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When the Mail Leads to Chunky Monkey
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Audition Connection10/1/2005

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Most singers dread the mail after an audition. When that thin company envelope arrives, you think, “They should have saved the stamp.”

Once again, a piece of paper leaves you in career limbo and the whole cycle of rejection with Ben and Jerry’s begins again. “What did I do wrong? Did I do anything right? What are they looking for? They don’t know a good thing when they hear one! Oh shoot, that A was flat! I am going back to live with my parents!”

There are a myriad of reasons why you get the flat envelope or no response at all. I could go on about the important factors like talent, your repertoire choices, the needs of the company, the fact that it can take 30 auditions before you get one YES, but that would make for a serious article. Besides, your “not knowing” is much more profitable for the ice cream companies. I do want to talk about some of the other nonmusical, unknown factors. Some are within your control, but still seem to elude even the most talented singers. Other matters are out of your control. Your job is to discern which of these factors you do have control over, and those you do not. If the envelope still arrives, get a spoon, some Chunky Monkey, and move on.

Here are some of the letters (based on real auditions) that I have always wanted to send after sitting through auditions:

Dear (insert name):

Thank you for auditioning. Your voice was actually well turned out and lovely to listen to. Your ability to communicate and reach us was quite compelling. My colleagues and I agreed that you would be a great Mimi for our next production of La bohème.

We are unable to offer you a contract however, because you failed to list any contact information on your resume, and the cost of a private detective to track you down will cost more than the set rental. Best wishes on your anonymous career.


Dear (insert name):

Thank you for missing your audition today. The young baritone who showed up early for his audition went on instead, and he was amazing. We offered him the role on the spot. We also used the extra time to take a break and check our e-mail.

Hoping you weren’t hit by a bus.


Dear (insert name):

Thank you for singing for us today. We apologize for the need to use our small rehearsal room instead of the theater. We are additionally sorry that you felt the need to bathe in the latest reincarnation of Red Door. Our listening skills were severely compromised and all concentration on your voice went right out the door. Here’s to the clean scent of Dial soap.


Singing is a business and you are your own CEO. If you need help getting your resume, fashion, schedule, confidence, and music in order -contract out. You spend money on your voice teachers and coaches, so spend some beer or ice cream money on a good friend to proof your resume, give you a wake-up call, and check your scents or sense on the way out the door to your audition.

Then there are the unknowns you can’t control. You have just given your best audition ever. It’s probably true. Yet you have no idea what went wrong. Remember that line from your last date: “It’s not you it’s me”? That happens in auditions too.

The people on the other side of the table are human beings also. One may have a migraine, the other could have just had a fight with the conductor, the room may be too hot, the train might have been late, you’re wearing yellow and remind them of their last failed love affair. A bad day happens to everyone, and just as when you have an off day, it can filter everything. It’s not fair, but it’s life.

So the next time the letter comes in the mail, before you sink into another depression, take hold of yourself. While we know that one person’s opinion can start your career, keep in mind that one letter does not end it. And while you are scraping the bottom of the ice cream container, remember that talent and presentation are the main components of any audition, but please do not discount the little things.

Unlike the popular book would recommend, I suggest just the opposite: Do sweat the small stuff - but please use deodorant.

Happy audition season.
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About the Author: Director of Music and Education, Portland Opera
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