JenSop: The Singing Traveler!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.

Observations from the other side of the audition table…

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This past week, we had two days of auditions to find new singers to add to the roster of Olde Towne Carolers.  The business has been growing steadily each year, and last season we had to turn down some last minute gigs because we just didn’t have enough singers to accommodate the demand.   Since starting the business in 2005, I’ve never held auditions.  I’ve always used my singer friends, or singers that they referred to me.  So it was kind of scary holding open auditions.  I didn’t know how comfortable I’d be with letting total strangers into my little family of carolers.  Could I trust them to represent my business out there in front of the public?  But you can either take the opportunity to grow, or stay in the same place and stagnate.  There was only one course – grow!

Holding auditions was very enlightening.  Now I know this wasn’t like a normal opera audition, so we didn’t need to hear if people could sustain a high D or sing insanely difficult bel canto or baroque melismas, but there were other important things to listen for, and other factors that didn’t even have to do with singing.

Here are a few observations, in no particular order….

– As far as first impressions on your personality; if you are friendly, we will like you!  If you are mean, we won’t like you.  Seems pretty simple, huh?

– Don’t come into an audition with a chip on your shoulder, bad attitude, and sense of entitlement.  Even if you sing well, we won’t want to work with you.  And if you have that much attitude in an audition, how will you behave around clients and their guests?  Will I have to deal with your bad attitude every time I call you for a gig?  And none of the other singers are going to want to be on a three hour gig with you.  Sorry, but no.

-I had some of my good singer friends that are in the group helping me with the auditions – inside the room and outside.  We’ve all been there, done that.  We want you to succeed and do well.  And we all listen with the ears of trained musicians.  We’ve been singing these pieces since I started the group.  We can tell a lot in just a short period of time.  We don’t need to hear song upon song upon song to make our decision.  (And since one of my good singer friends was also working the waiting area, we know which singers are making negative comments, and which ones are professional and polite.)

– We totally understand that you are nervous!  We are singers too!  We completely take that into consideration while we listen.  I mean, what singer hasn’t experienced the effects of insane amounts of adrenaline impacting the voice?  We also understand allergies, and colds, and all that crap.  During December (aka: Caroling Season – insert scary music here), there’s always at least one of us going through some kind of ailment at any given time.  It’s how you can sing WHILE feeling the effects of said ailments that makes for a great proving ground.

– Just as I tell my voice students – no one is perfect, but it’s how you recover from mistakes that is a true sign of professionalism.  We chose a difficult piece for the singers to sing acappella.  There were a few mistakes, but the singers who recovered well and held their own despite any little flaws impressed us as much as the ones who sang it perfectly.

– Wexford Carol is one of my absolute favorite carols.  So I wanted to know that each singer we took could do this one.  Plain and simple.  Plus, it’s more difficult – it was one that showed us which singers could learn music well and accurately.

– Please dress up for an audition.  Not formal wear (thank God no one made that faux pas with us), but I did see some too-casual outfits.  Would you wear denim to a job interview?  An audition is a job interview.

– It really is true – there are so many sopranos.  80% of the singers that auditioned were sopranos.  I feel their pain.  It’s my life too.

– We were really impressed with the singers who were intuitive and observant during the group singing.  Which singers noticed and caught on the the group dynamic changes and followed the tempo changes?  That really influenced our decisions.

– Look engaged when you are singing.  If you have a blank stare the entire time, why would people want to watch you sing?  We loved the singers that smiled and had genuine joy in their faces when they sang.  That’s what we want from our singers at the gigs!  Most of the people who hire us are not professional musicians, they want decorations that sing pretty.  (Yes, an oversimplification, but there’s a lot of truth in it.)

– Some of the final decisions really came down to availability.  If two singers are of equal ability, we’re going to take the one who has the weekend availability.

– People were coming from all different backgrounds, and I noticed that when I got their resumes.  In strict performance circumstances, your singing resume should be one page.  That’s it.  (This was drilled into me when I was in Conservatory.)  If you have more than a page’s worth of credits, trim them down.  But we had people who were singing for us from different backgrounds – you could tell which ones were coached in this particular aspect of the biz.  This did not impact our decisions, but it was something I observed.

So those are my thoughts right now.  If I think of more, I’ll add them.  But overall, it was a very interesting experience.  And I really did get to be reminded that the people on the other side of the table really are just people.  As a singer, when you go into the audition room, it’s hard to remember that most times.  But I was wondering why people would be nervous to sing in front of little ol’ me!  Hopefully this experience will make me less nervous in my own auditions.  (A girl can dream, right? haha!)

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Author: JenSop

One of my favorite quotes is, "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough." I guess I've been a dreamer all my life - I set my sights high and then I try to reach the sky. Some might call me a naive idealist, but that's just the way I am. I believe in always taking the high road, I believe in true love, and I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated. If you put good out into the world, good will come back to you! Being the dreamer that I am, I pursued singing as my primary life's calling - I've got two degrees in classical voice under my belt, and I sing just about anything under the sun. I also love a good adventure. Over the past few years, I've done quite a bit of world traveling, and have even lived abroad for stretches at a time: mostly in Vienna (Austria) and Croatia. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and I became a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. (Seriously, I KNOW Disney - I've been going regularly since I was a little girl - and I LOVE it!) And with all my experience traveling and living in Europe, I'm becoming quite the specialist in that travel category as well. (And last year, I started working as a Tour Director in Central Europe!) As to the other juicy details of my life - I'm originally from Pennsylvania, I'm married to an awesome Croatian man named Miloš who is the BEST adventure partner a girl could ask for. (He's also an expert on knowing how to make me smile.) He's truly the love of my life! I've also had all kinds of other jobs along the way, besides singer and travel pro. (Which is pretty standard for those of us who went to school for music.) I've worked part time weekends as a Disney Princess look-alike for children's parties. I've been teaching for almost 20 years, and have lots of experience in retail and customer service. Oh, and I should also probably mention that I'm a huge Lord of the Rings/Star Trek nerd! :-) Let's all go along for an adventure, shall we?

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