With the highs and lows of an artistic career, we mostly hear about those defining moments where someone’s dream came true and a perfect opportunity presented itself, and a star was born.
This blog post is not that.
This was one of the ultimate lows of my career. In fact, it’s the one blaring regret I have. And now, it’s time for me to dish it out for you all to learn a valuable lesson from it.
The Perfect Storm
I had an audition with one of the most important opera houses in the world.
Initially, it was the perfect set up. I was already in the respective city and I was scheduled to sing in an afternoon slot—dream of all dream audition times.
The day before, I got a call that my audition slot was rescheduled for the morning, around 9:30 am. Not ideal, at all.
I knew that the members of the panel were some of the most influential people in the business, but I went ahead and agreed. I thought I’d be fine.
At the same time, I was learning a new technique through my private voice instructor for high notes. It’s this complicated mental approach, and I didn’t quite have the grasp yet.
The night before the audition finally came and I slept like crap. On one hand, I was so excited to sing for them—I stayed up imagining how important this moment was for me. But also I was nervous about the early morning audition time and I stayed up wondering what was going to happen. My brain would not turn off!!
All that resulted in me not getting a wink of sleep.
I began the very early morning with some motivational pep-talks (along with coffee, a big breakfast, and a long, hot shower to warm up my body) and I talked myself through my doubts. I began pumping myself up and I went through my rep in my head.
Vocally, I didn’t feel my best. But I calmly told myself that my voice will sort itself out once I got to the theatre.
I sang the audition and honestly, it wasn’t my worst. My high notes weren’t as brilliant as they could have been and my sound wasn’t in its full resonance, yet I finished with my head held reasonably high.
When thinking about the importance of that audition in terms of my career, my singing in fact was terrible. I didn’t feel like I represented myself accurately. I wish I had cancelled. Anything less than my best in that situation was considered bombing it.
Looking back, that audition pushed my career backwards a few years.
How do I know I didn’t sing well and they didn’t like it? I didn’t get hired there. That’s always the number one indicator.
Know When to Cancel
Sometimes, cancelling an audition is the best option. Especially when the stakes are high and you’re sick or tired, and you know you’re not going to do your best.
This same thing happened to me for a major audition in Europe. I flew out specifically to sing for this incredibly prestigious company and I was so sick but determined to still sing. I totally bombed.
You know your voice, and you will know if you will represent yourself accurately or not.
Knowing what I know now, I should have cancelled and just flown back with a clean slate, instead of leaving the panel with a sour taste in their mouths.
The human voice is fickle and unpredictable. I’ve cracked many times just after feeling 100% and like I was king of the world. Sometimes you know a crack is going to happen and sometimes it comes out of nowhere.
Practicing doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of a bad singing night. It makes the human voice less unpredictable but in the end, it’s still unpredictable by nature.
The road to success is paved with missed opportunities, failures, and rejections. Bad audition singing in an operatic career is a necessary learning step for all of us.
To rectify oneself from these types of extremely important auditions, is possible but insanely hard. In fact, I’m singing at both opera houses this year.
It’s taken years for me to convince these houses of my real talent and I’m still trying to prove it today. When I look back on these auditions, I remember that gut feeling telling me to cancel but I was too worried that that audition opportunity would not come again. Trust me when I say that if you got such an audition in the first place, they will want to hear you again when you are at your best.
So, don’t lose hope if you mess up like I did or you need to cancel. Hard work and persistence pays off in the end.
Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.
Or in opera terms, know when to sing it out, know when to sit it out.
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