Are you prepared for a Young Artist Program? Equip yourself here for everything from the audition to networking after you’ve sung your last note!
The Audition Process
The anticipation is palpable. You study for years, practice for countless hours, and pour thousands of dollars into refining your technique but you have, usually, 5-10 minutes to prove you are the one for the job. How can you prepare yourself for such scrutiny?
We could sit you down and repeat everything that all of your teachers have told you since you decided to tackle the professional world of opera, but we refuse to regurgitate the same old sentiments and advise. Instead, this page is best thought of as a reminder – a checklist of sorts – to make sure the most important aspects of your pre-professional career are prioritized and lined up.
If the majority of this checklist is followed with regularity, your journey as a young singer will be much more comfortable and successful.
1. Connections and Network – Most likely, the people that help you now will be in your corner until you’re last note is sung at the end of your performance career. These are the people that have helped cultivate your talent and have an invested interest in your development and success as a singer. They love you and want you to achieve everything that you set your heart to do. Never neglect these priceless connections, whomever they may be. They can help you shake the hand of the right person, at the right time, in the right place, which will help take you to the next level.
- Know your network – Have a contact list and keep them all updated on your successes.
- We live in the age of instant communication – find a way to stay in touch! Snail mail, e-mail, voicemail, phone, text message, Facebook message, Myspace, Twitter, AOL IM, Skype, etc..
- Don’t be surprised when these people take a step back from your process. They all have a life too and many of them are busy with countless endeavors as they themselves are moving to new levels of their lives. Be patient, they’re still on your side!
- If you’re good at keeping in touch, be respectful – don’t abuse the relationship!
2. Technique and Foundation – You need to come to the realization that, no matter how fantastic your training, the learning has only just begun. We’ll only say this once – never stop studying, practicing and seeking new heights or you will ultimately fail. If you’ve already reached the top where else is there to go?
- Build good practice habits, even if it is only for one hour in the morning every day.
- Find extra training (and extra cash!) with church work – boost those sight-reading skills.
- Know the teachers in your area and see what they have to say about your technique and progress as a singer. Don’t stop seeking teachers until the end of your career!
- Know the coaches and accompanists in your area.
- Know where your rehearsal spaces are. Many times, there won’t be anywhere to warm up. Learn your options.
- Continue to challenge your foreign language skills. The more familiar you are with another language, the better you can communicate.
- Know your voice. Know what you can and can’t do. If it feels even the least bit uncomfortable – stop and assess the situation.
- Stay fit. Where is the nearest gym? Find a work out routine that is fun and you are comfortable with. Not only is singing a three hour opera challenging enough for anyones’ stamina, but opera directors today are dealing with immense pressures to make productions new, fresh and exciting. If that means running around in circles for a minute straight to escape an evil serpent, all the while singing incredibly challenging lines and then fainting 30 steps above from where you started only to have to sing “Dies Bildnis” moments later – learn how to do it.
3. Time Management – Procrastinate? Yes? Don’t worry, you’re among the majority.
- Keep a good calendar of events and dates.
- Know your schedule – one of the worst things you can do is double book yourself!
- Always schedule in practice time even if it means less time with loved ones or having fun.
- Keep your schedule balanced – Practice, work, exercise, networking and brand management should all be key components to a healthy singer’s schedule. Start balancing now because it’ll become routine in no time at all.
4. Professionalism – If you’re not a professional 110% of the time, no one will want to work with you.
- Have your all of your important folders organized and up-to-date. This includes audition folders, performance folders, contact folders, music binders, etc.
- Walk tall and with confidence. There is no reason not to.
- Put all of your audition materials in a safe place both tangibly and electronically. This includes headshots, body pics, measurements, resume, reviews, full bios, short bios, performance pics, repertoire list, etc. You will be asked for these materials all the time and the quicker you can send them to the requester, the more seriously you’ll be taken.
- If you’re asked to memorize the music… memorize it!
- Difficult for singers: use your ears more than your mouth.
- This last note on professionalism is so important, we can’t stress it enough (If you haven’t internalized anything up to this point – at least contemplate this one). In today’s world, professionalism doesn’t just stop after you leave the audition room or rehearsal hall. We live in a world in which exposure matters. Be ever-mindful about how you represent yourself online and in social circles.
1) Online, people can see everything.
2) Offline, people will talk about everything (and more).
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, blogs and email are wonderful for brand exposure, but be smart about the content you create. How do you want to be perceived as both a professional and a person? Due to the internet, both are synonymous.
5. Other skill sets – Now is the time to realize that 99% of singers won’t make a living in the arts for the first 5-10 years. Find something that you love or that you’re really good at and, without intruding upon your practice/study/performance time, cultivate it and let it become a reliable, on-the-side skill set. This can be sales, online work, waitressing, bartending, teaching, tutoring, secretary services, etc. Don’t limit yourself, but be smart about it.
If all of the above is followed on a regular basis, your audition and performance process should be fairly smooth. We all need to develop a thick skin in this world to handle scrutiny and, truth be told, an opera singer needs dragon scales. If you build a solid routine and stick to these guidelines you will develop as a confident and reliable performer. Quite honestly, the trick to auditions and new jobs is solid foundation, confidence and reliability. If you live those standards, you’ll be just fine walking into any musical situation. Remember, every single company member sitting on the other side of the table in the audition room is on your side; and they are definitely on your side when they bring you to their house.
For more reading on the audition process check out the fantastic article “Murphy’s Law versus Audition Season“