Reading, Comprehension & Smart Questions
The musings continue...

My friend and colleague Cindy Sadler were discussing these things throughout the week.

Cindy is a brilliant artist,  who writes a great blog you need to add to your list HERE.

She also runs a marvelous opera summer program in Austin Texas called Spotlight on Opera.

As she receives applications in the hundreds,  as I receive emails and requests to study and consult,  as we comment on message boards for singers,  we have seen a trend that is pervasive in the business - be it in opera, theatre, film or TV.

There is a distinct divide between those who actually READ and COMPREHEND what they are reading before asking questions,  and those who simply are not doing this basic skill.  There is a huge difference between asking an informed question and asking a stupid question.

I know in my studio,  I tell my singers, when the door is closed, there is no stupid question.  What does that mean?  It means you are in a safe space to query about things that you might not ask anywhere else, so you have the answers you need to navigate the chaos we call the business of show (and the artistic pursuit of your craft!)


I am not sure how reading/comprehension has been lost.  It isn't all of you.  Trust me,  some of you are detail-oriented and are focused and clear.  We love hearing from you!

But, there are enough of you who do not read, comprehend nor follow directions well,  that it is putting you in jeopardy when you apply for programs,  scholarships,  submit for auditions,  etc etc.

Perhaps it is the era of "instant" that is the issue, but it does not give you a free pass.  If you want to be in ANY business you gotta read and COMPREHEND what you are reading so you are responding appropriately.

Read the application.  Thoroughly.  Make a check list if you have to, in order that you have all that is required.

Read the website.  Make sure you UNDERSTAND what is being asked of you.

You have SPELL CHECK.  USE IT.  There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for typos in this day and age.

If you have questions,  make a list and then double check for answers in the application and on the website.  Do not just start emailing questions that can be clearly answered by simply READING AND COMPREHENDING what is already there!

This does not hold you in high esteem.  Asking questions that are easily answered by reading what is there says 1. You are lazy  2.  You are not reading  3.  You are not comprehending what you read  4.  You don't want to do the basic work  5.  You want to be spoon fed  6.  You aren't ready for this application or this business.

Result: you are not taken seriously. AT ALL.  You are dismissed.

Is it in your control?  You bet it is!  If you want to be taken seriously,  earn it.  Just do the work.

The same goes for asking questions.  Ask SMART questions.  Looking "dumb"  does not make you more endearing.  It makes you look like you are not ready!  Time is valuable,  and questions that are asked inappropriately simply will be dismissed.

You either enhance or diminish your reputation with your questions.   What do you prefer?

I believe everything - including question asking - is often done so off-the-cuff,  that the person asking hasn't taken the time to see if the answer is right before him/her.  Not cool.  You MUST comprehend.

Even if the answer is NOT right in front of you - framing that question in a way that will get a proper response is crucial.


Asking a broad question like "How do I get a Broadway show?"  is going to be dismissed out of hand.  Too broad,  too general,  too green.  It reveals that you haven't done ANY research,  and wouldn't be ready for an answer.

 "Do cruise ships pay?"

  What does that reveal?  On the surface, someone who is truly clueless,  and simply hasn't done ANY research and certainly is not ready to even CONSIDER auditioning for anything in the professional world.

How could that question be re-worded?  It depends what the person answering the question is ready to READ AND COMPREHEND.

You have Google at your fingertips.  Do you homework.  Once you have done some preliminary research you might want to formulate the question as "I am looking into cruise line work and would love to know from any of you who have done it what I could expect in salary with little to no experience, should I get an audition."

That would show you have looking into the basics!  This would indicate you are respecting the time of those you are asking.  Anything less is beyond amateur,  beyond irritating, beyond...

You get the point.  I hope.

When you are applying for a program and your application is incomplete,  there is no excuse for that.  You did not read and comprehend.  If the application requires an mp3 of your work under 5 minutes, attached to the application, don't email the company and ask if you can send a YouTube clip link.

If you need THREE letters of recommendation, don't send TWO and wonder why you don't get in.  

You get the idea?

Just follow the bouncing ball.  It's not rocket science.

Read thoroughly.  Comprehend what you are reading.  Follow the instructions. 

As you are comprehending what you are reading,  make notes with any follow up questions.  As you keep reading, perhaps those follow up questions will be answered.

In this day of technology,  there is absolutely NO EXCUSE to not have basic information in hand before ANY question is asked.

This is YOUR decision and YOUR responsibility.  Do not get your back up if you are ignored for asking a question that is easily answered if you just READ and COMPREHEND, or answered curtly and told to do your research first.  That's on YOU.  Take responsibility for YOUR career development.

Being green is no excuse for being lazy.  No one is going to spoon feed you in this business.

Your reputation depends on your ability to BE smart and ACT smart.  The simple task of reading, comprehending, and putting that into action to then facilitate smart questions is the beginning of discovering where you can be!  If this simple task is not taken seriously,  you don't have a chance.

Where do you start?









(did you read and comprehend all of these???? GOOD!)

If you want a career,  it's up to you,  not up to someone else.

There are people out there who are just as talented,  who will do the work.  It's a simple CHOICE. 

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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