There probably isn’t a singer alive who doesn’t know the feeling of auditioning for something— a solo, that choir you love, a part in a musical or opera, a fabulous band, or some other vocal opportunity—and then not getting it! Disappointing, discouraging, and frustrating, to say the least. If it’s a professional paid gig, it can even involve a loss of income, just adding insult to injury!
Singing feels so intimate and personal, and when you put yourself “out there” and get rejected, it can stab at the very core of your confidence and your soul. What to do? You can respond to the negative experience by letting it defeat you and keep you from your desire to sing, or you can take a good look at the scenario, learn from it, and actually move on to bigger and better experiences. But how, when you’re feeling beaten down and blue?
First, grieve a little! Yes, I’m a big believer in having a good cry and doing a bit of wallowing for a time. You deserve it. You took a risk that many people would not have had the guts to take, and it didn’t work out. Depending on how big the loss was, it could be for an hour, a night, or even a day or two. Early in my career, I lost a few jobs that I just knew were mine, and shed some bitter tears over them. But, after a good cry, I figured out why I may not have gotten the job, or made peace with the fact that it may have had nothing to do with me at all. The point is, I had my cry, and then moved on.
Then, examine the evidence. Here’s where you can really rise above your disappointment and figure out what may have happened to keep you from getting what you wanted. Just like the great Jerome Kern song says, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”. Get out a sheet of paper and start writing down anything that you think may have impacted your audition, using the prompts below:
- Was there some skill that you were lacking? For example, do you have a lovely voice, but maybe the audition required sight-singing, and your skills were not up to par? You can fix that! Take a class (or two!) and improve your musicianship, so that in the future, this will not hamper you again. Or, you’ve got great musicianship, but your voice could use some help. Take voice lessons, or at least voice classes, to strengthen and improve your singing.
- Were you well-prepared? Did you know, really know, your music, and could sing through it flawlessly? If not, why did you go to an audition unprepared? Definitely something you can fix for the next time!
- Did you have the right kind of voice/singing style for the job? Nobody wants to hear an opera singer do a pop song, or worse yet,a pop singer try to sing something classical! Make sure you can authentically sing in the style that is required for the music.
- Did you have the right vocal range for that music? Singers are often hungry, both psychologically and perhaps financially, for work, and sometimes this leads them to go for roles that are not natural or healthy for their voice. Don’t audition for a high soprano part if you’re a mezzo-soprano, or for a low bass part if you’re a tenor. You’re not right for it anyway, and it can hurt your voice, especially if there are repeated performances involved.
- How was your expression/acting/stage presence? Yes, I know, learning to sing beautifully is a huge job in and of itself, but it’s not the whole picture. As singers, we are singing actors who interpret words as well as music, and this requires acting skills. If you are shy or not sure how to carry yourself onstage— take an acting class! (or two, or three!). There are even classes that deal with acting specifically forsingers. It will get you more comfortable in your own skin, and make you a truly complete performer.
- Did you let your nerves get to you? Don’t give in to nerves! Prepare, practice, hone your skills, get as much performing and auditioning experience as possible, so your confidence soars and you know that you have what it takes! You wouldn’t be auditioning if you really didn’t want to be there, so why let nerves ruin your chances? If necessary, seek professional help as well. There’s no reason to let nerves get in your way!
- Were you dressed appropriately? If you show up looking like you just came from taking out the trash, even if your singing is good, this will have a negative impact on how the auditors perceive you. You have to look the part. Performing is a visual medium (unless you are a studio singer and can show up in your pajamas).
- Was there an age element (or some other personal characteristic) required for the audition? If the part is in a musical or opera, and is written for a young girl, they won’t hire you if you’re 45. If they need a older man, and you’re 18 and in your first year of college, you might not get the gig. Almost nothing is impossible, but try to audition for roles that you actually have a higher likelihood of getting.
- Finally, realize that there could also be factors that are beyond your control. There are so many things that go on behind the scenes whenever you are auditioning for a solo or singing role. Maybe the conductor already promised it to his sister’s kid, but had to go through the motions of having auditions anyway. Perhaps a certain music director only likes dark, Wagnerian opera voices, and you’re a lyric voice whose light, bright quality will never please him. Maybe you’re asking to be paid, but he can get that other singer for free and save money in his budget. Who said life was fair?
So— remember— the only thing you can control is you, and nothing else. Take stock of your skills and presentation, keep improving what you can, and put your best foot forward next time (and the time after that, and the time after that). Singers are dealing in a very subjective world, where one man’s beauty is another man’s boredom, and the people who are choosing you for singing positions may have wildly different agendas. Be the best you can be, and beyond that, trust that things will ultimately work out the way they’re supposed to. There’s always a new day, another audition, and ultimate success ahead…