Have you ever wondered how to get your auditions to really shine? It’s that kind of feeling where you walk in the room and the panel goes, “Mmm, she came to play.” Actually, that’s one of one of the best comments that I’ve ever heard from an audition setting was the panelist saying that, “Wow, that person really came to play.” So what does that even mean?
What does it mean “to come to play” in an audition setting? My thoughts today come from all of the situations that I’ve been in across the spectrum of auditions. I’ve been the someone who’s auditioning. I’ve been the someone on those panels. I’ve watched other people in those scenarios. Witnessing this situation from a variety of angles has helped me hone these tips over time.
Today’s Micro Action is to make your audition shine.
How do you stand out in an audition? The first important step is about finding a way to be grounded in the space. I think that this is a little tricky to talk about sometimes; but, I’m going to do my best here. I want you to psychologically take up space.
I want you to take up the full space that you can when you are in the room. Think about the psychology of space for a second. Consider the interaction between people and the spaces they inhabit. I love to think about the connection between “presence” and the psychology of space especially when it comes to auditions. When you let your mind muse on visiblity, colors, configuration, scale, proportions, acoustics, and materials, you’ll start to see that taking up “psychological space” is actually what a lot of people mean by “presence.” What is your configuration in the audition room? What are your proportions both visually and acoustically in that scenario? When I say that I want you to take up space, that means allowing your energy to meet the proportion of the room and the other people in it.
That means walking in, being as calm, cool, and collected as you can be. This takes a lot of the inner work side of being a performer. Honestly, you may have adrenaline coursing through your body. Your cortisol levels might be through the roof! But, because you’ve done the inner work as part of your preparation, you’ve figured out how to manage that. As we all know, an audition is not the scenario in which you want to show people how nervous you are or how unsteady you feel. Do the inner work on your own at home or in the practice room.
Visualize your entire audition experience.
Doing the inner work might look like visualizing your entire audition experience from start to finish. Visualizing the situation can help you walk into the room feeling like you’ve got yourself under control. You know what you’re doing. You know what you’re there to do. So that you also take up that space. That also means making eye contact with the panel.
That brings me to an important reframing for auditions. The panel truly wants you to do really well. That’s their whole goal. They desperately want to be absolutely overwhelmed by great auditions that day. And if they don’t want that, that’s on them. That’s their failing as a person/professional. But by and large, every room that you walk into, they want to find great singers. They want to find great performers. They want to find great musicians.
The audition panel truly wants you to do really well.
Now that you truly believe in your soul that the panelists are wanting to be enveloped and enchanted by what you’re doing in that room, you can take a deep and restoring breath. Walk in with calm, ease, and purpose. Smile at them. Introduce yourself to the collaborative pianist or whoever you’re working with.
Obviously if you’re bringing your own collaborator to this situation, then you will walk in together, confidently, and you find your spot. Pause, take that moment. Breathe. Feel very “at home” in this space. This is something that you can also practice thousands of times before you do it in the audition room.
Here are some questions to ponder while doing your visualization techniques:
- What does it feel like, for me, to be “at home” in that space?
- How do I feel performing with somebody else?
- How does it feel to be performing for somebody else?
- What does it feel like in my body to be very grounded before I start singing?
- What does it feel like to make an invisible connection between me and the listener?
Think about that as a practice technique so you can take that deep breath and immediately embody the space and enjoy that grounded feeling.
An audition is just a job interview.
An audition is just a job interview to make sure that you’re the right fit for what they’re looking for in a creative, collaborative partner. The work that you have done and figuring out this process on your own is incredibly important. It telegraphs a ton of important information to your adjudicators. It shows that you’re ready to take on the challenge of working together.
Your audition is a way of showing, “I think that we might be the right fit for each other. I think that I can realize the vision that you have for this production. I think that by showing you my skills here, you might also get a chance to see the vision that I can bring to the production or the performance.”
Really, when I’m talking about “groundedness”, I’m trying to convey that overwhelming sense of “I belong in this space and I am so excited to share what I do with you. I think that we might be good collaborators together.”
Pick audition repertoire that you can sell technically and dramatically.
The next part boils down to does your repertoire fit you/your instrument and can you sell it technically and dramatically? This is an oversimplification of what happens in this part because “does your rep fit you and can you sell it technically and dramatically” is basically all of the work that we do day in and day out.
There is a ton of work that goes into this. That’s what makes us really good at what we do. Picking repertoire that suits our instruments and our goals is a necessary step for successful auditions. I promise you, you can find something that suits the instrument that you have and makes it shine.
Remember, you are not beholden to only a certain amount of things that come in the “greatest hits” book for your voice type. It’s important to become more knowledgeable about available repertoire for your instrument so that you can find something that suits you really well.
Give yourself as many advantages as possible.
This bring us to a logistical question of repertoire and collaborative pianists. It can be a gamble to bring non-standard repertoire or highly intricate, difficult repertoire to an audition in which someone you’ve never worked with is playing. Just because you’re singing something non-traditional that they don’t see very often doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong choice. I simply want you to set yourself up for success. Give yourself as many advantages as possible.
When it comes to repertoire, what’s something that lights you up, that makes you soar, that really shows off your instrument? Be mindful of language requirements and the aesthetics or style of the company/organization. They’re telling you that so that they can hear you in something that is the most suited to what’s likely in the upcoming season or what they’re programming.
It behooves you to show them what you’re really good at. Plus, you get to show them that you’ve done your homework on the company. If you know they specialize in a specific time period or a specific style, show them what you sing really, really well that fits that. Remember, in your audition, you’re basically saying, “Here’s why we would be a good fit for each other.”
What are your professional selling points?
What makes your voice beautiful, interesting, and unique? Really focus on those.
- What is it that I want to show them that my instrument can do?
- What are my skills?
- What are my highlights?
- What are the features of my instrument that I’m showing off in this audition scenario?
You can also try a little bit of visualization on this as well. Ask yourself, “In my ideal world, what would an adjudicator (or a reviewer) be commenting on in a positive way?” If you don’t go through this thought process, there’s a very small likelihood that someone else is going to pick up on what is incredibly special about what you do.
In an audition, you’re helping the panelist make a connection between you and a future production. You want them thinking, “if we program her or contract her for this performance or this production then she’s going to bring that skill, which is really interesting and valuable to us in this scenario.”
Ask yourself, “Is this boring?”
The same thing goes with dramatic skills. We are in a dramatic art, y’all! Head back to your practice space and ask:
- What am I bringing to the stage that is interesting or compelling visually?
- Ask yourself, “am I being boring?” (Answer “yes” the first few times just because. Then, see what doors that opens up for you as a singing actor.)
That leads me to my next point, which is about phrasing and nuanced choices. Are you connecting in an expressive way with your repertoire that fits your instrument? Part of identifying repertoire that fits is that you can find your own connection points to it. What are saying with the musical phrasing choices that you’re making? Also, are you saying something interesting with the dramatic choices? Are you making nuanced, dramatic choices?
This takes me back to my question of, “is this boring?” Quick check in:
- Am I making the same motions over and over?
- Am I making really obvious acting choices?
- What am I doing with my arms or my body and how I’m moving on stage that furthers a deeper understanding of the scene or the character?
I don’t mean that the obvious choice is always wrong. I simply want to guard against oblivious decision making. Have you thought it through or are you just picking the first thing that comes to your mind without taking a deeper look? When you’re in the practice room, you get to be the director! If you were putting this on stage, what would you want to see?
An audition setting is different than a performance, so I’m not asking you to run around the room. For example, you might be singing Cherubino’s aria. You know that your character is bouncing around and is full of excitement, joy, and a wild amount of hormones. With that in mind though, you do not need to run around your audition space. You need to show them that exuberance, that joy, that sense of overwhelm “because I’m so filled with these hormones.” This is an acting profession. So, act! Being a masterful singing actor is about being able to show all of that while maintaining excellent tone and technique. This type of preparation will absolutely help the adjudicators see the path from you in that audition to you performing that character on stage. You can almost hear them now saying, “Oh my gosh, I already see it. It’s so clear.”
Clothing or footwear advice means your performance is unremarkable.
Notice that I’m not talking about making sure that you wear this particular type of clothing or making sure that you’re wearing closed-toed shoes or whatever. When people dispense advice like that, they’re trying to advise you to be the most malleable form in the room so that you might get picked because nobody else stood out and you were the most neutral good option.
So when people are giving you comments like that, it’s because they are searching for something to talk about. There was nothing that stood out in your performance enough for them to work on. They’re telling you it was “unremarkable.” That’s where I want to bring that Steve Martin quote back into our consciousness. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” The idea for our audition scenario (or a masterclass or a performance or a workshop or a… the list goes on and on) is, “Be so good they can’t ignore you. They can’t talk about those other bullshit things.” The point is that if they’re focused on your shoes or your hair or your dress, then, then you’ve already lost them. You weren’t grounded. You weren’t sharing repertoire that lights you up and shows off the highlights or the features of your voice/instrument. You weren’t selling it technically or dramatically. How do I know? Because they checked out. So they started thinking, “Oh yeah, I don’t really like her hair” or something. We’re not even gonna give them time to get to that point. Because when you walk in and you have these things, you are taking up the space. You know that you are meant to be there. You are sharing a creative moment with them. You know that you have something valuable to share with them. You’re singing repertoire that shows you, shows you off, and that you can sell technically and dramatically. You also have unique phrasing and expression. You have interesting and nuanced choices that you’re making.
Make a memorable moment for your adjudicators.
When you start operating on that level for auditions, people feel like, “Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to see more of this artist on stage. We have to put this person in our productions. In fact, I don’t care if they don’t fit into this particular season, we’re gonna get them for next season. In fact, you tell us what you wanna perform, we’re gonna build a show around you.”
So when you want your auditions to really shine, keep this process in mind. It’s not about, “Oh, I wore this dress that they really liked.” It’s about, “I made a moment for them in that room that they felt so inspired by that they knew I would be the right fit for an entire production, performance, or creative project.”
And that’s it, Divas. I want you to have amazing, amazing auditions. And as always, stay sparkly inside and out.