Surviving Audition (And Holiday) Season
Ahhhhh audition season. Holiday season. The months of November and December, particularly for those who aspire to perform on stage - especially those who sing as a profession - are tremendously exciting, busy, horrible times. Yes, I know what you may say: "Oh, auditions aren't that bad though! I really love audition season! There is such a buzz!" or, "well, it's a necessary evil so I choose to embrace the audition times!"
You, my friend, are wrong.
But yes, it is a necessary evil. And, in my experience, there are a few tools to get through it without deciding to quit altogether, and here are mine:
1. Budget: Set a strict budget for how much you are willing/able to spend on audition costs, and stick with it as much as you possibly can. Not only financially, but set a budget for your time as well. This is a stressful time of year for just about everyone, no matter their field. Regardless of the outdoor temps, everyone is worn thin enough to get sick, exhausted and completely run down. This means all your performances that you set up and expect to earn from? Gone to laryngitis or a need to sleep off the most recent flu. Be picky about the amount of time you spend running around for rehearsals or extra work shifts. And, in order to get through with a few extra bucks to spend on holiday drinks with friends after it's all over:
- Take the train over flying: This is a biggie for European auditions. There are trains that go all over Europe, and with Germany such a big hub for auditions, you really must look into this. I spent far more than I could afford flying to an audition in Munich because the thought of being on the train for 7 hours made me nervous. If I had, though, I would have spent at most 200 Euro for that trip, and been a much happier person financially. For trains to/from Germany, Check out :http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/. You can also find an affordable hotel this way.
Quick note on trains: when traveling to Dusseldorf for an audition last week from Amsterdam, I was given the option to reserve a seat, but didn't. DO. Everyone does, apparently, reserve their seat on these trains and even though I technically had the same ticket as everyone else in my car, I wound up sitting on the floor near the bathroom sneezing for about an hour and was sick with a cold by the end of that day.
- Buy two nice audition outfits and stick with them: I struggle with this yearly. I am always tempted to go buy a new dress every single time. But the reality is, the day of, I just want to wear a dress that is comfortable enough to sing and move in, that I can travel in without getting it wrinkled (or throw in a bag to change into from my street clothes without it getting wrinkled), and above all: that I feel attractive in. I have two dresses, each just one solid color, that accomplish this goal. One cost me, at most, $30 from H&M. The other cost almost $100, but I wear it every year and just wash it in between auditions. I can't speak for men, but I would bet it's the same deal: get a suit that's always a homerun for you, and keep it in good condition to get you through audition season without needing to buy another new one. And just keep it simple - they want to see you, not be distracted by what you are wearing.
- Airbnb, Or stay with friends, before splurging on a hotel: While living in Astoria, my roommate (and best friend) and I were singers who regularly had auditions of our own, and understood the value of having a comfortable environment to crash in. As long as we knew our guests, we were more than willing to give them our couch to sleep on. This was just as nice for us sometimes, because it was like a little support group to vent/cry/laugh to about all of our auditions and confusing life paths. If you are traveling for your auditions, chances are you may know someone in the city the auditions are being held in - and it is worth it to Facebook blast that you're looking for a couch to sleep on and see who would be willing to help you out. I find that, 9 times out of 10, there is always someone. Airbnb is another option, but try to keep your nightly stay costs to under 100, as much as possible.
2. Don't work overtime: For those of us who have day jobs supporting our budding singing careers, this is very important. Yes, it is tempting - especially considering how much money we are trying to save. But, stress is an incredibly toxic problem none of us realize is wreaking as much havoc as it is on us until we're already way too sick to prevent losing our voices. If you have a 9-5 day job, and it is not a job you're working to make your main gig, go home at 5. Come in at 9. Focus, get your work done, and leave. Go home and do what you need to do - practice, make a good meal, go to sleep early, but leave the day job at your desk.
3. Keep Exercising: I always forget how much exercise stabilizes my mood, until I suddenly pick it up again after neglecting it for a few months. It's like someone has given me prescribed meds for mood and energy: I always feel better, sleep better, think clearer, get more done in a day and stave off colds with more power than when I was trudging through the day without taking the time. This time of year is booked from end-to-end, but make that half hour jog as much a necessity as brushing your teeth and showering is. You make time for those (I hope...), so make time for this. Squeeze a quick youtube workout video in before you get dressed, or jog to your gym, hop on a treadmill for 15 minutes, and run back - whatever your workout routine is, cut it to a time you can manage and make it HAPPEN.
4. Sleep: I don't need to belabor the same point as above. Do sleep. Sleep is good. Sleep will be your friend.
5. Don't Party Too Hard: Yeahhhhhhhh. I know this one is hard. You've just sung a 5 hour rehearsal of 'The Messiah' and have a couple of days off before the next one. Hallelujah! All we like sheep have gone astray to those bars and pubs, and it was good.
Ok, I will stop using Messiah lyrics as my guide to make the very obvious point: Everything in moderation, at least unless you're okay with having half your vocal oomf to get through warming up tomorrow. Or, if you're like me, unless you're okay with feeling great, until the 'downer' side of alcohol makes you suddenly feel more depressed than ever about how stressful auditions are. That's always a really great time!
6. Pamper Yourself: I know how hard this one is, but it shows when someone really makes themselves a priority. You do not need to spend hundreds on a spa treatment, but many massages only cost $35 (and up), depending on where you go. Take time for yourself once a week, whatever that may mean, to unwind and feel pampered. No matter how badly you feel things are going, or how anxious you are for tomorrow's performances or auditions, you must find the time to pretend that is not the case.
7. Spend time with loved ones who get it: We all have different groups of friends and loved ones in our lives. There are the ones who 'get it' - who are either performers or laid back enough to handle the fact that you are stressed, and who, basically, accept you for who you are under all conditions. Then there are the rest - who want you to be 'on,' entertain them in some way and not drag down their thing in life with your fluctuating moods. Avoid that second group. 'Go where the water is warm', is my life motto, and this plays in heavily. It's important to have people you can vent to in life, but also, it's important to keep those friendships going so that you have your NORMAL LIFE when all the 'PFO' letters are rolling in around the end of December and January. (A note on what 'PFO' means - if you do not know, then I will explain it to you over a drink sometime, when I can show you the imaginary stack of mine and tell you what I eventually did with them. None of this is appropriate enough for this post).
8. Set Rehearsal Times and Stick To Them: Barring a full-blown case of laryngitis or strep, these times will keep you sane. It may seem counterintuitive, but in these rehearsal times you can work out all of your anxieties, square away exactly what you'll do for the upcoming performances or auditions, and then, once the time is over, GO HOME and stop worrying about it. Practice time is clearly a huge part of a performing career, but my belief is that has more to do with mental sanity than technique. After a certain point, your technique needs to be solid enough for you to rest on anyway, so use that time to create the mental state you want for being in front of your judges and audiences.
9. Come up with your audition repertoire list, but create alternatives: This is a trick of mine that I've found comes in handy year after year: Opera singers usually bring in a list of 5 arias for each audition in the fall and winter months. Typically, they will put their name at the top of the list with the date of the audition, and then list off the five they will present that day. I've come to realize that what I THINK I want to sing for an audition one day can drastically change within 24 hours, so I now create an alternative list, swapping out one of my 'scarier' pieces with a 'safer' one just in case. I leave the date off, since it isn't entirely necessary. I've sometimes made three or four alternate lists, swapping out other pieces or adding even scarier ones, in the event that I want to take a risk that day. Since I do not have a printer readily available, and it's an added stress-factor to have to track one down at the last minute, having these lists is very useful.
10. When The Audition Is Over - LET IT GO: What is a blessing and curse in the NYC audition circuit is that you are usually called back after your audition if a company is interested in you, so if you are NOT called back, you can almost always assume that means you didn't get in. Then you can proceed to #7... and/or #5! But in Europe so far, I've found that it's not that clear. Many companies haven't done call backs, so I've left wondering what happens next. This may just be my experience so far, but it's one that can make me a little crazy.
No matter how it went, what the results appear to be, or how you hope the future will go... it is imperative that you learn to let it go. I write this mostly because I am battling with this most. It's confusing, demoralizing and yes, stressful, to wonder about what happened and re-play the audition over in your brain. There will always be something you wish you'd done or said differently. The only time you won't feel that way will be when you've received a job offer from someone. It's all a matter of your perspective, but there are a few things I've found help with this particularly difficult step:
- Stay away from Facebook. Right now, it's already starting: Everyone is getting their results, which can mean that many of your friends are posting how they've received the offer you were praying you'd get. Just get away from that noise. You may be a confident, mentally strong person already, but that is bound to make you feel a little stressed. Now is not the time to practice gratitude that your friends are succeeding. Just hide your eyes, child.
- On that note, do whatever you can to be proud of your life and STOP COMPARING. It's such a waste of time. Trust the timing of your life and know that your efforts are always going somewhere, will not go to waste, and are a huge part of this career.
- Have normal lives outside of your careers: You know how dating advice always says this? Have hobbies outside your relationship so you can still be a happy person regardless of how that is going? Yeah. Pretty much same rule applies. Don't obsessively check your phone, talk about the details of the date (sorry, audition) with your friends, or give up your other joys in life. Keep it all going, and you will move on to the next opportunity a much happier person.
I hope you enjoyed this amateur post about staying sane, from an amateurishly sane person. I am with you in the trenches my friends! And, ultimately, these stories will make us laugh one day no matter how things turn out. Be proud you are doing what you're doing and enjoy it all as much as you can!