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Audition Season is Coming. Are You Ready?
Anne Choe, Artistic Services Manager, OPERA America
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ArtistLink9/15/2008

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If you're a singer, there's a good chance you'll be performing an audition or two (or 17) this fall. Here are some helpful hints to get you through this exciting, albeit exhausting, time of year.

MATERIALS
Many application deadlines for young artist programs and summer tuition-based programs are quickly approaching. You will most likely be asked to provide a resume and headshot with your application. Your resume should be a one-page representation of your performance and training experience to date. This sounds like a simple task, but there are myriad things to consider. In reviewing the hundreds of resumes received, auditioners are looking for clues into not only your training and performing experience, but who you are as a professional colleague. Typos and misspellings can be an indicator of your thoroughness in preparing a role.

In creating this core document, please consider the following:
  • CONTACT INFORMATION
    Every resume should include your name, voice category and information on where you can be reached. Contact information must include an address. Have an e-mail address that reflects your professionalism and is easy to remember. Cute e-mail addresses or overly complicated ones are not recommended (i.e.: HotBabe@aol.com or vx234og08s@gmail.com.)
  • PERFORMING EXPERIENCE
    Every resume should prominently feature complete roles performed to date, listed in chronological order, with the most recent date at the top. With each role, you should include the opera, composer (particularly in the case of contemporary or lesser-known works), organization where the role was performed and year performed.
  • TRAINING
    Your resume should highlight your training experience, including both academic and professional, as it relates to a career in opera. If you have participated in any professional training programs, please include that information and be specific: which program(s), at what level(s) and in what year(s). Even if your Performing Experience section alludes to this information, spell it out; list names of voice teachers, coaches and other professionals. Consider this section as comparable to a reference list of an administrative resume. Only list professionals who would be able to comment on you, and favorably comment, if called upon. Don't list every master class teacher you have ever worked with. Only list those people who know you and your abilities and would give you a good recommendation.
  • PERSONAL INFORMATION
    Feel free to list related skills or training, including instrumental, dance and theater experience. Bear in mind that basic study of languages and stage skills are part of your craft and not an "additional skill." Your headshot should be current and look like you do now. It can be distracting in an audition to receive a headshot that does not represent what the auditioner is seeing. You want them to be focused on and engaged with your performance.
A sample resume and sample cover letter are available on OPERA America's Web site when you log in here.

AUDITION ARIAS
It is always good to provide your auditioners a list of the arias you are prepared to sing. As with all your materials, you should proofread this list forward and backward for typos and style errors. If you are at the point in your career where you are auditioning for young artist programs, mainstage roles and competitions, it is a good idea to have aria lists for each of those types of auditions. A young artist program list should show not only where you are currently in your development but also include some "future-tense" arias. A mainstage list should only include arias from roles that you are capable of singing in their entirety and at least one aria from the opera for which the company is casting. A competition list should feature arias that are flashier and show off your entire voice.

Have your old audition arias gotten stale, or do you need one last aria to round out your list? You can always spice up your rep with an off-the-beaten-track aria from OPERA America's "Aria Talk" archives. The latest "Aria Talk" article appears in this issue of ArtistLink!

No matter what you sing, be sure to start with what you sing best. Put your best foot forward because while it is customary to allow opera singers to sing two arias, auditioners are pressed for time and you may not get the chance to sing that second aria.

PRESENTING YOURSELF
Your audition begins from the moment you walk in the building. Keep in mind that the hall monitor may, in fact, be the auditioner's assistant, or maybe even their spouse! The hall monitor can let the auditioner know how you comport yourself and interact with other people. The same is true of the pianist. Be courteous, focused, professional, prompt and make sure your music is in order and easy to navigate.

Practice saying your name and the aria you would like to start with in front of a mirror a few times before your audition. It will prevent you from stumbling over your words in the high pressure situation of an audition. The auditioner is not only interested in you as a performer, but also as a person they will potentially be spending a great deal of time with. Be prepared for questions about your resume, repertoire choices or hobbies and interests the way you would for a job interview.

Dress comfortably, professionally and in a way that reflects your unique personality and style. Clothing that is extremely revealing, trendy or shabby can be distracting and again, you want the auditioner to focus on your performance. Wear something with color — especially men and women who wear pants suits — since auditioners use them as visual cues when trying to recall your audition from the 600 others they heard that week.

Auditions generally occur during cold and flu season and auditioners will sometimes not want to shake your hand or converse with you at length. You have a limited amount of time with them. Use every minute to accomplish what you came to do — perform an effective audition.

When the audition is complete, remember to smile and thank the auditioners, no matter how well or poorly you feel you sang. It is always best to maintain your composure, as it is a reflection of how you will deport yourself when singing in the company's opera house.

Each audition is an opportunity to improve yourself as an artist and performer. Whether or not you get the job or win the prize, you will have accomplished what you set out to do, which is to be a musician, actor and engaging artist. Once you are more successful and consistently cast in operas, you will rarely have as many chances to sing arias you sing well and love for a captive audience. So remember that this is your time and have fun!

OPERA America provides an array of services and publications on this topic and many others including Perspectives: Audition Advice for Singers available for purchase by clicking here. Be sure to log into the OPERA America Web site first to get your member discount.

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