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Get Hired: The Audition and Beyond
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Audition Connection10/1/2003

Editor's Note:
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“If you were holding auditions, what qualities would you look for in a singer?” This is an excellent question for you ask yourself when you approach a company for an audition. I am sure you would come up with a description of a polite, focused, prepared, articulate, thoughtful, and punctual colleague. Add to that technical expertise on how to sing and the talent of a truly emotional singer who is able—without a costume, make-up, lights, or scenery—to transport the listeners to another place. I know that is what I am waiting for at each audition I hear.

At Sarasota Opera, all singers who complete an application for the Apprentice Artists Program are given a chance to audition. To lessen the cost for the singer, Sarasota Opera now holds Apprentice Artists auditions in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Sarasota.

For the Studio Artists Program, on the other hand, there is a stringent screening process. Since everyone in this program will be assigned one or more covers of major roles and be expected to perform in case of a principal artist’s illness, each applicant must have extensive performance experience. This experience includes having sung opera roles with staging and orchestra and having participated in reputable training programs with other opera companies.

In short, applicants for Sarasota Opera’s Studio Artists Program must prove they are performance ready and on a career track. This excludes performers whose only experience is in schools or conservatories. The majority of the singers who are selected for Studio Artists auditions come from managers; are recommended by certain opera professionals, have completed the Sarasota Opera Apprentice Artists Program, or are invited to audition after I have seen them perform elsewhere. In addition, a few singers who do not fit into any of these catagories are also granted auditions.

Too many résumés that I receive are accompanied by generic, one-liner cover letters, containing phrases like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Here is my résumé. I request an audition.” In today’s internet-based world, finding information such as the name of the person coordinating auditions is simple. OPERA America’s Career Guide for Singers is one resource, and many opera companies have “info@” e-mail addresses where this question can be answered. Getting the name of the auditions coordinator is the first step in forming a relationship with any company. Singers can better target their audition correspondence if they know specifically to whom they are writing.

The cover letter is an additional opportunity for you to show why you should be granted an audition. If written well, it lets you state information that is not evident in the résumé. For example, if you are starting to sing repertoire different than what you have listed on your résumé, the cover letter is the place to explain this. Do you have a special affinity for a style of music, a particular role, or composer? The cover letter should state that information. In short, the cover letter is a tool you can use to express how you see yourself as a singer (which might be different than what your résumé shows).

Finally, if you are submitting your résumé to a company electronically, make sure your name appears in the file name. It is much easier for an auditions coordinator to track a file called “JaneDoeRésumé” than a file named “resume090103,” “updatedresume,” or the ubiquitous “myresume.”

Congratulations, you’ve gotten the audition! Remember to show up reasonably early (I recommend about 20 minutes before your scheduled time) and to check in with the audition monitor immediately. As soon as you enter the audition venue, your audition has begun. Be polite and courteous to those running the auditions and to your fellow singers. Keep in mind that most companies, in addition to wanting exceptional vocalists, want and need to hire people who show they can get along with others. This is especially important for companies such as Sarasota Opera, who hire singers who will live and work together for a three-month period. Sarasota Opera has cut singers from consideration who have been rude to audition monitors.

Do not bring friends or family into the audition venue with you. Most locations are tight on space, and you (and your colleagues) need quiet prep time to focus on your audition and to review your arias. Ask friends and family to wait outside for you. In addition, never ask if it is okay for a friend, relative, or anyone else to sit in and listen to your audition. Your audition must be about you, your pianist, and the representatives of the company listening to you.
Please make sure your music is correctly marked and clearly readable for your pianist. Also, double check that you have all the music you are planning to sing. Unfortunately, a singer will frequently offer an aria and then discover that the music is not in his or her audition book, or that the music is outside the audition room. These are items to be taken care of during your quiet prep time before the audition.

As a consideration to your colleagues, do not wear perfume or cologne to your audition. You never know who might be allergic, including those listening to you.

If your audition results in an engagement, please return your signed contract and related materials (tax forms, proof of citizenship, extra photos, information on travel arrangements, costume measurements) as soon as possible. Remember that the company hiring you has to process a lot of incoming singers. Supplying the requested, correct information in a timely manner makes the company’s work proceed more efficiently. Be a team player!

No company should have to ask a singer more than once to supply correct costume measurements. If a company requests that you use forms it provides, do not send measurement forms from another company. In no circumstances should you send weight and measurement information that is not factual. Never send a weight that is twenty pounds less than what you really weigh because you anticipate that your new diet will be a success. Always let the company know what your current, correct information is and add that it could change due to a new regimen. Keep the company informed of measurement changes when they actually happen, and not before. It is a waste of money and manpower if a company rents or constructs a costume for you that is a wrong size because of incorrect measurements you provide. Take this responsibility seriously!

Remember to stop and think about what qualities you would like in a colleague: Polite, focused, prepared, articulate, thoughtful, and punctual. Try to demonstrate those qualities, as well as your technical expertise on how to sing, your talent, and ability to communicate. That’s what I will want to see and hear.
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About the Author: Artistic Administrator, Sarasota Opera
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