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Audition Connection12/1/2004

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You sent your materials weeks ago for the upcoming audition, but you haven’t heard anything yet. The auditions are in less than a month. Should you purchase a plane ticket to New York? What are they doing with your materials you wonder? How does your resume hold up against the other applicants? You think, “If they would only grant me an audition, I know I’d have a chance.” Well, that might be true, but in an era where there are literally hundreds of singers auditioning for the same few opportunities, the difference between being heard is the effectiveness of your publicity materials.

The topic of auditions has been a primary focus of OPERA America’s Singer Career Network. Since its establishment, the Singer Career Network has tackled the multi-faceted subject of auditions through interviews, articles, and presentations. Topics include finding auditions, identifying appropriate audition opportunities, sharing best audition practices, among other related issues. In addition to Audition Connection, which features a monthly audition advice column, these topics are covered in such OPERA America publications as Audition Advice for Singers and Business Advice for Singers. It is also a popular session at OPERA America’s annual singer workshop, Building a Career: Strategies for Success.

Perhaps the most important topic within this broad subject is creating winning publicity materials. After all, the cover letter and resume are the auditioner’s first impression of you, and they can make the difference between you getting an audition or not. While there is no definitive way to create your resume and cover letter, there are some consistent recommendations given by the hundreds of professionals OPERA America has queried over the years. This issue of Audition Connection features a sample resume and cover letter to assist you in creating your materials for the upcoming audition season.

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 of things to consider. In reviewing the hundreds of resumes received, auditioners are looking for clues, not only into 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. Resume exaggerations can be viewed as lying, not a good character assessment, and missing information can send up flags. Unfair or not, true or untrue, how you prepare your materials says a great deal about who you are, so creating your materials with care is of utmost importance.

Another thing to consider when creating your materials are that you might tailor your resume to each unique audition opportunity. What a training program is looking for may be different from the requirements of a competition. In the age of computers, this is not an insurmountable challenge. It is helpful however to have a standard resume from which to adjust accordingly. In creating this core document, please consider the following outline:

Every resume should include your name, voice category, and information on where you can be reached. Contact information must include an address. This is helpful to inform the reader of your proximity to the organization and the auditions. If you are in school, participating in a training program, or abroad, but maintain another home, feel free to give both addresses. However clearing state on the resume or within your cover letter how you can be reached at the time of presentation.

Phone numbers can include home, work, and/or cell phone. Please keep in mind that while your resume will be the reader’s first impression of you, a voice mail message could be the second impression. You are applying for a professional engagement so make sure that the phone number(s) you use have a professional answer mechanism. A phone message that has head-banger music in the background may send an undesired message as a cell phone picked up with a colloquial “talk to me” comment.

E-mail addresses can also send a powerful message about your professionalism and your personality. Singers are encouraged to procure a professional e-mail address and leave the vanity addresses for friends and family.

You can also include your web site address on your resume. Consider two things if you manage a website. First, if you include this on your resume, remember what is appropriate for your family, friends, and fans, may not be received professionally by future employers. Also, be clear why you are maintaining a web page. With the hundreds of singers artistic professionals need to be aware of, they turn to resources that compile information, such as Musical America, OPERA America’s Online Artist Database and Operabase, they are not as willing to go visit individual’s Web sites. So, keep this in mind as you spend time and money on creating and maintaining this promotional tool.

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 opera, composer, (particularly if it’s a composer of contemporary or lesser-known works), organization where the role was performed, and year performed.

Depending our your performance experience, organizations can include opera companies, universities, and orchestras, among others. If you performed a role in a training program production, be clear that the production was an apprentice production of the sponsoring company. Don’t insinuate that the production was a mainstage production, by leaving off the “Young Artist Program” moniker.

Dates give the reader an indication of your development. If your experience has some holes, explain this in your cover letter. Changing fachs, having a family, and other personal and professional challenges are acceptable reasons for holes in your experience. If you eliminate these dates for reasons of age, the audition panel that is concerned about such a matter is going to find out your age when you arrive at the audition. Better to have been honest about the situation and not to get the audition, than to get the audition under false pretenses and not be considered. You are out money and time. This brings up the controversial issue of ageism. There are as many people who hire based on talent, regardless of age, as there are people who hire by age appropriateness to role. Don’t get bogged down in this issue. Talent will out, no matter what age.

If you have covered a role, be sure to include that role, however make sure that you indicate that it was a cover experience and not an actual performance. This is for your own protection as well as important information to the reader. If you get hired to be a last minute stand-in for a role you listed as performed that you only covered, the expectations of your performance may be unfair.

If you are early in your career, you can give the reader an idea of where you are artistically by including such information as scenes work, roles studied, chorus experience, competitions, and/or recital work. (Most students have to perform a junior and/or senior recital, so that might not be as important to your list, as including a recital performance for a local organization. As the sample resume indicates this information might be better suited under a separate section of the resume, such as Roles Studied or Competition.

For more experienced performers, be sure to list upcoming engagements, but only if you have an actual contract.

Musical theater experience is stage experience and can be included, particularly in the resume of a lesser-experienced applicant. More and more companies are embracing North American repertoire in it
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About the Author: Managing Director, OPERA America
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