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The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Festival was yesterday.

I am still exhausted.

Also, I have horrible blisters from getting lost and wandering all over the place. I was literally pouring blood out of my shoes. It was like being in dancing without the fun part where you dance. Seriously. There are blood stains inside my beloved patent leather pumps.

I was supposed to be giving a workshop on the business of singing, which only sort of happened because they kept shifting the room around and didn't, yanno, tell anyone that I was doing a workshop. Oops. So, I chatted with some of my students and one of my teacher's students.

On the plus side, I will not need to plan out a new talk if I agree to do this next year. I'll just go back in with my old notes.

Oh, and next year, I will be judging. You would not believe how much I learned from sitting in at one audition. We should all have the opportunity to do this- with the caveat that no, it is not okay to bring a university class to observe auditions because it is disrespectful to the performers. They are not a lab experiment. Fear not, there are lots of jobs in theater (director's assistant, production assistant, admin) that will give you a legitimate entree into the sacred halls of the audition. Get one of those jobs. Get it RIGHT NOW. Do it the second you get out of college BEFORE you go out and audition for anyone. You will be very glad that you did. Seriously, the last thing I want is to give up evenings or wake up at some ungodly hour on a weekend to adjudicate, but I would suck it up every day for the rest of the month because that is how valuable the experience is.

After my chat, I stuck around to see the rest of the division results posted because I was already there, so what the heck. Just so you know, I don't actually care if my students place. I just want them to have this experience and to enjoy singing. Everyone I talked to had fun, so mission accomplished. I should also say that when someone from my studio does place, it reflects on all my students. They all share their talents and experience with each other during recitals and studio classes, so none of them are operating in a vacuum. When one of them succeeds, it's because they've had the benefit of working with the entire group and it makes a huge difference. Three of my students placed because all of my students have put in the effort and heart to make my entire studio awesome. I'm just here to help them channel their coolness. I wouldn't want it any other way.

My professional student won fourth in her art song and third in musical theater. Then, in the youngest musical theater group, one of my students won third and... one of my very youngest students took first place. I'd seen the first place girl not that long ago. I'd coached her that her job in the audition was to get the audition panel to smile and she caught up with me to say "Tytania, good news! I got all three smiles!" Her mom was thrilled and so was I and they left because they weren't there thinking they could win it. I don't know if anyone was able to reach them for the winner's concert. I know that a lot of the winners were long gone, so I don't know which people actually ended up singing. That's the problem with having a final round on the same day. The people who have the best audition skills are the ones least likely to stick around.

The number one audition skill is not caring about anything other than doing a great audition. It's the only way to keep focused on the audition rather than on the results or the competition. It's not easy. I'm not going to conceal my auditions from my friends and family, but it's hard to keep focused when everyone is asking how they went and if I got something. I get more of that now than I ever did, because the assumption seems to be that I am awesome enough that I'll always have good news. From my end of things, once the audition is over, I'm done with it. I'm not waiting for a callback. I am not waiting to get cast. I tend to be busy scheduling another audition. That's how I roll. If I did things any differently, I'd be three times crazier than I am now.

During my best auditions season, I got called back and/or cast at every single audition I did. I was really picky about the auditions I did and I really kept my head in the game. I was smart about my repertoire and my limitations. I also won or placed in every competition I did. Nor did I have my teacher holding my hand. I was calling all the shots on where I sang and what I offered and the them for that season was "Tytania doesn't really make an effort." No, I'm really not kidding. I never listed anything that was a stretch. If an aria wasn't feeling good that day, I took it out of my book. Sometimes my audition list looked like this: Durch Zartlichkeit, Deh vieni, Batti batti, In uomini and Fair Robin I Love. I knew them all inside out. I could act the heck out of them, so I had a fail-safe if my voice wasn't behaving. Yes, I was that lazy and everyone ate it up. I was also about as calm and cool as I could be, because there was literally nothing that could go wrong. I could sing those pieces in my sleep. I honestly didn't care if I got cast. The pianist could have started banging on the keys with a brick and I'd still have been able to keep going. There wasn't a tempo that would throw me. With no nerves whatsoever to deal with, all my energy and attention was focused on giving a fantastic performance. And I did. Every. Single. Time.

I get so pissed at myself when my head isn't in the game. Sometimes, there's a role that I want really badly and I think I have such a great shot at getting it. So, I take aim and... boom. I shoot a torpedo into my own knee. Nice one, Tytania. There are some people that I never seem to be able to please, so I go in thinking I have something to prove... and I end up proving that I'm still the same loser that they rejected last year. From time to time, the situation is just against me. After sitting for hours in a freezing cold room with thirty other hopefuls, it's like a parade of suck when we all stand up to sing and there's nothing any of us can do short of announcing "Look, I'm not going to be happy with my performance in this situation, so I'm removing myself from consideration. Toodles!" Well, you know that's never ever gonna happen. And then there are the days when I just plain suck. It happens.

So, getting back to the talk that I never really gave. I was going to share what I had learned about preparing for auditions, getting auditions and doing auditions. Since I didn't share it yesterday, I thought I'd talk about it here.

If you haven't noticed, the first lesson is that you have to stop focusing on the results of auditions and start focusing on the audition itself. Imagine that the audition is the performance. There's not much we can do about the results. Half the Met roster might show up to audition, or the part we wanted is already cast or the director is determined to have someone taller or shorter or a fluent Klingon speaker. You just never know. You have to accept that winning a prize or getting cast is something completely separate from the audition itself. You can do an audition of fail and still get cast. You can sing your best without getting a callback. That's how it is. There's nothing anyone can do about audition results. You have to focus on having an amazing audition. Yes, when you do amazing auditions, you are more likely to succeed. Yes, it's like a zen puzzle- If you want to succeed, you must cease to care about success.

Personally, I think of it this way- if I give an amazing audition, I will feel great about myself. If, I can also fail to get cast, then I will have all the pleasure of doing an amazing performance, I'll probably be allowed to come back and give another amazing performance next year and I won't have to deal with all the hassle of attending rehearsals or showing up for the finals round. If I play my mental cards right, I can blame the whole thing on my outfit (they loved my singing but they hated my shoes, clearly, I need new shoes) and I'll have an excuse to shop. This is what I tell myself. I am so shallow that it usually works. I honestly do love doing auditions. I choose what I wear. I choose what I will sing. I have this one shining moment to share whatever I feel like sharing at that moment in time.

Plus, good technique requires muscle work which releases endorphins that give me a natural high, assuming I've done my job right.

Just to keep my mind organized, I'm thinking that I'll talk about preparing for auditions (what you need to know, choosing music, blocking your stage action and what works), the audition package (what to wear, what to bring), finding auditions, choosing appropriate auditions and putting it all together. Somewhere in there, I'll fit in some talk about vocal technique, but that's really something that fits into every category.

And then, I'll get annoyed and disillusioned and I'll stop writing, but we'll see how far I get.

Also, I will review the next chapters of Hush, Hush. I've read the whole book and I cannot emphasize enough how boring it is and how much I did not care about any of the characters. Hence, I can't even invest that much in making fun of it because it was just that blech.










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Tytania Strange

April 2017

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