Dream Big – CS Convention: Young Artist Series

Young Artist Sara Conwell (www.sarahconwell.com) attended last week’s Young Artist Series at the Classical Singer Convention. She shares her thoughts and notes here:

Dreaming big is not necessarily the impossible dream. That’s what I learned after spending a weekend with classical singers, teachers, and administrators at the Classical Singer Convention. Even though I did not sit through a lecture entitled “Never Giving Up and What that Looks Like”, that is the topic about which I most learned.
I don’t know anyone else who is doing what I am doing. All my friends from my undergraduate work have chosen different fields or supporting roles in the music world. I have no connections and no insight and very limited funds. But the reason I drove 8 hours by myself, purchased a hotel room, and spent 2 hours getting pretty was to attend the lecture by William Florescu titled “How to Prepare for Young Artist Program Auditions”. And you know what, this convention was worth every penny and much more.
Here are the highlights of what I learned:
Rule #1: Do not show them what you can NOT do.
This was a swift kick to the musician’s brain. When choosing your arias, select those that you can do beautifully and masterfully, no matter the level of difficulty or how unimpressive you feel it may be. If you choose a piece you feel is your most impressive but you know a few places you have not mastered, throw it out. I broke this rule at least twice by choosing difficult pieces which I absolutely love performing but I know I could do better.
Rule #2: Practice your gestures as often as you practice singing.
Mr. Florescu painted a very amusing picture of the singer who puts his arm up at the beginning of the piece and keeps it there the entire performance because he left gestures up to the “performance gods” instead of practicing them. He also said he has seen this mistake very often which was surprising. I did not break that rule!
Rule #3: Look like your picture on the day of your audition.
Do not make the mistake of dying your hair differently or doctoring your photos dramatically. The panel might have loved your audition but not know how to find your resume because your picture is so different. I did my hair, makeup and accessories exactly the same on purpose.
Rule #4: Practice pronouncing the titles of your pieces.
This is what seems like a no brain-er. But he said that this is a common downfall during auditions. I not only practiced my titles each time I sang them, I also practiced giving an intro to each piece, which I found out later is NOT a common practice and should not be given without first being asked.
Rule #5: Base the success of an audition on how your feel afterward, not if you are hired.
Mr. Florescu made it very clear that in order to be a performer, you must be able to set your own worth and mark your own success because no one else would do it for you. Because we have chosen a highly competitive career, we will not be given opportunities as often as we deserve them. During the Convention I did not know this but as I write this, I know that one of my auditions was rejected. I’m not sure that I could have been at peace with that decision as well as I am without taking Mr. Florescu’s advice to heart. I felt fantastic after that audition and we all know I broke rule number 1. I have the tools now to understand that it is not the end of my career or even a set back. There will always be auditions and I will always want to be there for them. Eventually, someone will either have to hire me or ban me from auditioning (which I also heard used to be a practice among snootier opera houses).
Take it from me. Do not find a job close to your dream and tell yourself it is good enough. Do not listen to the world when they say you need a marketable skill or a back-up plan. Promise yourself you will only do what you love and love what you have to do to get there. And if you see me at an audition, introduce yourself! Yes, we are competitors but ultimately, we are brothers and sisters connected by the strongest bond, the love of music. I wish you well.

Auditions Plus

Auditions Plus is a resource for all types and levels of singers and voice teachers. Search 1000’s of auditions and competition listings, Young Artist Programs, Summer Programs, and Singer or Teacher Profiles.   Auditions Plus will use a variety of authors and contributors from the singing and business world to give a variety of voices to important, pertinent, and timely issues facing singers.