You arrive at the interview site with a large bag and duck into the bathroom to change into a memorable outfit -- the knee-length teal dress with the color-block heels or the new custom suit with eye-catching tie. After all, it's critical that the clothes are classic but current and not too stuffy. (If you get the job, they'll give you a costume, but for purposes of the interview, best not to look like a banker.)
While you're in the bathroom, you squeal a little bit, testing out the highest notes you can manage. You buzz your lips like you're making tugboat noises to your favorite (only) baby nephew. Maybe you sing a snippet of something to calm your nerves.
The crazy thing? You are totally not the only person singing in a stall in this particular restroom.
You exit after making sure you're looking polished and put together. It's time to rock this interview.
You're greeted at the door by a woman who takes your name and hands you some paperwork. Someone exits the room, a bright-eyed young man with flushed cheeks. You ask the lady at registration if you can leave your bag with her; then you take a deep breath and enter the room.
The room is large, and there's a group of three people sitting at a table. You're not really supposed to talk much with them, so you hand them your paperwork and make the long walk to the other side of the room. (Your heels sound like gunfire on the polished wood floors, but it's OK -- you're pretty sure that the two ladies on the panel are coveting your fabulous shoes.) You meet a man, hand him your three-ring binder, say a few words about the first item in the binder, and then turn back to the three-person panel (who are furiously typing into their laptops... ).
You introduce yourself. Then you proceed to tell them who you are as an artist -- your training, background, skills, aspirations, and fundamental identity. And you do this through music, in a foreign language, and with a whole lot of help from that pianist to whom you handed the music.
When you finish, maybe they're be interested enough to hear more from you. Maybe not. You leave the room.
The whole process takes about 8.5 minutes.
You grab your bag, duck back into the restroom to change back into your jeans and walking shoes. It's critical that you remember that precious three-ring binder before you cross town, because in two hours you'll have another interview with another company in another large echoing room. And then you do this multiple times a week for months. For a decade or so.
This is the reality for hundreds of professional singers every autumn. Each ten-minute audition ("interview") could parlay into a six-week / six-month / year-long gig... or not. Audition season is a road fraught with uncertainty and rejection. It's a serious gauntlet to any artist. And perhaps not surprisingly, your ability to flourish in this audition game is only tangentially related to your potential as a professional performer.
As adjudicators, it's our task to bring both impartiality and humanity to the process. And the only way to do so is to acknowledge what a strange process it actually is.
Pictured: The new Audition Recital Hall at Opera America's National Opera Center in New York City, the site of this week's "interviews."