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