Feedback, to ask or not to ask

It’s a tricky one. On the one hand audition feedback helps us develop, lets us improve our audition technique and can be a balm on a declined audition. On the other it can reinforce our insecurities or even create new ones.

I recently auditioned with my go to aria, Susanna, and felt it went well. I had some nerves, but I held it together and sang nicely, to the best of my ability that day. I had pinned quite a lot to the audition, already knowing what the same people had thought of other singers I know (and we all have our own little league tables in our heads).

Shortly afterwards, I received a rejection, which stung as per, but also an offer of feedback. I was heartened, reasoning that, as an organisation for young singers, their feedback would be constructive and useful. How wrong I was. They tore me to shreds. Susanna, my go to, the aria all my coaches have said is perfect for me, the aria I felt I could audition with immediately upon waking up, the aria for all occasions was apparently ‘obviously unsuitable for my voice’ and I should ‘never’ audition with it. I had not sensed any of this in the audition, I had been pleased with my singing. It was a very harsh anti-climax.

I suppose I should have been more careful, I could have shielded myself from their potentially destructive opinions. But then, how would we learn? Every session we go to, with every coach or teacher, every audition, we are asking for another person’s very subjective opinion.

I can’t hide from the impact of this audition. I received the feedback just before going into another audition and it definitely impacted on my performance. I didn’t get that gig either.

It’s been nearly 2 months now and I’ve still not sung Susanna since.





I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my propers

Yes, Aretha, that about sums it up. I’m SO fed up of not being respected.

Here I am, struggling singer, aspiring artist, tormented bohemian, and there are you ‘the company’, ‘the panel’, ‘the competition’. I would suggest that for every audition I apply for I spend a minimum of an hour (often many more) researching the company, finding the right email address, investigating the show and whether any roles suit me, checking the competition guidelines, writing up a programme, crafting the perfect application email, filling in your intensely detailed online form. Then I pay for my travel, my competition entry fee, my accompanist, my warm up room, your warm up room. But I don’t mind, this is my job after all. When I became a singer I knew there were costs involved, I just counted myself lucky that none of my textbooks cost over £50 and my annual licensing fees weren’t a huge percentage of my income. But I still pay, prosectively, for opportunities which benefit others at least as much as myself.

I do the audition, you do the audition, there we both are in the room, conducting our business transaction as equals. You need me (or those like me) and I need you (or those like you). Between us we perpetuate the industry. ‘Thank you,’ say you, blankly, ‘have a nice day,’ I reply.

Then it comes, the email. ‘Due to the high number of applications it is not possible to provide feedback’. ‘Due to the high number of applications we cannot send an email to each applicant, please check the website at this extremely specific and somehow rather late time’.

What I read: ‘Due to the high number of applications we feel so powerful and important that we can disrespect your effort and time.’

If they wrote notes in the audition can’t I just have a copy of those? If they didn’t write them, how in God’s name did they make a decision? I put at least an hour’s time, plus practice, plus travel, plus warm up plus audition plus getting home into this audition but you can’t afford me 5 minutes to forward an email? Isn’t that kind of your job?

It’s even worse with competitions. Entry fee £40, admin time per applicant, 8 seconds.

I suppose my point is that in an industry where we are obliged to be extra respectful, where an incorrectly formatted cover letter can be the difference between audition and the recycle bin, why is it all so one sided?

Post Script: Honorable mention for several companies who completely bucked this trend and restored my faith in artists and management alike.