Sunday, November 11, 2007

A View from the Other Side of the Audition Table

Joshua Winograde has just written a fantastic guest post on the Wolf Trap Opera blog about some of the thinking that goes into casting in that company. Whereas most companies cast from repertoire to personnel, Wolf Trap reverses the process and starts with finding the season's artists before finalizing rep. Joshua also shares some ideas on how to prepare for auditions in a scene where more singers are rejected than accepted for programs and productions:

rather than worrying about the RESULTS – i.e. Did they like me? Did I sound great? Will I get a role? – you should think only about the small things: excellent language, good breathing and vocal technique, connection to the text, having something to say, presenting yourself professionally, etc. Those things are very much IN your control, and I bet you’d be surprised at how much faster the RESULTS roll in.

I see what Joshua is getting at. Rather than adopting a top/down approach (as espoused by Steven Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) where you set your goals (ie. get hired) and create expectations before moving to the smaller things, more can be accomplished by first working on next actions for specific skills (ie. create subtext for aria, fix diction, become familiar with piano reductions) to get to a higher level (similar to the Getting Things Done approach of David Allen).

My take? Very rarely do singers fix every skill, then audition, and then get hired. My observation is that singers that have something genuine to offer, whether it be beauty of voice, acting skill, physique, believability, or being a great colleague, are hired in spite of their shortcomings, and then move onwards and upwards to improve in conjunction with their work. On the other hand, many singers find it frustrating that they sing and act at an extremely high level and simply never get work.

As well, I know very few successful singers that didn't initially have high aspirations in the profession. Whether you start with the goal or work up to it after fixing individual skill sets, there's nothing wrong with a strong ambition to get results if it means you'll work harder to achieve an even higher level of performance.


  1. Interesting post, Chris. It certainly makes sense to focus on what is under your control... but then you also need to know where you're aiming. It's a question of balance.
    David Allen's method definitely focuses on next actions, but always with the vision of the completed project in mind as well, and he also encourages people to step back occasionally and look at two years, five years,etc. down the line. The reason I know this? My husband is his CTO, so I hear a lot about the method at home! ;)

  2. What I like about GTD is the constant changing of focus from the immediate to medium- and long-term and the resulting change of priorities at all levels if necessary.

    But I'm a somewhat inefficient GTDer and for the record, my inbox isn't at empty yet.