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Audition Strategy and Tactics

Topic Talk

Catch the Buzzz! Join Carol Kirkpatrick, author of "Aria Ready: The Business of Singing," as she discusses various considerations for landing a successful audition.

Auditions can be the most harrowing part of your career. I can appreciate your doubts and insecurities because I have been there myself. There are many unpredictable emotional and psychological aspects of ones self that seem to rear their ugly heads no matter how prepared you feel you are for such an event. I hope to reduce your level of anxiety and fear by giving you some ideas and tools that will allow you to be excited and thrilled rather than afraid as you stand to present your whole package, your Brand in an audition.

Unlike most people going to work every day that can anticipate everything being pretty much the same, we as performers must audition for each job we get. There is no payment for auditioning; in fact one usually has to pay to make it happen. There is the inconvenience of trying to steady nerves and stay focused as you wait for your turn to audition and may, even though well prepared, become distracted or paralyzed when hearing your competition. You never know if the atmosphere is going to be welcoming or hostile. The physical space you sing in is ever changing and most times there is little or no feedback so you tend to question how you did. Instead of exacting your strategy, you focused on impressing those you were singing for thinking only of what you want the outcome to be instead of the performing itself. You may also start second guessing your choice of audition pieces, apparel, you hair style, the color of your tie, etc. After the audition you might feel discouraged and disappointed in yourself because you let your emotions rule and didn't do what you came to do.

In reality you need to realize that there is a balance of power between you the singer and those you are auditioning for. Without the imagination and talent of the singer, those that are doing the hiring wouldn't have jobs. Your power and strength come from your individual creativity and ability to deliver a well-prepared audition that allows your Personal Brand to shine through, by revealing your potential.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The biggest, "baddest" reason most people don't prepare properly for an audition or just don't want to audition, is fear of rejection. I would like to point out that rejection is a matter of perception. Our industry is a very subjective one relying on one persons taste over another's, so no matter how well you did, if there are 50 of you trying for the same role, only one person can be hired. That doesn't necessarily mean all 49 of the rest of you were terrible. It means the person hiring had to make a choice. And you have none of his/her/their criteria for making that choice so no matter how long you tried to second guess their preference, you couldn't. My advice is to so stop wasting your time and energy on what has happened and focus on what you can do right this minute to help prepare for the next audition.

Another reason for resisting the auditioning process is that you feel your level of performance at an audition does not represent your best work. You might feel you have had to make some concessions because you didn't have the time or conditions necessary for your work to have evolved during an audition. Accept it as a given that you cannot do your best work at an audition. You are a singer auditioning, not an "auditioner." Those that do the hiring usually know that. However, that doesn't give you license to do poorly or not prepare. It just means all the work you do will help make your auditioning experience the best it can be under the circumstances and give you the greatest chance of being hired.

Competition in our business is a given. It can be one of the most destructive elements in undermining a singers' confidence and distract them from the job at hand. You can always find someone who always works more than you do; gets more jobs than you do; has a better manager than you do; makes more money than you do; gets more press and attention than you do; and enjoys the type of singing career you would like to have. However there has never been, nor will there ever be anyone just like you with your attributes, talent, uniqueness, and style. That means what you have to offer is something that can't be found in anyone else but you, so there is no competition.

“Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.”
~ Julie Andrews

What do I think makes for good preparation for an audition? Here is what I recommend:

  • Know the person inside the singer well so when the time comes you have a practiced way to get into "the zone", and can better deal with the ups and downs life throws your way.
  • Have your vocal technique solid, solid, solid.
  • Work with a really reputable lyric diction coach.
  • Find a repertoire coach that knows style, traditions, line, and can help bring your own personality into your pieces.
  • Your physical and vocal elements must be organically rooted in the character's behavior and in the specific circumstances of the scene.
  • What are your first intuitive and immediate responses to the character and the scene?
  • What is the complete scene about in which your aria takes place; the beginning, middle, end. What goes on before and after your aria?
  • Fill out a detailed character chart.
  • Explore the similarities and differences between yourself and the character, how you walk, move, behave.
  • You need to find your characters objective/intention within the aria. What do they want? How do you go about achieving your objective?
  • What obstacles stand in the way of achieving that objective as the character? This helps give you the action needed to bring the character alive.
  • Are you singing to yourself, to someone else or to a crowd?
  • What relationships within the opera or piece of music, helps create what you are singing about in your aria?
  • Know which lines to invest in. These are usually moments that illuminate the emotional transitions. They can be tragic, happy, humorous, etc.
  • Let the listener know the atmosphere of the piece through your interpretation. That usually means know the landscape, time of day, season, or a particular event when your piece takes place which adds another layer to the depth of your character. Let your imagination go wild.
  • Ask yourself what you love about just and only the music without the words that you are singing. Which part really grabs you musically?
  • What do you love about the words you get to say? What about them makes them important and interesting to you?
  • What about the whole piece when you either hear it or sing it, thrills you to the core? Do you allow those that you are singing for to experience how this thrills you?
  • Preparing in this way before you even start the audition process is of paramount importance. Imagine what it would feel like to stand on stage with all of this preparation under your belt. You would own the piece you were presenting allowing you to be present and focus on presenting yourself at your best not worrying about the outcome.

“Get excited and enthusiastic about you own dream. This excitement is like a forest fire - you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away.”
~ Denis Waitley
Here is some other advice:

  • Create a pre-audition routine to help you get excited and energized about the upcoming audition.
  • Look at an audition as an opportunity to network. You are presenting the most amazing business card available in the universe, yourself.
  • If you represent and present your Personal Brand, you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. That is powerful!
  • Don't get into the audition space and disconnect from the space or those in it. Claim your space and include those you are auditioning for into your space.
  • It often helps to act "as if" when you enter the audition space. Model someone whose behavior you admire. Act like them. Try them on. Please make sure you practice this in a less important situation before using it at an audition.
  • Bring an additional PR Packet just in case it is needed by those hearing you.
  • When you give the accompanist your music, make sure the copy is clean, double sided, and has only the breaths and any unusual additions or runs marked or clearly added.
  • Do not put your music in plastic, it makes it to hard to turn pages and also create a glare for the accompanist.
  • If you have brought your own accompanist, have a check already made out for them to present after the audition. That's being professional.
  • Know that your behavior from entering to leaving the audition space is observed and often helps those that you are auditioning for with their decision about hiring you. They want someone who not only performs well, but is genuine and can fit into their theater situation without causing problems.
  • If you can't quiet "the Brat", create an agenda for yourself to focus on during the audition like making sure your jaw is loose or perhaps focusing on each onset or breath. Because you have practiced the rest of the story in your imagination a million times before getting here, the emotional part of the piece will just show up. This also usually allows the jitters to dissipate after a few lines so you can enjoy the auditioning process.
  • And finally, have fun! Enjoy being able to use the music and words as a vehicle for not only expressing your contribution to it, but taking anyone and everyone else on the same journey with you.

“It's simply a matter of doing what you do best and not worrying about what the other fellow is going to do. ”
~ John R. Amos
Remember why you are at this audition. You are there because you want to express your interpretation of what the composer and librettist have written. Because there is no other human being just like you, anyone listening will get to hear a very unique and personal performance only you can give. Thrill and captivate yourself with how you feel about music, the words and everyone else will get sucked into what you are experiencing. And just like anything else, the more experience you get at letting your artist out of the bag, the better you will get at it. By caring about why you are at this audition, you can often free yourself from that incessant voice in your head, "the Brat" that will sabotage your good intentions. So decide to thrill yourself and have fun; then experience the outcome.

“Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as you mind lets you. What you believe, you can achieve.”
~ Mary Kay Ash

When you are true to your Personal Brand, respecting the history and traditions of opera and theater, it gives you another brick to help build a solid foundation for you, the product and for your singing career.


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