The audition interview is frequently overlooked by singers trying to make a good impression. Vocal programs tend to be small, and the faculty will be making a big investment of time and energy in every student they admit. They are wondering if you are good natured and malleable, and are very much on the lookout for any warning signs, or “red flags” as to your personality. One bad apple in a department can have a highly toxic effect. So what are some potential red flags? Any behavior or attitude that would indicate that you are one of the dreaded character types – the Diva, the Backstabber, the Sloth, the Know-It-All, and the Basket Case.
The Diva: It’s certainly important to appear confident, and Lord knows we all need a healthy ego to survive this business. However, “The Diva” takes this to an extreme, and comes off in the interview as a little TOO impressed with their own overall awesomeness. The Diva, who can be male or female by the way, is simply a narcissistic singer, who feels that the world revolves around them. This singer feels that they are naturally entitled to preferential treatment, extra time, lead roles, etc. Such a “diva” type can cause a great deal of headache for their teacher, stage director, and colleagues. In their minds, all of these are just supporting players, and it’s really “all about me”.
The Backstabber: A singer who comes off as overly intense and competitive in their interview may prove to be a poor colleague or a “backstabber”. The arts, and any other enterprise for that matter, are just a lot more fun when folks can work together collegially.
The Sloth: On the other hand, a singer who is TOO laid back and nonchalant may not have the level of discipline and preparation that top programs require. There are always talented students who can’t be bothered to practice, and their lack of preparation will frequently take a toll on their colleagues and fellow cast members, who end up picking up the slack.
The Know-it-All: If you appear argumentative, don’t respond well to constructive criticism, or are over-the-top in showing off your knowledge to the committee, you may come off as a know-it-all. This is typically a student who has had a lot of success in their academic subjects. They simply don’t realize that singing isn’t purely a cerebral exercise. Great performers do not achieve greatness merely by understanding the concepts in a theoretical way from a book. They spend countless hours practicing and learning to embody the concepts. They trust their teachers, and let the teachers help them. Not so with the know-it-all. This singer already knows everything – and isn’t afraid to tell you so. Obviously, the can be rather aggravating for this singer’s teachers, and rarely do singers with this attitude develop their talent to any significant extent.
The Basket Case: Finally, there is the emotionally unstable singer, incapable of hearing even the gentlest criticism without being reduced to tears. Singing involves breathing and emotion. Let’s face it – performing is a highly vulnerable and exposed activity. As we learn the craft of singing, we learn to release patterns of tension and holding in our bodies – patterns that are often associated with deep seated emotions. To effectively portray other characters, we must learn to cultivate a kind of empathy, an emotional flexibility within us. Not all students can handle this. A student who might be able to hold it together in an economics or chemistry class may have a very different reaction in the voice studio or on stage. We all come from different backgrounds, and each of us brings our own unique set of emotional baggage and trauma with us into our adult lives. However, it’s important to work through these issues, in therapy or elsewhere, so they don’t hamper our work in the studio. Working with an emotionally unstable singer can be very challenging for a voice teacher, who is all too frequently called upon to “play therapist”.
As cliche as it sounds, the best approach to audition interviews is to "just be yourself". Too often, singers come off their worst when they are overcompensating, or “trying to hard”. Do some thinking in advance about your goals and aspirations, and be prepared to articulate with conviction why you have chosen this particular course of study. And, whatever you do, try to avoid raising any of the aforementioned red flags!
Vocal Audition Advantage (VAA)
Helping young classical and musical theater singers develop their talent and polish their craft.