Second in a series of audition season posts inspired by a recent re-reading of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
“Few people travel here. There’s no real profit to be made from wandering through it, yet like this high country of the material world all around us, it has its own austere beauty that to some people make the hardships of traveling through it seem worthwhile. In the high country of the mind, one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions.”
We are a small subset of the arts community, we practical people. I know you’re out there… You crave a life in music, but the crazy ambiguity of it all sends you over the edge. Things like the “thin air of uncertainly” and “enormous magnitude of questions” keep you awake at night. And the constant exercise of putting your most vulnerable self out there for dissection and criticism during audition season is the final straw.
What to do? Well first, eliminate all uncertainty where it doesn’t belong. Be compulsive about your travel details, business correspondence, and calendar. Become so comfortable with your audition package arias that you don’t carry around a useless layer of anxiety about memory slips and scary tessituras. Sit quietly and think about which aspects of this audition process cause you the most angst, and then wage war against any of them that are preventable.
And then do the unthinkable. Acknowledge that the hardships of traveling in this “high country” actually are balanced by the beauty that can only be found here. And then look for some of it in the audition room. Make inspired, fierce music in the face of bad acoustics, out-of-tune pianos, sore throats and disinterested panelists. Because, as Phaedrus said of the high country, “There’s no real profit to be made from wandering through it.” The act of spending our days with art is one of its chief rewards. Don’t deny any shred of it to yourself. Even in the audition room :)
First in a series of audition season posts inspired by a recent re-reading of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed… To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to envision getting started in a career in opera as a mountain that begs to be climbed. More like a rock face that needs to be scaled. Complete with periodic slipping and falling,with the rope that saves you being woven only out of solid training and the support of your inner circle.
But doing it with little effort? And without desire?
The effort we’re trying to avoid is the desperate kind. The exhausting effort of trying to move too fast, to be something you’re not, to be motivated by fear.
The audition that avoids desperate effort is one that plays on your current strengths. You don’t need to show us what you think you’ll sing eventually; just deliver the best things you sing now. Control the things you can, and don’t waste effort trying to manipulate the things you can’t.
And oddly enough, a desperate desire to win the audition is one of the things that will surely keep you from reaching your potential. Do your best to tamp down your desire for your dream career, for your dream job; cast it aside in favor of investment in the moment.
The most reassuring part is that the sides of the mountain are where things grow. I’m not really sure that the top – the perceived destination – even really exists. But if it does, it’s not where you want to live your life. Grow, learn, live, and make your music on the path.
This summer, a number of things brought me back to Robert Pirsig’s classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had read it the first time as as college student in 1975, and it was (as it should be) a completely different experience 37 years later.
So, because it’s what speaks to me in this moment (and because I’m not sure that without a new perspective could possibly write a single new useful sentence on auditioning…), here comes a short series of audition season posts inspired by this crazy novel / philosophical odyssey. (Which was originally inspired by Zen in the Art of Archery.) Stay tuned.
Our live recording of the 2011 premiere of The Inspector was available for purchase this past summer at Wolf Trap. And now…. it’s available online at Amazon.com and iTunes!
The recording is a fabulous audio snapshot of the excitement and energy that filled The Barns during the premiere, captured here in NPR Classical’s review:
“I was sitting at the opera last night, laughing out loud (repeatedly) at the world premiere of John Musto’s comedy The Inspector, when a question came to mind: What happened to all the funny operas?…Musto’s score — sparkling, with whiffs of Bernstein and Rota — kept tickling my ear, and librettist Mark Campbell’s witty wordplay kept cracking me up…”
Check it out.
The next two months are audition season, and they are the nerdiest time of the year here at the blog, with plenty of aria trivia and industry advice. New content kicks off next week, but to get you started, a random sampling of some previous audition posts to help you get your head in the game:
This fall, you’ll go through the important and specific motions of the audition game. Some of you will adapt and thrive, and others will never make peace with it. No matter. Because that’s not the point.
The Audition Olympics has its compulsories, too.
Give yourself permission to choose the places where the light seeps in, and be ready to embrace uncertainty.
Fix your resume. Please.
Oh, and fix your pianist’s notebook. Or not, at your peril.
Be efficient and pleasant. Then sing.
This business of making a living in the arts is not for sissies.
The equation. Again.
It starts outside the room.
Put yourself in the Fach Box.
“Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” Not demanding, forcing or coercing, but inviting. Do the work, then receive the guest.
I’m always eager to find a new way to organize my chaotic pre-audition season thoughts. This year’s vehicle comes via Robert Pirsig. Zen and the Art of the Opera Audition starts next week.
I’ve always found that putting two dissimilar things side by side clarifies both of them. And looking back, I realize that most of the good ideas I’ve ever had come from tension between things that appear to war with one another.
Since I believe that incongruous juxtaposition is one of the best ways to inspire creativity, I am enjoying this week, in which my evenings are spent watching Wagner’s *Ring (thank you, PBS) and NBC’s The Voice. The former for obvious reasons. I couldn’t get to New York for the actual Ring cycle, and the chance to see it at home is too good to pass up. The latter… well, you’ll have to go here to find out.
*(The Ring was preceded by Monday night’s broadcast of the Wagner’s Dream documentary about this Ring production by Robert LePage. Fascinating. Informative. Extraordinarily anxiety-provoking. Actually, it made me want to hurl. As a producer, not as an opera lover.)
Well, two separate things (with any luck…), but ones that could co-exist nicely in your weekend.
First, the application deadline for auditions in New York, San Francisco & Seattle is this Sunday. Fair warning; our website server is pretty robust, but it can get cranky around 11:55pm Eastern Time on Sunday. So if you’re thinking of applying, you can probably save yourself some headache by getting it done before the last minute. apps.wolftrapopera.org
And, to keep your spirits up this audition season, you can do no better than enjoy these fruits of the new collaboration between Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City.
Today’s quick post features you having far more fun than I. (Even as you contemplate the fact that THE FIRST APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR NEXT SUMMER IS A WEEK FROM SUNDAY :o) !!)
Today, I am making a dozen possible calendar templates for summer 2013, sucking blood from the budget stone, and updating the code on the application website. (Because THE FIRST APPLICATION DEADLINE IS NEXT SUNDAY…)
You, on the other hand, are watching these lovely new videos by Némesis Zambrano, discovering what it’s like to be a WTOC artist…
A Filene Young Artist’s Summer at Wolf Trap Opera from Wolf Trap Opera Company on Vimeo.
A Studio Artist’s Summer at Wolf Trap Opera from Wolf Trap Opera Company on Vimeo.
… because in case I forgot to mention it, if you want to apply to audition for next summer, THE FIRST DEADLINE (including New York City, people…) IS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9!
Happy Labor Day weekend, folks.
To singers who are considering applying to audition for the 2013 season:
We do not yet know if we will be producing two or three operas in summer 2013. That decision will be made during the October/November audition tour. I wish I had more information for you at this time, but I don’t. If we produce three operas, we’ll probably be able to engage 15-16 Filene Young Artists and the same number of Studio Artists; if we are only able to produce two operas, those numbers will probably be reduced to 12-14.
Final deadline for 2013 season applications is Sunday, September 23! Important links and dates at right.
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