12/14/2012 03:27 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Chasing the Dream


On this fall's nationwide talent search, over 70 singers told us about their career paths, aspirations and quirks. (Previous posts here, here and here.)

Today, the final entry -- audition season strategies, observations and advice.

The Topic: Audition Season Strategies


Wearing the same dress and same makeup each time... Getting up unreasonably early to give my voice time to wake up... Taking an hour to curl my hair before an audition. (The process is so meticulous and mind-numbing that it usually calms me down.)

Taking care of the body:

No alcohol... No dairy... So much water... Zicam... Turning on the hotel room shower full blast to get some humidity into the room... Steam... Sleep!... Lots of sleep...

Getting the blood moving:

A few sets of jumping jacks to spike my adrenaline... Jumping jacks to stay warm and move my breath... A two-mile run that morning...


Finding a corner, looking for a spot, crack or dent in a wall, staring at it and focusing on my breathing... Chinese tapping massage techniques to get the blood running (I don't know if I buy into it, but I find that having a physical routine helps me find mental focus)... Self-hypnosis for centering and focus... A brief meditation exercise... Clearing my mind, breathing and allowing fear to disperse.

Topic: The best thing about auditions

Seeing friends I haven't seen in years.... Realizing how astonishingly small this world is... Walking out knowing you did your best... Knowing that each audition is a bench mark, like running a race after months of preparation.

Topic: The worst thing about auditions

Waiting... Panelists eating and texting while you sing...Trying to show the panel who I am in five minutes... Running into a crazy/stressed colleague who just has to talk your ear off as you're trying to prepare... Waiting...

Topic: The strangest thing about auditions

The amount of pantyhose I go through...The atmosphere between auditionees (We don't know if we should talk to each other or size each other up)... Hearing other people warm up... Man, singers play some weird mind games...

Topic: What will a successful opera career look like for you?

Getting hired!... Being able to support myself 100 percent from singing, and to sing music that I love... Having a full schedule of opera, recitals and oratorio... Paying rent by performing... Waking up every day and knowing that I get to sing... and being able to live off of it... Paying the bills exclusively by singing... Inspiring people to think in a new and different way...Traveling, being happy, meeting new people... Sustaining myself while getting to do something I love.

Topic: Advice for musicians who are new at this thing?

Breathe through the nerves... Remember you like to sing... Don't do this unless you love it... Instead of trying to get the gig, just be the best you can be, and forgive yourself and others for circumstances beyond your control... Stay calm and realize it is a job...The Met is not the be-all-and-end-all. Set high dreams, but take advantage of local opportunities... Remember that this is the first step of a long process, and you are brave enough to be taking it... Breathe... Any time you fall into the trap of singing to please other people, you will find yourself disappointed and frustrated. Sing for yourself... We sacrifice so much to be in this field (relationships, stability, etc.) that you should really only pursue this profession if it's the only thing that would truly make you happy... Take time to find small victories in each audition... Let go of the control. You really didn't have any to begin with... Breathe early and often. But try to avoid the middle of words.

Well, auditions are done, and now we have to let go of hundreds of these talented and fascinating folks, and bring only about 30 of them to Wolf Trap for next summer.

If you're out there pounding the audition pavement, keep the faith and try to enjoy the journey.

If you know someone who's choosing and chasing a life in the arts, treat them with kindness. Even though a career in music may at first seem like a selfish and indulgent thing, in the long run it is a labor of love that requires determination and sacrifice. Our world needs many things to be sure, but beauty is one of them. And these 500 young musicians I just saw are out there determined to make life just a little more beautiful.

Subscribe to the Culture Shift email.
Get your weekly dose of books, film and culture.