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29 Days to Diva: Day 7 – Audition like you mean it. (#29daystodiva)

February 7, 2012

The auditionThe most sublime comment I have ever heard from an audition panel was, “Wow. She really came to play…” Simply put, the audition is the best of your preparation actualized. The better the preparation – the better the audition. If you are one of those poor souls who dreads auditions (as many of us do) make preparation your ally against all anxiety. Auditioning is a separate art form than singing or stage performance. It is in your best interest to do as many auditions as possible to not only ‘up your averages‘ but to hone your skills in this specific craft. Before you go slogging through auditions willy-nilly, take this challenge to help make more of your auditions successful.
Your day 7 challenge is to take that room by storm and audition like you mean it!


Just like yesterday’s challenge, choose repertoire that shows your voice at its maximum potential. Do your research regarding repertoire guidelines. Hopefully you have been building an arsenal of different languages, composers, styles, and dramatic range. Many audition notices will describe which productions are planned or being considered. Use this to your advantage. Explore the arias in your voice type for those operas on Aria Database. If you do not have any of those arias on your list, compare and contrast what you do have to the tessitura and ranges of those characters for which they are auditioning. Don’t bring in anything you are working on – bring in something you have. A good rule of thumb is to sing what you sing best. However, you should not require the judges to metaphorically leap to see you as the role. If the mezzo roles for the season are all sex pots you may not want to come in singing all pants roles.

Practice your audition techniques during your preparation period. Try different combinations of your aria package. Challenge yourself to go through the pieces in a different order. You can also practice starting arias in different parts or “just do the B section.” Your goal is to be prepared for whatever they ask you to sing in the audition.

Plan to have all your materials memorized at least two weeks before the audition. During the two weeks up to the audition work through your pieces from memory as well as with the score. Sharpen your mental acuity of the score so that you are able to be true to the composer’s intentions while also giving your own performance.

Have any printouts (maps/tickets) in a notebook so you do not have to think about it at the last-minute. Pack all you need to take with you the day before your audition or the day before you travel for your audition.¹

Audition Binder

Here are some quick and painless tips to be a better collaborative artist with the pianist in the audition.

  • Binder must be able to lay open and have your name on it
  • Tabs are essential – with aria titles, opera, and composer if possible.
    • Bonus points: Put your arias in alphabetical order.
  • Mark your own cuts.  They won’t play what they can’t see.
  • Keep a clean “pianists only” binder with no extraneous markings.
  •  Mark your pianist’s music clearly. Write in cadenza’s and ornaments.
  • All pages must be double-sided, laid out as they are in the published edition.
  • No plastic page protectors, No staples, No tape. Ever.
  • If you don’t want to sing it – don’t put it in your binder.
  • Copy out repeats and da capos.
First Impressions

If you have been reading all of our 29 Days to Diva (#29daystodiva) series thus far it seems as though our whole profession lives and dies by first impressions. That is 90% true. No one will every fault you for being early, but you will always be at fault for being late. Because the audition is the actualization of your preparation, do not forget how far preparation can extend. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why do I want this audition?
  • How do I walk into the audition? Do I walk in thinking I already have the part or do I walk in saying, “Why on earth would they want to hire me?”
  • Am I dressed for success?

Adjust your attitude to reflect your humility but also worthiness of this opportunity. You have put in the work. You are ready for this challenge. Smile. Be confident and friendly.

The best advice I received on first impressions is to carry yourself such that other people will think, “My, I would like to have a coffee with her.”

During the Audition

Take the time you need to plant yourself in the performance area. Do not hide in the crook of the piano. Take the stage, darling. Also, take your cues from the audition panel. They will let you know whether you should introduce yourself and your pieces or which piece they want to hear first. Do not snap, clap, or conduct the tempo to the accompanist. Sing the first line at the tempo you like. Make sure you are being honest and accurate.

Now is the time to show that you are able to emote. Strive for balance between standing rigidly straight and being overly dramatic and flailing about. Demonstrate that you know the plot of the opera and your connection to the narrative. Have something to say when it comes to your pieces.

“Have an opinion; have many opinions, and bring them to the table. Nothing is deadlier than music managed rather than lived, performance designed not to offend. Avoid asking for permission in the moment of performance. Sometimes I feel like auditioners are painting themselves white, like apartments that could be rented by anyone. Believe that we truly want to know who you are.”²

During the audition endeavor to show the audition panel that you have a secure sense of who you are and who you are as a musician and performer.

And… it’s over.

Everyone has terrible auditions. Everyone. Even if this particular audition didn’t go well, thank the judges and accompanist and walk out of the room with your head held high. For the love of all things holy, do not make a scene right outside the door. Your audition ends when you have left the building.

Do not fret. Auditions are not meant to be a demeaning and demoralizing experience. The judges want you succeed. They would desperately love to have knock-out audition after gold-medal audition. They are simply looking for what they think would fit their production best. Be confident in your preparation and sign up for another one.

Audition Cartoon 

The postmortem:

  • What could I have done better?
  • Did I prepare myself well for the audition?
  • What did I learn from other people? You can learn a great deal from observing the other auditionees and the audition panel.
  • Am I willing to learn? If you are not willing to learn from each audition experience then you are throwing away one of the most valuable teaching tools you have.


What about you? Do you have any audition tips to share with the Diva Set? Have a horror story? Have a success story? I want to know all about it. Please tell me in the comments below.





4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2012 3:04 pm

    This is all so true–for myself I find the most important things you mention are to be genuine and true to yourself (the hardest thing for me this year) and to remember that your audition begins when you enter the building, and ends when you leave. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, when you’re in certain areas of NYC, being out in public is the audition. You never know who’s in front of you at the coffee shop. (Ah, watching my mouth. Another task I find difficult. :D)

    • February 7, 2012 3:33 pm


      I agree with you about never knowing who’s eavesdropping on you at the coffee shop or the Metro.

      In most of my auditions, I’m reminded that worry and being inauthentic are just other surreptitious ways that I take myself “out of the game.” If I didn’t sing their socks off, I understand, but I’m not going to let those other things get in the way of good opportunities.

      Cheers to you, Jess – you were never a back-up plan kind of singer in the first place. Get out there and wow ’em.

  2. February 7, 2012 4:18 pm

    Thank you for following the 29 days series. It is part of a larger goal-setting initiative I set for myself and has gotten some really great responses.

    I have been so interested in the transformation you’ve experienced with this type of energy work. It seems to have really resonated with you and is inspiring to those around you. Maybe you would consider writing about it (even perhaps with your doctor) about the benefits of this type of energy work when it comes to the opera arena?

    Congrats on all of your auditioning successes as of late. You’re on a roll now, honey!

  3. February 7, 2012 4:44 pm

    Megan, I’m really loving this series, some of the best, most useful stuff you’ve written so far! I only recently finally started auditioning truly well, and it had mostly to do with both my energy and my face. Energy-wise, I’ve been seeing the most wonderful doctor who also does “Energy Work” — she started out with Reiki and has combined several other theories. She’s shown me (and not with words) how to open my heart chakra, which lets me both enjoy my audition and music-making and also let’s the panel see my joy and passion, which I think is the “spark” people look for. The other thing was me learning what my face really communicates, and how a facial movement that seems incredibly clear to me is either not interpreted the same way by someone else or it doesn’t communicate strongly enough. I was always worried about the whole “don’t go overboard in an audition” mentality that I never reached the point where I was just *on board*. Having a panel you trust that will tell you how far to go — a teacher, a coach, a director, a friend and more will all be able to help as long as you trust them to be honest. Keep up the great work, folks!

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