Yesterday I auditioned for a postgraduate course I wanted to study on. I was the first audition of the second day, 11am. I was at the venue by 9am, drinking tea, preening, practicing walking in my shoes, warming my voice up and practicing with my accompanist. The audition eventually began at 11:20am and at 11:30am I trotted merrily out feeling rather pleased with how I showed myself.
The audition process began some time ago with a lot of consideration of the right programme of arias. What should I show off? Are they contrasted enough? Should I just learn all new rep? This was followed by the inevitable learning of three new, splendid, beloved arias. Now, learning arias for audition is not quick and easy. Think many lessons, coaching sessions, snatched moments with piano students. Then there is the audition itself, this time overseas. I booked a Eurostar ticket, hotel room, withdrew euros, researched intercity trains. All in all, this audition has cost me a lot of time and money.
But it’s more than that. This audition has cost me personally. I have poured my soul into these three wonderful arias. In order to do justice to an audition you have to want it, believe in it. I believed that I was good enough to sing for this panel, good enough for them to like me, good enough for them to take me.
But they didn’t.
We were told to expect a phone call if we were to progress to the next round. I waited in, anxiously, trying not to watch the time or my phone, but the minutes kept on ticking by and eventually I was forced to realise I had not made the cut.
What a feeling. After two months almost exclusively devoted to preparing myself for this panel, after all my hard work, research, planning, money (uncouth but true) and time this panel had looked at me for less than ten minutes and decided they didn’t need to hear any more. I felt cheated. I could have shown them much more in the freer, longer second round. What if I’d chosen a different opening aria? Why did they make the choice they did? Most of all I felt that I had failed.
In the run up to the audition (’the audition’these words seem to be accompanied by thunder inside my head each time I write them, infer from that what you will) I discussed it with many non singing friends and family members, who all said, ‘oh, they’d be silly not to take you’ to which I blithely replied, ‘well, you never know what they’re looking for,’ ‘you can’t know who you’re up against,’ or ‘if they’ve already got one of my fach on the course then they don’t need me.’ It seemed so clear cut. Even directly after my audition I thought to myself, ‘well, I’m very pleased with how I sang, if they don’t take me it can’t be because I sang badly.’ How easy it is to be rational when ignorant.
As soon as I realised I was a reject, an unsuccessful auditionee, the decision became personal. I know, and can say out loud with much conviction, that it is not a personal decision. The panel know nothing about me personally, only the brief vocal snapshot I prepared for them, how can it be personal? But it doesn’t stop it feeling so.
The evening was one of the biggest anti climaxes I’ve ever experienced. I was so confident that I really thought I could at least get to the second round. Without that confidence I could never audition, indeed should never audition. That confidence needs to ooze from you to the panel unapologetically. However, it’s a double edged sword. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried, it felt like a year of my life which I had hoped would be wonderful was now a void of unknowns. As a singer, a year of secure routine is tricky to come by and much sought after, but here I am again, bobbing about on the freelancing sea.
Anyway, I know it wasn’t personal. I know I sang well. I know the panel had a tough decision to whittle down from 55 applicants to the very few they choose to take. I know I’m not a failure.
But it might take a little while for me to believe it again.