Saturday musings after reading some heated exchanges online...
What about THAT ROOM? That room that you enter as a singer for an audition, or for that first or second round as a competitor?
THAT ROOM that those who have been asked to "judge" are sitting at a table waiting to hear you?
As someone who has frequented both sides of that table lo these many years (!), it is a fascinating observation.
Too often, when nervous, when unsure, our defenses go up and our egos take over as the adrenaline kicks in. We often over-think, over-analyze, over-criticize ourselves and possibly others, as well as just hyper-extend our energy beyond what is necessary.
So, what about THAT ROOM for the singer?
First and foremost: BREATHE. Nobody is there unless you have decided to be there. The pianist isn't going to play for a ghost. The adjudicators, audition panel wouldn't be there unless you had shown up. Nobody is out to get you. Everybody is there because YOU are.
Be present. In your body. In your breath. In each step you take and each observation you make.
If you are prepared you will have practiced the entire process. You know how to walk; you know how to talk; you know how to smile; you know how to speak with the pianist; you know how to prepare to sing in that moment.
However, it is a surreal moment and it's THAT ROOM. It can be nerve-wracking, it can be intimidating, it can start "those voices", it can create anxiety, questions, and panic.
BUT, it doesn't have to!
Those people at the table have been where you are. They are on your side. In the moment, you cannot judge nor pledge their behavior. All you can do is be present in YOUR energy and bring that in. As soon as you start questioning THEM ("do they like me?" "why did they not look up?" "why is that person frowning?" "why did they look at me like that?") you are not aware of YOU.
"Self-centered" truly must be taken seriously here in a positive way. Center yourself. You are not going to know what they think, what they know, what they want, and I am going to tell you a little secret: IT DOES NOT MATTER.
All that matters is that you are doing YOU. Authentically YOU. Real YOU. Not what you think they want, but what you DO and who you ARE.
You have no control over what they do, what they know, what they are looking for. You DO have control over YOU. Knowledge is power. You know you, so DO you!
What you sometimes DO NOT know is someone on the panel may need to pee. Someone may have low blood sugar. Someone may have had a disagreement with a colleague on the panel prior to you walking in; Someone may be overwhelmed; Someone may just have resting bitch face even better than yours when they concentrate and listen!
The competition and the audition is a giant puzzle. A panel is there to try to find pieces that fit together. It isn't easy, and it can cause fatigue, frustration & and more.
What you see or what you do not see, on the faces of the panel, really doesn't matter if you are doing YOU!
Sometimes people need to snack or eat or sip their coffee. God knows, I need my coffee if I am going to be doing a full day of adjudication or auditions. You bring your water in, and your panel probably needs to bring their coffee or tea or water too. If their day is insanely busy - they need a pee break! You want their attention, so don't take it personally if they excuse themselves for a few minutes to use the bathroom, or fill up their coffee mug. You want them fresh and accessible.
I always encourage singers to sit in if possible on some auditions to allow them to see things and experience things from the other side of the table. It can be an eye-opening experience and isn't just about "being good enough". So many facets and pieces play into decisions made from that table.
Ultimately, those of us sitting at that table are rooting for you! We want your best! We want you to succeed! We want to encourage and give constructive criticism for you to walk away with some information that can be helpful and allow you to continue to grow! Remember, we are simply another set of ears, hopefully informed, and another professional opinion.
Opinion. Not gospel truth. Nobody has a monopoly on that!
We hope it is an informed opinion and decision that has relevance to the level of whatever audition or competition you are there for.
We, when sitting at the table, must remember and conjure what it felt like to be that singer in THAT ROOM. We have to take control of the situation if it needs an adjustment so we are comfortable, and that the SINGER is comfortable. This is not an opportunity to belittle, to have an ego-attack, to go into passive-aggressive mode or to play politics or head games.
Those of us who sit at that table in that room have a great responsibility to teach; to inform; to encourage; to reveal truth; to LEAN FORWARD and create safety and energy that a singer can feed off of and give us their best work in that moment on that day.
We deserve respect on each side of that table. We should show respect from each side of that table.
THAT ROOM is filled with possibility, and no matter which side we are currently on, we can choose to make it a moment that means something real, or not.
Negative knee-jerk reactions have no place in THAT ROOM; from either side of that table.
I remember being told a young singer said "she hates me" after I had given her adjudication. She didn't win, so her feelings were hurt. However, I chose to address it publicly as an overall observation: I cannot hate you, because I don't know you at all. Not winning/not getting a callback/not getting the role doesn't mean more than you didn't win, you didn't get the callback, you didn't get the role. If you are only concerned about whether someone who doesn't know you, hates you or likes you, then you aren't doing YOU while you are performing or auditioning. You are not staying present in what you say you were prepared to DO.
Just as the singer must be present, so must the panel sitting at the table. If they are tired, grouchy, crabby, hungry, needing to pee - then they must take control of the situation and take 5 minutes to re-balance in order to be fully present to hear the singer who walks in next.
Simply saying "My apologies, my blood sugar is taking a nose-dive and I have to take 3 minutes to chew some food" to a singer will NOT send you to hell! In fact, a singer recognizes you as HUMAN. What a concept THAT is!
THAT ROOM may be surreal but it's filled with many complex human beings. Recognizing and honoring those complexities and respecting them and the process of being there would save us all a little angst, a little grief, and a little panic!
THAT ROOM is created by YOU. Honor it, don't despise it!
Take the process seriously and learn how to giggle at yourself; It adds a little more joy into how you got there in the first place!
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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