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Auditions: Fast and Frequent or Slow and Selective?
Diana Hossack
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Audition Connection8/1/2005

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We live in an era where — without even leaving your couch — you can download movies and music at a moment’s notice, order online and have your items delivered to you within 24 hours, and have your entire calendar and address book on your phone. In addition, we love to “super size” our orders, by two for the price of one, and buy items in bulk from a massive discount warehouse.

Our cultural desire for instant gratification, along with the belief that more is better, can affect singers’ expectations and behaviors related to auditioning. Yes, audition information can be procured while sitting on your sofa and there are enough auditions that take place in New York in the fall and winter to feel like you are auditioning in bulk. However, by taking the time to lay thorough groundwork for the upcoming audition season, you can enhance your chances for success.

It is tempting for New York-based artists to throw a hat in for all the auditions taking place in the city. Similarly, many out-of-town singers making the trek to New York plan on participating in all the auditions taking place during their stay. In fact, this scattershot approach can be harmful on many levels.

First of all, application fees can accumulate quickly. But more important, not every program is right for you, and you are not necessarily ready for every program. By auditioning for a program at the wrong time, you may be eliminating your possibilities of being selected in future years, because adjudicators remember a bad audition. Take your time at the beginning to thoroughly research programs so your investment of time and money (application fees, pianist costs, and/or travel) are strategic.

Back to the Books
You do not need to wait until an audition is announced to begin your research. You know the programs that typically audition in New York from October - January each year. If you don’t, or you want a complete listing, refer to OPERA America’s Career Guide for Singers. The book provides an index that lists geographically where auditions take place. Cross-reference this with the “Application Deadline Chart” at the back of “Chapter 2: Career Development Opportunities.” You will gather an impressive list of young artist programs.

The next step is to become aware of the basics of the program. The Career Guide for Singers answers many of these basic questions:

What are the length and date of the program?
What are the prerequisites?
What is the program’s past repertoire?
Is there a salary or a fee for participation?
Does the program offer any other remuneration (health insurance, housing, travel, etc.)?
Is it a union contract?
How does the program intersect with the main company (if at all)?
What subjects are offered within the curriculum?

By reviewing these and other similar factors, you will begin to identify which programs are most appropriate for you at your level of accomplishment. You may want to eliminate a full-length program from consideration if you are only looking for summer opportunities Prerequisites may be beyond your experience to date. (Or you may be well beyond the prerequisites.)

Past repertoire may indicate that the program consistently commissions operas for young audiences and performs in schools. While you may be willing to perform in schools, you may prefer to add more roles from the standard repertoire to your resume. Or, the idea of working with a living composer may be exciting to you.

Salary or fees are both acceptable, but knowing which one is offered gives you a better idea of your status (employee or client) within the program.

Is your high training priority language or voice teaching? Does the program offer these? How frequently?

There are no universal right or wrong answers to these questions; you must look for the answers that are appropriate to your current situation. Comparing the realities of each program to your abilities, needs, and preferences will help you identify programs for which you should (and shouldn’t) consider auditioning at this time. Remember: deciding against an audition for a specific program this year doesn’t mean you can’t audition for it in the future.

Surf the Web
The next step is to visit the Web sites of all the programs on your reduced list. First, review the program information on the Web site. Does it compare to the information you already have? Does it provide more specific information? Does this new information alter your thoughts about auditioning for the program? Then, look at what level of experience current and alumni singers have. Many recent graduates think they should automatically apply for Houston Grand Opera Studio, Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, or Wolf Trap Opera Company, among others. A quick look at the biographies on the Web sites shows that most of the resident artists for these programs have significant professional experience with other training programs and even some regional contracts. If biographies of artists aren’t available on the Web site, don’t stop there. Use an Internet search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.) to look for the resident artists. This may bring up the singer’s Web site, which will provide information, or a press release with a biography announcing that the singer won an award, or even another company’s Web site with information about past or upcoming performances. All of this information is helpful in determining the appropriateness of this program for you.

Learn from Others
Take notice of any singers, faculty members, or administrators affiliated with the program that you know. If you don’t know anyone, ask your voice teacher or coach if they are familiar with any of the people listed on the Web site. Ideally, you should communicate with a person or two who can tell you firsthand about the program. Other peoples’ experiences are tricky to evaluate. Try to put their opinions within a context of your needs and personality. Just because one person didn’t have a good experience doesn’t mean it isn’t the ideal program for you.

Play the Odds
This level of research will provide you with an informed list of potential programs for you. If you want to play the odds, you can also consider how many singers a program typically hires and in which vocal categories. Some Web biographies even indicate if a resident artist is returning. So, you may be able to determine that a specific program typically hires 10 singers, and the break down seems to be three sopranos, two mezzos, two tenors, two baritones, and one bass. Both of the mezzo’s biographies indicate they are returning, and you are a mezzo. Is this a risk worth taking? It may very well be. Only you can be the judge.

Hit the Job Pages
Armed with this research, you are ready for audition announcements, whether you find postings in Audition Connection, Classical Singer, a local paper, or individual company Web sites. Even though you have a reduced list of ideal programs, you still may decide based on the specific announcement that it isn’t the appropriate time to audition for one of the programs.

Consider the repertoire they are planning. Is it appropriate for you? Do the dates and locations work comfortably within your schedule? Or, are your auditions going to be on top of each and across the City? Does this alter your list of potential companies at all?

If the auditions have more than one round, are you available for the final auditions (whether they are in New York or elsewhere)? If not, you should inquire with the company about the appropriateness of auditioning (considering your limited availability) before you submit your application. Ask yourself the same question about your availability for any part of the contract period. You may think it is beneficial to your career if you audition for a company u
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About the Author: Managing Director, OPERA America
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