Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hearing Voices

We're in Seattle, where we checked into the charming Mayflower Park. The staff must've had a pumpkin-carving contest, and one of the big winners greeted us at the reception desk. Cannibal Pumpkin!!

A few weeks ago I heard a bit of an NPR story called "Vocal Impressions in which listeners responded to the challenge of describing famous voices. The exercise demonstrates how difficult and how subjective it is to use words to conjure the distinctive quality of a human voice.

The descriptions ranged from strictly poetic to viscerally evocative. Elvis Presley was "the sound of a switch blade opening in a church choir", and Phyllis Diller became "the sound of an aluminum beer can rubbed on a rusty cheese grater."

It feels like an interesting creative writing exercise until you have to do it 6 hours a day for 18 days. During this audition tour I struggle to describe the voices I hear in a way that is simultaneously accurate, detailed, singular, imaginative, and ultimately helpful.

What Are They Writing Back There?

Singers have to make their peace with the fact that we're furiously typing away while they create art. I sometimes watch performances while I type, and sometimes I look away. I hear differently when I'm not watching - usually more critically and honestly. (Something about watching singers brings out the coach in me, and I identify too strongly with the goal instead of assessing the current state of the product.)

I write between 100-200 words for each singer. (OK, I can't resist.... 500 auditions..... that's approximately 75,000 words... almost a novel. I should join NaNoWriMo and get credit for it.)

The comment-writing agenda divides (not always cleanly) into 3 main purposes:

1) Pure Description. Exactly what do I hear, and how is it best described? What's the size of the voice, and how would/does it project? Does it have squillo ("ping") or is it kind of warm and muted? How are the various registers (ranges) of the voice connected? Is there a definable color or timbre - velvety, veiled, throaty, warm, hollow, brittle, rich, pinched, plangent, brilliant, mushy, hooty, shimmering, metallic, soft-grained, silvery, breathy, fuzzy, fluttery, woolly, focused... Do the technique, linguistic, and stylistic skills serve the performance or limit it? How expressive, detailed, and vivid is the performance?

2) Application. What roles would this singer inhabit well at this time? If we were to cast this person, what would s/he be successful singing? What would constitute a stretch? Is it possible to create an opportunity for growth that is also structured for success?

3) Feedback. Because we allow singers to request feedback from their auditions, I do my best to describe the audition in ways that make clear what each singer is doing particularly well and what could be improved. It might seem as if this is a natural extension of the other goals, but not so. It has to be addressed in a separate fashion, and that is tough. It's probably the reason that most companies don't offer feedback.

Wardrobe Notes

To date, the audition attire has been largely unremarkable (a good thing) and generally successful. A few miscalculations:

  • A short skirt with a slit in the front and back can look alarmingly like skimpy shorts.

  • OK, wear those gorgeous high heels if you can sing well (and support well!) balanced on them. But don't fall off of them.

  • Jeans don't so much work for opera auditions.

Auditions tomorrow at Seattle Opera. For now, this image of CameraMan and the colorful Steinway he wishes he had when he was a child.

2008 Tour: Los Angeles

Today's singing was heard in a lovely small rehearsal studio at the LA Opera Costume Shop facility. Pretty easy to listen in, with lots of natural light, and a helpful sign (not by us, but we approve) on the wall outside:

Where Do These People Come From?

The first in a series of regular postings listing the universities and conservatories from which this year's auditionees hail. If you're considering a career in opera, and you'd like to know where the schools are, this might be of interest.

In each city there are a few people who travel from other parts of the country because they have a date conflict with our auditions in their home area (for example, someone from DePaul traveling to Houston because the Chicago audition date was inconvenient). I'm not listing those outliers, but rather the schools that line up geographically with each part of the country we visit. I've put an asterisk by the ones that show up with more frequency.

From the Houston auditions:

Graduate Programs
Rice University*
Southern Methodist University
University of Houston*
University of North Texas
University of Texas at Austin

Undergraduate (WTO Studio candidates)
Baylor University*
Birmingham-Southern College
Louisiana State University*
Loyola University
Oklahoma City University
Rice University*
University of Houston*
University of North Texas*
Washington University

From the Los Angeles auditions:

University of California Los Angeles*
University of Nevada Las Vegas
University of Southern California*

Undergraduate (WTO Studio candidates)
California State University LA
Chapman University
Northern Arizona University
Notre Dame de Namur
San Jose State University
University of California Los Angeles*
University of New Hampshire
University of Southern California*

Young Artist Programs

And of course, we had auditions in Houston from members of YAPS in Dallas, Orlando & Houston; and in Los Angeles from the LA Opera YAP.

Our beautiful southern California day ended with a lovely meal chez JW, including WT friends in town for the current mainstage rehearsal period for Boheme.

I'm pretty fried after three straight days of singing with a flight from Houston-LA sandwiched in the middle. Looking forward to a perfectly luxurious day of travel only tomorrow (to Seattle) :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Studio Day 1 - Houston

I've been meaning to link to this for a while: a post on Sequenza21 titled The Conservatory. It's on my mind these days as we listen to auditions for the Wolf Trap Opera Studio. I'm one of those oddballs who believes that (for most people), conservatory is not the best choice for an undergraduate. We heard a range of undergrads today (plus a few first-year grad students), and we heard some wonderful young singers who chose to do their undergrad work at universities and liberal arts colleges. Guess I've just seen too many musicians get burnt out by the time they get their B.M.

Like all advice, it's not standard issue, and it's not as simple as it sounds. There are those 18-year-olds who identify so strongly with their art that they can't imagine any other way spending the next 4 years other than being immersed in it. And that's perfectly fine. These paragraphs are for the rest of you - just so you aren't necessarily harming your potential career by waiting until grad school for conservatory.

It was great fun being in Houston, visiting with all manner of friends and colleagues. I met another regular reader and commenter on this blog. It's a small world and getting smaller all the time.

Church Camp and Hot Dogs

Studio auditions include a monologue. It's the rare singer who can communicate a clear sense of him/herself at 21 or 22. Stepping away from the technique and into the mother tongue for a minute or so gives that singer a chance to come alive for us in a different way.

For the opera audition committee, it's the equivalent of a palate cleanser. A theatrical sorbet. I think I enjoy these diversions a little too much - particularly the church camp and hot dog man excerpts...

Off to La La Land!

We'll be in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Southwest Airlines counter is decorated for Halloween tonight, and a festive spirit rules at Hobby Airport.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2008 Tour: Houston

Making It

Before we begin, I must point you to this. Whether you want to be a professional singer or you simply know someone who aspires to such a career, this is required reading. A huge thanks to my friend Nick for his insight and honesty. And if you have opinions of your own, take Yankee Diva's challenge and tell her "Why?"


Tenor BG (Wolf Trap Opera '07) came to today's audition armed with mood-altering drugs. Chocolate, to be specific. I wouldn't advise bringing bribes to all of your auditions, but since BG's lovely wife's baking skills were legendary last summer, we let him get away with it.

A Fine Texas Turnout

We had a really strong start in Texas today. Houston Grand Opera Studio employs some of the best emerging talent in the business, and it's no surprise to hear some really fine auditions from those ranks. But there was equally satisfying and promising singing from some of the other Texas-based candidates.

Force of Nature

We got here in time to catch Saturday evening's Ballo at HGO and hear (for me, the first time in person) the amazing Eva Podles. I have few words to describe the sound that came out of her mouth at the top of Ulrica's scene. What an incredible performer and truly inimitable singer.

It makes me wonder again about these kinds of voices and how they present themselves before they're mature. What did Ms. Podles sound like at 25? Her fearlessly dramatic and expressive approach would clearly scare us to death were it not present in a mature artist. So, decades earlier, was this voice promising but unwieldly? Or did she begin by using it in a less vivid but safer and cautious fashion? I think I know the answer, but I'm still not entirely sure what to do with it.

No Haydn in the Hotel

I was very excited to check into my favorite audition tour hotel, the Lancaster. I've always looked forward to being greeted by the strains of a Haydn quartet or Brahms symphony playing on the radio in my hotel room. I'm not a fan of Muzak, of inescapable background music in public places, but there was always a reassuringly civilized and human quality to being greeted by music in an otherwise anonymous place. But alas, my room was quiet last night when I unlocked the door. I'm told that it's possible that the hotel is under new management, and undoubtedly the few folks have decided that this touch is either an unnecessary frill or (perhaps worse) an unwelcome enhancement. Hmm.

WTOC Audition Tour, Brought to You by iPhone

I am surrounded by the damn things. (I only curse because I'm jealous.) Not only do I have the be the only one in the lineup of laptops without a Mac, I'm also surrounded by sleek, beautiful iPhones. Sigh.

LAM poses with her new toy... er, tool... in the airport. By the way, she's blogging her way through this year's tour, too - if you want an alternate point of view, head on over to Rahree's place.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Overstuffed Philadelphia

The number of people who want to sing for us in New York City is always huge. No surprise. We've expanded our NY stay to 6 days but still have to turn lots of people away. But in addition to New York, each year there's a different city that blind-sides us with its overwhelming turnout. A couple of years ago it was Chicago. Occasionally it's been Houston or San Francisco. This year: Philadelphia.

We extended our day in Philly by over an hour, but we can still cram in only about 30 people. And there were 91 requests, making for a 67% rejection rate. So if you got turned down in Philadelphia, you can take some refuge in these statistics. (And FYI, not everyone who was accepted in Philly was from AVA or Curtis.)

I Understand, But I Disagree

All you singers who are navigating yet another audition season might be interested in this post on today's blog: 16 Tips to Survive Brutal Criticism.

And I recently found that I had bookmarked this months-old post on "Butts in the Seats" - it's particularly relevant all of the soul-searching that goes on during audition season: Going Down That Forest Path.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Drew's Fault

OK, so I've been getting Facebook invitations recently from other old folk like myself... and Adaptistration pushed me over the edge. (Not that Drew is an old guy...)

Well, I'm now on Facebook, immediately wondering if it was a good idea. I sat down for 15 minutes to create a profile and dump my address book to see who I should contact, and now 2 hours have passed. Those of you who have the addiction are laughing at my expense, I'm sure.... how could I not have known? Ah, but I thought I was strong...

I'm leaving in a few days on the audition odyssey, so perhaps this will give me something to do while hanging around all of those baggage carousels.

So Why Do You Want to Be an Opera Singer?

I spent a chunk of yesterday reading the "Statement of Career Goals" documents that were a required part of the Wolf Trap Opera Studio application. Now I feel sad, old, wistful, cynical, and heartened, all at the same time.

The sheer unadulterated yearning that many of these folks have for a lifetime in music and a career on the stage is staggering. Some of them throw in the random qualifying statement ("I don't want to be a superstar, just to make a living at what I love..."), but the overwhelming sentiment is pure lust for an operatic career and optimism that such a career will come to be.

Of course, what else could one put in such a statement? We're silly enough to ask for it, so the applicant had better appear to be committed to the dream. (My son is working on his college essay, so I'm familiar with this scenario.) But I get the feeling that a lot of these folks aren't just saying so; they really believe it. I'd quote some of the documents, but in doing so it would seem as if I'm mocking them. And I'm not. I'm just gobsmacked by the intensity and sincerity of it all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Longest Short List

Some brainstorming about 2008 repertoire possibilities, completely in the abstract. When we begin auditions (in less than a week!), the list will quickly be winnowed.

The Return of Sir Benjamin to The Barns

Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Rape of Lucretia

The Perennial Handel Wish List

Agrippina, Alcina, Ariodante, Flavio, Giustino, Hercules, Partenope, Rinaldo, Semele

Mozart, Haydn & Friends

Cosi fan tutte, Die Entf├╝hrung aus dem Serail, Lucio Silla, Il Re Pastore, Zaide

Il Mondo della luna (Haydn)

La Capricciosa corretta (Martin y Soler)

Il Re Teodoro in Venezia (Paisiello)

More Baroque

Il mondo alla roversa (Galuppi)

Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

Dido & Aeneas

Long Shots

Merry Wives of Windsor

I Capuleti ed i Montecchi

Ariadne auf Naxos

Un Giorno di Regno (Verdi)

Donne curiose, I quatro rusteghi (Wolf-Ferrari)

Docteur Miracle (Bizet)

Rip-Roarin' Rossini... Always a good time :)

L’equivoco stravagante, La gazza ladra, L’inganno felice, La scala di seta, La gazzetta, La pietra del paragone

Don't draw any premature conclusions. History has shown that it's entirely possible for something not on the October short list to appear on our stage the following summer!

Friday, October 19, 2007


These words seem to be the most important ones that entrepreneurial Shanghai street merchants need to learn. It's impossible to walk down the street without being accosted dozens of times. I, with my charming middle-aged white American woman looks, must look to be a particularly easy target. I'm not sure where all of these bargain items (which seem to be mostly watches and handbags, with a side market in DVDs) come from, but the sellers seem to want to lure customers into small alleyways for transactions.

I will never be good at the art of the deal. I just want to know how much something costs, and then make a decision as to whether I can afford it. (The answer is almost always no. It's a handy technique - keeps me from acquiring too much.) My colleague LWF and our local guru Mita are masters of negotiation, and I managed to buy a few presents to take home thanks to their intervention.

Today's entry is off-topic, as my professional life has been in the last few days. There is application screening left to finish and audio samples to tackle, but I've had a difficult time focusing since the flight to Shanghai on Wednesday. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be back on task. We're overdue for a 2008 Repertoire Short List post.

Culture Shock...
...on two levels, largely unrelated:

First, there's Asia. Not a surprise, of course, but so very different from my entirely North American/European experience. Beautiful, bewildering, and mystifying at the same time. My daughter is the expert on communist history, and perhaps she'll be able to explain all of this to me someday.

But then there's the socioeconomic shock that comes from being a guest in a lovely and gracious hotel that I couldn't afford to touch under normal circumstances. There's an almost unsettlingly high level of elegance and beauty that permeates everything from the food to the arrangement of my toiletries by the housekeeping staff. It inspires both guilt and awe in this bleeding-heart liberal capitalist.

The Chinese singers and pianist who share the stage with us this weekend were charming colleagues at this morning's rehearsal. Their approach to the performance seems to be a bit more studied and serious than ours, and I wonder if they think the Americans to be a bit too casual and informal. The rehearsal itself was a microcosm of our cultures, having little to do with opera.

Food as Performance Art

Part of the opulence of this place is its food. I'm not much of a "foodie" (as everyone knows most singers are!), but even I had to admit that last night's experience at Jade on 36 was the most memorable meal I've ever had. I'm the opposite of a food snob, unfortunately - rarely go out of my way to pay a lot to eat, and rarely think that fancy restaurants are worth the time and money. (The unfortunate flip side is that I tend to eat indiscriminately.) But this was true theatre.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chicken Feet for Breakfast

The hotel food in Singapore is plentiful, savory, and endlessly fascinating. Particularly noticeable when I put on my concert duds last night and realized that Weight Watchers points actually do count in Asia, too. Sigh.

OK, the first round of pre-audition tour numbers for those who are interested.

If this kind of information messes with your mind, skip today's post. The power of individual talent and determination can lay waste to all analyses.

If you find facts and figures more clarifying than torturous, read on.

Voice Types

The applicant pool vocal distribution breaks down as follows.
  • 49.9% soprano (I would've rounded up to 50%, but this is the first time the sopranos haven't been in the majority, and I thought this number might be more comforting:)
  • 18.5% mezzo
  • 13.3% baritone
  • 11.1% tenor
  • 5.9% bass and bass-baritone (60% call themselves bass-baritones; 40% prefer bass. It's all terribly subjective for guys in their 20's)
  • 1.3% countertenor

The Young Arist Profile

We also look at the phase of training our applicants are currently engaged in. Segments in bold represent what we feel is our target demographic.

  • 35% still doing graduate/post-graduate study
  • 30.5% finished grad school between 2005-2007
  • 17.2% finished grad school or fulltime YAPs 2004 or earlier (as I've mentioned before, this is where our reach as a young artist program begins to fall off)
  • 10.9% fulltime (more than summer-long) YAP participants
  • 5.1% other (didn't go to grad school, no formal degree, etc.
  • 1.2% still doing undergrad work (these folks should be applying to the Studio instead)


Which audition sites attract the most applicants?
  • 37% New York (duh)
  • 13% Chicago
  • 12% Cincinnati
  • 11% Philadelphia
  • 10% Vienna VA
  • 7% Houston
  • 8% LA
  • 2% Seattle

59.9% of this year's applicants are new to us - have never auditioned for WT before. If you have sung for us before (particularly if it was multiple times), and you didn't get invited to sing this year, please know that we have to allow space for new folks to get in the door. If you were just finishing school, I'm guessing you'd be pretty testy if your chance to be heard the first time was being taken away by folks 5-10 years older.

  • 28: the average age of this year's applicants (higher than ever before)
  • 21-49: the age range of this year's applicants
My Ears are Bleeding

343 applicants who sent in optional audio samples as part of their applications. Exponentially higher than ever before, due largely (I'd guess) to the ease with which one can now make a decent recording and distribute the content. Not sure I can keep up with this...

What Does It All Mean?

A more useful layer comes later - with any luck by sometime next week. I'll interpret all of those numbers above and show how many of which groups of applicants we were able to pass on to the live audition process. With almost 800 in the pool this year, the numbers are a little startling. I'll try to make some sense of them.

And by the end of the audition tour, all of these figures will be evaluated in the light of who were we able to designate as finalists for the 2008 company. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sometimes I Think It Would Be Simpler To Just Let Everyone Sing....

Well, the audition notifications have starting going out, and I had a chance to check the online chatter. There's general confusion and consternation about who's getting tapped for an audition this year and who's not. We're also receiving email inquiries (and a few rants) about our screening policy.

I'm in Singapore right now (to play a concert), fighting off the jet lag that comes from a 21-hour flight and a 12-hour time difference. I'm not sure I'm thinking clearly enough to shed light on anything, but I'll try.


Number of audition days: 14 (over 25% more than in any previous year)
Maximum number of spots each day: 25
Maximum number of auditions: 350
Number of applications received: 784
You do the math. We're able to hear fewer than half of our applicants this year.

Consider now that you need to have a minimum amount of training and credentials to consider applying for Wolf Trap. The remaining 400+ people can't all be way out of the ballpark. There are very individual and undeniably subjective judgment calls being made here. If you were making these decisions, you'd undoubtedly make different ones. We do the best we can.

We removed our age limit (actually, it was an age range, from 21-30) a few years ago. Since then, we try to define our target artist as one who is no more than 2-3 years past the fulltime academic or young artist program phase of his/her training. What we're increasingly dealing with is the singer who finished a graduate degree, artist diploma, or fulltime YAP anywhere from 5-10 years ago, and who has been doing a combination of professional engagements and summer YAPs since then. We're not denying that these singers are candidates for solid careers. We simply don't believe that we are trying to serve that demographic. Otherwise we might as well start calling managers and negotiating fees.

Since we have neither an age limit nor an audition frequency cut-off, we hear from singers who have auditioned for us many (4 or more) times before. And every year there's a new influx of unknown singers who deserve a first hearing. We make the frequent choice to put through a new person for the first time instead of a repeat audition.

There are a few fallacies about our singers.


No, they don't all already have managers. Some do, but in any given season, it's typically less than half. And even when they do, their managers have nothing to do with them getting the gig. We don't solicit auditions through management, and every artist - regardless of assignments - receives the same fee.


And no, they're not all from Met & Houston YAPs or JOC. I know this in my gut, but I went looking for some numbers. Of the 29 singers who were with us in the last two seasons, 41% had none of those affiliations. That does mean that the remaining 59% did have a previous affiliation with one of those organizations. But it stands to reason that a handful of the best training grounds in the country would turn out some of the best singers.

If you enlarge the list above to include YAPs at Lyric Opera, San Francisco, Seattle, and Pittsburgh; and conservatories/universities like Curtis, CCM, MSM, IU, AVA (and no, this is not a comprehensive list...), then it's a pretty good picture of most of the singers who end up here. But it's not those affiliations that are the point. If it were, we wouldn't waste our time and money running a full-out audition process for two months every year - we'd just partner with some of those organizations and forget about casting a wider net. The point is that we're looking for the singers at the jumping-off point who are doing the best work. And those other organizations have already tapped some of the best talent at the previous level.

I'm rambling more than I should - blame it on the jet lag fog.

I am empathetic - probably too much so. I was rejected from a few grad schools, I couldn't get auditions for a few gigs that I really wanted, and I was turned down for an important job. But I'm working, and if you have the chops, you will too.

Lion City

A few parting shots from Singa Pura. It's a fascinating place.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Learning from the Past

Let's kick off this audition season by taking a look back at previous audition tour posts.

My rambling entries tend to cover multiple topics, which is either maddeningly or refreshingly, depending on your point of view. Realize that you may need to scroll down to find what you're looking for.

Aria Frequency Lists: Who's offering what and how often. Fall 2006, Fall 2005, Opening arias - Fall 2006 (who's starting with what)

Off the Beaten Path: Ideas for arias that everyone else isn't singing

Portfolio: Thoughts about resumes

Wolf Trap Repertoire: The Short List

The Audition Pianist: Help the pianist help you.

What Is That Audition Panel Doing? Pay no attention to them.

Random Audition Advice: Second-guessing and snapping

Staging? How Much is Too Much? An observation and a reply

The Elephant in the Room: Singing in tune

A Substitute for the Memory I Don't Have: The big bad database

Acoustics: Is it dry in here?

Rant: Sing in tune

We Can't Schedule Everyone: Behind the screening process

Audition Tour Statistics: Crunching the numbers

Grab Bag: Regional accents, soprano traps, and audition room acoustics; Dishing, long arias, and pacing...

What We Listen For: Focus, authenticity, spontaneity, specificity, energy, humor, skill, and courage. Yes, all at the same time. I never said it was easy.

A Long and Beautiful Old Age

Please excuse the digression, but I must include pictures of the end of this freakishly long summer of flowers.

The life cycle of my garden sustains and entertains me. Its springtime infancy is high-maintenance but oh-so-adorable with baby-sized bursts of color and energy. The early summer adolescence is exciting but increasingly unruly with bursts of threatening weeds and other interlopers. Mid and late summer (coincidentally when I have absolutely no time to spend in the garden), my carefully chosen flowers are generally self-sufficient and independent.

But in late summer and fall, the garden enters old age, and a certain calm sets it. The showiest flowers have come and gone, and it's finally time for the patient ones to shine. Sedum, asters, mums, grasses. I wish for myself an old age like this - to watch calmly while the big shots' stars flame out, then finally step forward in confidence and serenity.

And this year, the late-bloomers are enjoying an unprecedented length of stay. Yes, I know, global warming, and all that. It's a serious matter. But here on my little patch of dirt, the flowers and I have a little reprieve before the darkness closes in.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Back to the Equation

This time of year brings lots of difficult decisions. But before I get to them... a re-run of my audition season post in the fall of 2005:

S = (R + T) x LF

My son is the mathematician in the family. But even though my fling with math is decades in the past, I can still appreciate the eloquence of a beautiful formula. Yes, it’s dangerous to reduce difficult and messy things to a simple equation. But the clarity it brings is worth the risk.

S [Success] = (R [Raw Materials] + T [Tools]) x LF [Life Force]

I'm not particularly happy with the product side of this formula, but “Success” is the best I can do for now. Use whatever word works for you.

Raw Materials. The stuff you were born with. That gift from God. Good pipes, strong constitution, a body that is tooled for singing.

Tools. The things you learn. Your craft. Vocal technique, language mastery, musical acumen, dramatic chops.

Life Force. That essential energy without which the first two factors are brought to their knees. Soul. Guts. Sheer force of personality. Determination. Desire.

Every artist exhibits his/her own variation on this equation. And for each person, the strength of each element is different. Some singers with breathtaking raw talent somehow manage to skate by with basic tools. Others whose natural gift is more modest make fabulous careers by fanatically developing their ‘tool kits’, becoming consummate linguists, compelling actors, and innovative musicians. What’s critical is that the sum of these first two – raw talent and refinement of craft – are dangerously susceptible to the strength of the third.

The “Life Force” either brilliantly magnifies everything else, or brings it all to a halt. Worse, it registers on the negative side of the ledger. And it doesn’t take higher calculus to figure out what that does to the equation. Can a singer have a superhuman degree of dedication/enthusiasm/magnetism and overcome a lack of raw material or tools? Highly unlikely. And we see quite a few aspiring singers who fall in this category. It’s heartbreaking, actually. Desire is critical, but it’s not capable of standing alone.

Conversely, can a successful performer have excellent raw materials and a high level of craftsmanship yet lack drive? Just as unlikely. This scenario will get you through school… maybe… if you’re coddled…. But it won’t sustain a career.

The Tough Part

If I were to make a list of the tough stretches of this wonderful job, October would be near the top. There are other challenges in the year - financial hiccups, artistic disappointments, difficult personalities, mind-numbingly long production weeks. But October... well, that's when we have to say no.

I'm spectacularly bad at this. Age hasn't helped. I seem to get worse every year. Perhaps it's my perpetually delusional and naive thinking that keeps me young.

So many people want to sing for us during this next month of auditions. And it's simply not possible. The math is overwhelming. We have one more deadline to go (next Monday), but already we've surpassed the number of applicants we've had in any previous year.

We've expanded the number of days on the road this year - the previous high was 12 days of auditions. This year we've added 5 days for the Studio auditions and increased the number of Filene Young Artist audition days to 15. But we're still going to have to say no to about 60% of our applicants.

The screening process is as scientific as something like this can be - which is to say that it's almost completely subjective. Hell, the whole process is subjective. We do the best we can to be fair, but I'm sure people slip through the cracks. If we don't see you on the audition trail this year, perhaps we'll catch up in a future season. Or perhaps we'll have the chance to see you onstage somewhere else.