • Ask your team. Your team can include your coach, your teacher, and your mentors. If you don’t have a team yet, you should gather one ASAP! The people you trust who know the business should have a good idea of what you’re ready for. Are you ready to sing Barbarina for the first time? Great. Have you covered bigger roles like Susanna or Mimì and are ready to take the plunge? Maybe you’ve even sung these roles in school or for smaller YAPs. Great! The answers to these questions should all help guide you to the right path.
  • Sit down with your budget. Audition season is expensive y’all. As much as we would love to, most of us don’t have an unlimited budget for applications, travel, accommodations, food, and everything else that we need to plan for during the process. Decide how many auditions you can realistically plan for this year and stick to that. If you need to, keep a few applications on the back burner until you hear from your top choice companies. 
  • Take a deep breath. It’s all going to be just fine. Audition season, like this career, is a great adventure. Try to remember that it’s not each stop along the way that matters, it’s the journey. Buckle up – this could be the greatest adventure of your life!

Photo Credit Shannon Langman Photography |
Model: Laura Watkins, Mezzo-Soprano 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

THRIFTY THURSDAY: Pretty in Prints with Jennifer Rowley

By Lily Guerrero

Photo: Michigan Opera Theatre - Mitch Carter

Ever the fashionista, Sexi Soprano Jennifer Rowley wowed audiences at Michigan Opera Theatre’s season preview on July 22 with both her singing and her glamorous look. What’s better than a pretty print for an outdoor concert? Here’s how you can get her look for your own upcoming event.

1. Eliza J Floral Print Halter Maxi Dress (Regular & Petite), sizes 2-16 regular and petite, $158

I personally love this dress because the halter top is adjustable and leaves a chic bow draped across the back. The cinching at the waist adds definition to an otherwise billowing maxi dress, and the silhouette of the dress adds height to its wearer. Pair it with some strappy wedges and head out to sing at your cousin’s wedding or at an afternoon tea recital. Buy it at Nordstrom here.

2. Vince Camuto Floral Halter Dress, sizes 4-14, $101

If you’d prefer something more waist-defining, I absolutely adore this piece because of the statement bow. The metal, halter neckline acts as a support necklace that adds bling to the outfit while keeping the dress from losing its shape as the afternoon wears on. The polyester makes it an easy dress to pack in your carry on, and everyone will love your rendition of Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß in this flirty number! Available at Dillard’s here.

3. Ginger Fizz High Neck Dress With Asymmetric Skirt, sizes 2-10, $75

Are you more of a Carmen? This sexy little number shows off your best attributes without revealing too much of your inner gypsy. It is another polyester dress that travels well and the asymmetrical skirt adds character to a sweet print hinting to your rival, Micaëla. Wear it for the donor party or an evening soiree. Available at ASOS here.

4. Ralph Lauren Silk Floral Halter Dress, sizes 00-18, $175

If you prefer something shorter, this fun Ralph Lauren piece is bright and bouncy. The ruffled hem and silk material are ultra feminine with an interior lining for extra comfort and coverage. Who can resist your rendition of “Batti batti” when you look this cute? Buy it from Ralph Lauren in stores or online here.

5. White House Black Market MOCK NECK KEYHOLE INSTANTLY SLIMMING DRESS, sizes 00-16, $160

If floral patterns aren’t your thing, keep cool in this gorgeous white body con dress. With built in shapewear, it is sure to flatter every body type. The keyhole provides a peekaboo moment with a neckline that could otherwise be considered conservative. This is another perfect travel companion and machine washable, so don’t worry about any accidental stains at the donor dinner! Buy it at White House Black Markey in stores or online here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Say What You Need to Say: An interview with Laurie Rogers

By Tina Boosahda

Do you ever wonder what the audition panel is thinking? Ever wonder what you should or should not say in an audition? How much is too much contact with the company? Do they want to hear from you at all? Our readers asked, and now, we shall ALL receive! I recently had the pleasure of speaking with conductor, coach, and Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program Director, Laurie Rogers, about some common questions singers have about the before, during, and after-audition process. Her advice is authentic and will take you a long way this audition season, ensuring your audition and collegial etiquette approach are up to par!

Q: After an audition, when a singer receives rejection, waitlist, or acceptance letters from different opera companies and/or summer programs, what should we say in response to those emails or mailed letters? Should we even contact the company at all? What would you like to hear? 

No need to contact the company unless of course you receive an offer, in which case we will want your confirmation that you intend to accept the offer, and then we would love to hear from you in a timely manner so we don't have to chase you down to find out if you will be joining us. This can get tricky if you are fortunate enough to receive multiple offers, or are waiting to hear back from other young artist programs and trying to juggle it all. We are barraged with communications anyway, so replying to a rejection or waitlist notification doesn't accomplish anything. And please don't write asking for feedback if none is offered. We hear so many singers that it is virtually impossible to give individual audition feedback, unless it is a format like the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which builds this is as part of the process. If I give feedback to one person, then I'll have to give it to everyone, and there simply isn't enough time to do this.

In terms of house auditions for opera companies, much of the same applies. If they want to make an offer to you, they will. If you don't hear anything within a reasonable amount of time after your audition, it may simply mean they don't have anything they feel is appropriate to offer to you right now. In 6 months to a year, if you have significant additions to your resume, you can follow up and let them know where you have been performing or what engagements you have upcoming.

Q: Before the rejection, waitlist, or acceptance letter arrives, and right after a good audition, is it appropriate to contact the company/individuals associated with the company that you just sang for and thank them for hearing you before you hear from them, accepted or otherwise? Or will a simple thank you face to face in the audition room suffice? 

Honestly? While my mother brought me up to write thank-you notes, and it's a lovely and polite gesture, it won't make a bit of difference in your audition/application to our program. I rarely even respond to thank-you notes, and although I appreciate the gesture, it's really not necessary, and if too profuse they can come off as trying to kiss up. However, thanking the panel right after your audition is common courtesy. If you appear rude or arrogant or preoccupied, that may give us cause to wonder about your collegiality, which IS a factor in our consideration. On the front end of the audition, saying hello to the panel is also polite; coming to the table and shaking hands with everybody is excessive and potentially unhealthy during flu season!. We do like to keep a slight buffer zone...

Q: This one might be a no brainer, but since you coach, I have to ask… In a coaching situation, is it appropriate to contact the coach after you've worked together and thank them for hearing you and working with you? 

I never actually had somebody thank me afterwards for a coaching. Perhaps if somebody well known or extremely busy has made time in their schedule for you, or done something else above and beyond, that would be worth a thank-you note. What I do like to get is an email asking to set up another coaching!

Q: As a follow-up on the coaching question: Is it fitting to add them to your resume after you've worked together once? Or, should you coach with them a certain amount of times before you put them down on your resume?

I get this question in master classes a lot. Don't use those lists on your resume, teachers, conductors, directors, and coaches, to name-drop. Same goes for master classes, which I personally don't think belong on resumes. When we read your resume, we need to be able to contact those people you have listed if we have questions about you, and they need to be able to know you and your work well enough to speak on your behalf.  It's a small world and we are quite likely to know a number of the people you list. Very frequently I will text or message a colleague in the middle of someone's audition to ask them specific questions and if they don't know you well, it will backfire on you if and when I do contact them. You need to be the judge of your relationship with that coach. I would find it a rare case that I could speak at length about a singer if they have only coached with me once.

Q: How much is too much contact with the other side of the table? Do you want to hear from us at all?

Only if you have a legitimate question. In our YAP Tracker audition application listing, we give out specific instructions about who to contact if you need something. Remember, you are one of many, many singers applying to our programs, although sometimes it feels like you operate in a vacuum. Last season, Opera Saratoga had a record-breaking 1,031 applicants. Out of those we heard about 400 live auditions. That's a lot of people to keep track of, and if everyone sends follow-up emails it can get a little overwhelming. I've also gotten emails from singers who haven't heard back from us yet after auditions, usually trying to make it sound like they are about to accept another offer and try and force our hand; it doesn't work. But I am speaking specifically about young artist programs. If, for example, you take an agent audition, it's not a bad idea to thank them for hearing you. In the end, while it's a nice gesture, it doesn't affect our decision in any way. It's more important to sing the best audition you possibly can to make a good impression!

There you have it. Now, go forth and make amazing impressions in every audition you take!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How To Thrive When Conservatory Casting Doesn’t Go Your Way

By Sara Duchovnay

So you’re a voice student and you didn’t get cast in your program’s opera production. First of all, the collective singer community feels your pain! Every single singer out there knows how much it hurts to be rejected, a countless number of talented singers before you have been passed over for opportunities at the academic level and have gone on to have stellar careers. On the other hand, it is important to get full roles on your resume during your time at school. Fear not, Sexi Sopranos, not getting cast this time presents you with the opportunity to use your creativity to make opportunities happen for yourself. You are building skills that will serve you well in your long and fruitful career! Here are some tips for getting the most out of your program, even when casting doesn’t go your way.
Embrace your feelings and give yourself a set amount of time to grieve. Feelings of sadness and disappointment are perfectly natural in this situation! Accept that you would have loved that role, that you would have been great in that role, and that you are really sad that you didn’t get it. Give yourself a day or so to feel all the feels. Have a good cry, really go for it at the gym, indulge in a little retail therapy, schedule a haircut or spa treatment, or have a drink with friends. Set a limit on the amount of time that you will allow yourself to grieve this opportunity and when that time has elapsed, put on your grown up pants and get proactive instead of dwelling on what might have been.

Ask about cover opportunities. If covers haven’t been cast yet, send a well-written, thoughtful email to the director and/or conductor and ask whether they will consider letting you cover. If they already have a cover, ask if you can do a  “study cover.” Put aside your pride and get that role learned and on your resume! Coach it privately and soak up everything you possibly can by watching your colleagues work. It may feel scary to be forward and to ask for something that you want, but truthfully, the worst thing that can happen is they say no. You’ll never get a "yes" if you don’t ask, and some other more enterprising singer might even ask before you do. In the industry today, there are few things more valuable than knowing how to hustle and seek out opportunities. Most jobs are not posted on YAP Tracker, you have to hunt for them! School is a great time to learn to do just that! Keep in mind that since most schools double cast, your chances of going on or even having a chance to rehearse as a cover may be slim, but covering from the house will give you an opportunity to develop other extremely useful skills. Many professional covers have to step in with little to no actual rehearsal, so learning to prepare on your own is a fantastic experience to have as a student.

Create your own opportunities. Look around you. Your time in music school is filled with potential opportunities because you have an entire network of talent at your fingertips! First, gather information from the administration about doing an ad hoc project. There may even be funding set aside for student projects, so make sure you take all proposals, deadlines, and requirements very seriously. Next, talk with your teacher and coach to figure out what appropriate roles you would love to perform and get on your resume. Think about this from a strategic career standpoint. What roles are you likely to be cast as in the immediate or near future? What operas are commonly produced by at least one company each season? The next step is to tap into your school network! My second year of grad school, a few friends and I decided to mount our own production of Don Giovanni as an ad hoc project. We put together a great cast of our peers, including ourselves in our chosen roles, enlisted a talented and capable student conductor and student director, and assembled a reduced, but sizable student orchestra. We were extremely fortunate our diction coach signed on as our faculty advisor, providing us with hours of coachings! We fundraised to pay for costumes and recording costs, and were able to use the concert hall at our school for free. It was a project that I was immensely proud of and having Zerlina on my resume, as well as the high quality videos from the production, proved to be very valuable after I graduated.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful academic year full of opportunities that enrich and excite you! Keep your eyes and hearts open and be ready to accept opportunities in all forms! Happy singing!

Picture courtesy of Matlachu via

Tuesday, September 1, 2015