Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Death by Aria

Ah summer. The season of pools, grills, freshly mown grass, thunder stroms, and summer festivals. As I participate in one of the many summer programs, I find myself reflecting upon my time as a young artist. Many memories and emotions come to mind when I think of those times; friendships made, frustrations shared, alcohol consumed, but the main emotion that I have now is relief that I'm not a young artist any more.


Being a young artist is tough! Good lord, the things we do for this art form. Long hours, little pay, moderate respect, less than ideal living situations, and very high expectations. And why an outsider might find themselves asking? Why would we put ourselves through all that??? Well, the answer is obvious. We do it because, well, I really don't know. We do it because someone told us to do it, it's what all singers do, and because as artist we like to torture our souls.

Standard young artist housing

It's not all bad though. Having spent 9 summers in different young artist summer programs, I can say that some of them were the best summers of my life. Made great friends, had great times, and even occasionally, made some good music. (Also might have cut some years off my life due to the amount of alcohol I drank. In case you didn't know, opera singers can drink. I'm pretty sure opera singer's Native American name would be 'One Whose Liver Fears No Cocktail')


The most stressful part of any summer program is the 'Death by Aria' day. On this fateful day, whether it be at the beginning, or end of the summer, each young artist stands before their colleagues, teachers, music staff, donors, conductors, directors, principal artist, managers, heads of companies, parents, long lost cousins, random janitors and sings an aria for all to hear. It's stressful (not that any audition isn't slightly stressful, but this one sucks just a little bit more than the rest). You get all dressed up, you rehearse with the accompanist, and you wait your turn to take the stage, all the while wondering if your warmed up enough, or if you chose the right aria, or if your dress goes with your shoes, or if this audition could be your big break.  Talk about a stressful. And all for 2-7 minutes of singing.

Despite its depressing name, no one has ever died during said event. Well, none that I know of. It is, however, in my opinion, a form of mid evil torture. So much stress, so much worry, for so very little (if any) pay off for the singer. So why in the name of Jebus do companies make singers do this???

As I sat this year listening to a fresh group of young singers standing before God and all, singing their hearts out, I found a new appreciation for this daunting event. I found it highly entertaining. Mainly because I didn't have to do it, and I could enjoy the young artists suffering (Shaudenfraude, my true love), but also for positive reasons. I was able to hear some good singing, I was able to put face with arias, which helped me learn who people were faster (I'm really not good at learning people's names the old fashioned way), I was able to see a lot of the singers personality in both the performance and in how they handled themselves before and after the piece, I saw how they handled the stress, and selfishly, I was able to see what the people on 'the other side of the table' experience in auditions. That can only help me become a better auditioner. I'm guessing that's some of the reasons why companies do this to us. It's a quick (and painful) way to get to know us as singers and people.

All that being said doesn't help alleviate the stress of the young artist though. So, I guess I should give a bit of advice to the young singers. My advice- don't stress it. Having done several of these, and many, many, many more auditions on top of that, I can honestly tell you that stressing about it fixes nothing. It's actually detrimental. But I also know telling someone not to stress is like telling someone not to think of a pink elephant. Can't be done.

'Whats everybody staring at?'

So lets look at this logically. What is the worst that can happen? If you go up and crack a note, or mess up a word, or even, God forbid, have to stop, what's the worst that can happen to you? Well, no one died, so that's a plus. In fact, that's really the most important thing. You live to fight another day. Worst thing that will happen is that you wont get the job you were auditioning for, and when you think about it, isnt all that bad. Yes we want work, and yes we want to sing well, but all in all, there are much worse things that can happen. Thank God we're not doctors...

Bad auditions will happen. They happen to everyone. As Billy Joel said 'Mistakes are the only thing we can truly call our own.' So own yours, learn from them, and try not to repeat them. Pretty sure that's the basic sign of human intelligence.

'I said that? Must have been drunk...'

So, what can you learn from a bad audition? Basically the same thing as we can learn from a good audition. Maybe you realize that you needed more sleep the night before, or you shouldn't have had chipotle before you sang (mmmmmmm, chipotle), or that singing that new aria that wasn't quite ready yet was a mistake, or that you didn't warm up enough, or that you weren't on your breath, ect ect. These are fixable thing, things you as a singer and performer can work on and fix.
Possible Bari-Chunks sponsorship???

In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as perfection, and we can therefore learn from every audition, good or bad, to help better ourselves and our craft.  Learning to sing is a process, a very long process. One that we will work on for the rest of our lives. We might as well accept the fact that we will screw up from time to time. Sometimes, epically. But in the end, it's not that big of a deal. We can always do better next time. The plus side of auditioning is that there usually is a next time, and another chance...

So young artists out there being forced to sing in a 'Death by Aria' event, don't sweat it. It's a good thing, for you and for the people watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment