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Auditions! Yikes!
Sandra Bernhard
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Audition Connection4/1/2005

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I say the word “audition” and it strikes terror in singers’ hearts. The mere mention of auditions seems to cause moans and groans and heavy sighs. There are no easy answers for audition anxiety. There are no easy ways to get over the fear and trepidation of doing auditions. Auditions are a necessary evil. Auditions are a way of life. Singers will have to go through the audition process for a very long time — if not forever — in their careers.

Although there is not a magic bullet or catchphrase that will help everyone at auditions, or a singer workshop that will give you all the tools, there are some things that you can do to help alleviate some of the “fear factor” and get to the case at hand — singing! One warning, however: I am not going to talk about the singing. There are a great many people to discuss that topic. I am going to talk about the act of the audition itself. I would like to disclose a few ideas about auditioning from the other side of the table where I sit listening to auditions!

1. Be prepared to be you! When you walk into the room, I want to know who you are and not what character you are playing or what kind of person you would be if your teacher could be there. I want to know who you are. You can show me who you are in a number of ways. You could say, “hello” or “good afternoon.” You can be gracious, as our families and teachers have taught us. You could make eye contact and smile, as you are not invisible until you sing. You could also speak to the accompanist who is playing for you. You should introduce yourself loudly and slowly enough that I can hear you. Most importantly, relax and enjoy. I want you to do well. And I want to know who you are before I listen to who you can be.

2. Bring a friend to your audition. Now, I don’t mean you should physically bring someone into the room or even to the audition location. But along with your notebook of music and your knowledge of what you are going to sing, you should bring the idea of someone you know whom you can imagine sitting in the back of the room. This way you are never alone. Bring someone who loves the way you sing or someone who loves what you do. Bring someone who compliments you or talks about what you do. Bringing a family member or a friend to your audition, even if they are invisible and only in your head, means that you are not just performing for a room full of people you don’t know. That is an audience that is just too hard. You should have some control over what kind of audience you would like to have at your audition. Bring that one person you need to have with you. Let them give you encouragement on the way in and let them speak to you on the way out. No one should have to do this kind of work all alone. (Note: I would just recommend you don’t have too many conversations out loud in the waiting room with your audition friend. Those types of conversations may take longer to explain than the time you have at the audition site.)

3. Use this valuable opportunity to make music. When you consider the amount of time you practice, do kitchen table work, and just prepare to perform, compared to the time that you actually get to perform, you will notice a great imbalance. If you regard each audition as an opportunity to perform, you can at least help shift that imbalance a little. Each time you have a chance to work with an accompanist, have an audience, get a chance to sing is another chance to perform. Use this opportunity to have just that — a chance to perform.

And now for the most important tip of all …

4. Enjoy what you do! After you have done as much preparation as you can (Be honest. Only you can assess what that is.); after you have graciously greeted the members of the panel and the accompanist as yourself; after you have selected your audience and created another performance opportunity; there is one element that does show above and beyond all others, and that is the love of singing. The love of singing can carry across a room or across a crowded theater. The love of your voice, the material that you choose, the love of the text, the love of the sound of the music, and the love of the ideas that all of this conjures in your mind inspires your art. The love of your art can inspire your audience. You can convey messages, stories, thoughts, emotions, text, and ideas. All of this through the sheer love of singing and performing.

No one can take this love of performing away from you, no matter what happens. This love is the art that you create. And you alone can create it. Remember, this is a part of you that will always speak through singing. Practice, prepare, and love performing the music. Now, go forth and audition!
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