Dealing with Rejection: Navigating the Audition Season’s Highs and Lows

 

Audition season brings with it rejection. In this article, learn more about how to face rejection in a way that protects your mental health and well-being. 

 

As we navigate a maze of upcoming auditions, we find ourselves in another rejection season. Just as pumpkin spice rears its fragrant head around this time of year, so do the PFOs. For those not perpetually online, PFO is an initialism for a phrase that rhymes with “Please duck off.” Is it vulgar? Yes. But is it also poking fun at and reclaiming our artistic narratives? Also yes! Now that we are all on the same page….

In my last article for Classical Singer, I talked about our unrelenting vulnerability as artists as an impenetrable power. Of course, no level of artistry, skill, desire, and work ethic entirely protects us from rejection. How do we work through that realization and keep on? How do we walk into an audition room when we’ve received a PFO just minutes before? 

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will share different ideas and methods to work through the challenging ups and downs of the audition season. If we develop a personal system to process rejection, we will have more longevity and joy in our careers. Remember—this career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Wallowing: A Crucial Part of the Healing Process

Who doesn’t love a good wallow? But in all seriousness, this can be a crucial part of working through a rejection. A natural response to a PFO is one of grief. It is a feeling of loss for what might have been. When we observe the stages of grief (shock, denial, guilt, anger, depression, reflection, and reconstruction), we see a fluctuation of emotions leading us back to acceptance. Yet, to get to that place of equilibrium, we need to go through that uncomfortable journey. Some of us tend to push down our feelings, fooling ourselves into thinking we aren’t disappointed. Denying being upset will only double down on the pain in the long run. And we don’t want to carry that bitterness and desperation from one audition to the next.

So, how do we move through immediate rejection? It is different for everyone, but here are some suggestions: 

Throw yourself a pity party, but make sure you have a cut-off. Don’t let it go on forever. Do what you need to do to channel that inner angsty teenager, whether it’s listening to music, going for a moody walk, napping, playing video games, etc. Let it out. 

Buy yourself a treat when you get a rejection. (Ben & Jerry’s, anyone?!)

Lean into self-love each time you see that “No” in your inbox. (Face mask, massage, therapy, meditation, bubble bath, workout….) 

Throw a few dollars into a savings account each time you see that PFO. Then buy yourself something nice at the end of the rejection season—or just be happy you saved up a bunch of cash.

Finding the Support You Need

Reach out to friends, mentors, and loved ones. They want to see you succeed and they want to be there for you. When we have a reliable and safe support system, it can lighten that emotional weight. You don’t need to carry that alone. Speaking with colleagues and mentors that you trust can be the snap back into reality that you need. The opera industry is competitive, and the fact of the matter is that there is way more talent than there are jobs. Your friends and mentors will remind you of that when you forget. Needing to be hyped up by your fan club doesn’t make you weak. 

If you feel lost in disappointment while experiencing overwhelming feelings, seek professional help. Talking to a nonbiased counselor trained to listen and provide insight could be your needed outlet.

The Power of Self-Talk

Raise your hand if you have ever received a rejection and immediately told yourself that you would never book a job and that you are a terrible singer. You’re lying if you aren’t raising your hand right now (at least in your head). We all do this. 

Post-rejection is the prime time to show discipline with how we treat ourselves. A rejection is simply a “Not right now.” It’s challenging to not get swept up in catastrophizing a PFO. When we step back, it’s just one panel simply going in a different direction. Nothing takes away the hard work that you have put into your art. Nothing takes away the bravery of being a performing artist. Please be gentle with yourself.

Pivoting: Embracing Growth Opportunities

It’s easy to feel demoralized when you get rejected from an opportunity you hoped for. Ultimately, we all have skills to work on artistically. Do you secretly hope that the audition panel never picks your French piece? Do you feel like there are spots in your technique that hold you back or that you avoid altogether? Do you struggle with performance anxiety and feel frustrated that you never get to show yourself at your best? 

The bad news is that working on these skills takes discipline and humility. The good news is that you can improve upon these skills. This is the reason why having a team you trust is extremely important. Ask your teacher or coach what they think the audition panels aren’t responding to. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but listen. We all have weaknesses that we can improve upon. Give yourself a gift and invest in yourself. Strengthen those weaknesses.

Forging Ahead with Resilience and Joy

I asked singers on Instagram to share their thoughts on rejection. I deeply admire how many of you talked about rejection as not being personal. Many also discussed how once they audition, they put the whole thing out of their mind as if the audition is the job and the gig is the perk. I also loved the outlook on how rejection protects you from something or even opens the door to another opportunity that is a better fit. 

But the note I want to especially share here is how many people intentionally celebrate the wins. Did you get an audition? That’s a win! Did you sing well? That is a win! If you did get the job, you better celebrate that win to the fullest!

The Journey of Personal Reflection

None of this is a judgment on any artists who struggle with rejection. I write this only hoping that some of these difficult lessons I learned can be useful to others. My seasons of deeply disappointing rejections were among the most influential periods of my artistic journey. I was finally forced to confront significant issues in my technique and mindset. If I wanted to explore this career long-term, I needed to make substantial changes. 

And I’m not unique. Look at this as a quick roll call of how many of us relate to this. We all face rejection and struggle with self-doubt. But a noteworthy signifier of success is how we deal with disappointment rather than assuming we can avoid disappointment altogether. 

So go forth and conquer, my dears! Young Artist Program audition season may be a challenging few months ahead, but we are in it together. Tell those PFOs to duck off! Lean on each other, support each other, and—please, please, please—be kind to yourself.

Alexa Rosenberg

Alexa Rosenberg is an opera singer and freelance writer based in NYC. As a writer, Alexa is always exploring topics of personal development through a self-deprecating lens. As a classically trained mezzo soprano, she performs works from Monteverdi all the way to world premieres. Her singing and writing often collide through her curiosity with how politics shape music and storytelling. To get in touch, reach out via Instagram @alexaraerosenberg