Failure Is a State of Mind

Well, I just received word that I didn’t make the study cover program for AZ Opera for this season.  I’m disappointed, to be sure, but I just read my blog post from yesterday which stated I would not feel less about myself if I didn’t make the cut.  Hmm…sort of feeling unworthy right now, but did I expect to simply have everything magically work?  I guess not, but it sure would be nice.

Funny, when I was running down the whole scenario (i.e., lamenting) to my husband this evening, I said, “Just when things were going so well!”  He replied, “Things ARE going so well.  This is just a little bump in the road that you didn’t even have planned.  You just auditioned for a major regional opera company on 30-minutes notice!”

I guess that’s true.  At this point a year ago, I had just finished the second recital of my life, the first being about something-something years ago, in which I forgot all the German text and literally German scatted through the whole thing.  This month, I have three concerts–one as an invited guest and two paying full concerts–that’s pretty good.

Tomorrow, I have a voice lesson and my opera scenes class, so the the world really does keep turning.  I now have to decide if I’m going to make the most of these experiences or cave into self pity and insecurity.  I choose not to fail!

Hope for Tomorrow

This evening, my husband and I went out on “date night” to hear the Phoenix Symphony and pianist, Gabriela Montero from Venezuela, play a bit of Gershwin and Porgy and Bess.  They played in Symphony Hall, of course–the same location (currently) of Arizona Opera.  It was the strangest feeling to walk into Symphony Hall (run actually, because we were very late) and contemplate the possibility of rehearsing right there in another month if I am lucky enough to have placed in the study cover program.  Perhaps I’m just a bit melodramatic, I’m afraid that it’s the opera singer in me, but how amazingly cool!

I suppose it’s best not to dwell on hope because you’re most likely to get disappointed.  However, simply thinking about possibility brings me joy right now.  It also helps to think about all the musicians up on the stage in human terms, “Hmmm…not a good choice for performance attire.  He sounds as if he’s using a large bore trumpet.  Did that bassoonist really just use a mute?!  Do those even exist? Wow. Beautiful glissando.  Whoah. A bit heavy handed on that phrase.” Etc. etc.

I do think it’s important, though, to visualize possibility as reality not YET actualized.

Indeed, there was a time when I adored graduate students and professors.  Adored, as in worshiped in awe.  I thought that they must be so dedicated to understanding Truth (capital T) and amazingly smart.  I couldn’t imagine being in the upper echelon like them.  Here it is almost exactly eight years since I completed my doctorate, and I’m quite disappointed to realize that it’s not all that impressive.  It’s simply hard work.  You pay your dues (and your tuition), take the classes, write about a hundred papers, read about a thousand books, talk people’s ears off, and there you go.  Certainly, you must have a certain level of skill and knowledge, but in the end, winners are those who work hard.

So, I’m trying to remind myself that assuming I have an adequate skill and knowledge base, which I do now believe I have, then it’s all up to dedication and work ethic.  This is a good thing because if there’s one thing that grad school taught me, it’s that I can slog through grunt work like nobody’s business. I’m also trying to remember that if this particular opportunity doesn’t pan out, I didn’t even know about it before Thursday, and up until that point, I was quite content with the trajectory of my performance career.  I have lots of balls in the air with two upcoming concerts and a couple of upcoming recitals, regular rehearsals now with a great voice teacher, wonderful opera coach, and two excellent associate musicians, and participation in a new university opera scenes class.  Life will continue regardless.

I read a great (and appropriate) quote today at, of all places, Wildflower Bakery & Cafe when I was having lunch with my daughter while shopping:

“Learn from yesterday.  Live for today.  Hope for tomorrow.” ~Albert Einstein

Here’s to hoping for tomorrow, my friends!

World Keeps Turnin’

Yesterday, I was on top of the world!  I had the guts to audition for a program that sounded very cool on no notice, my kids and hubby were very proud of me taking a risk, and I also received much needed affirmation of my skill by getting a call-back audition for today.  After the experience of the call-back audition, the difficulty is that the world just keeps turning.  Please, allow me to elaborate.

Last night was a frenzy of me taking a crash course in the upcoming operas that the cover study program would include in the spring–Orpheo ed Euridice and Aida.  I was somewhat familiar with the stories, and it helps that all opera stories are similar in most ways–unrequited love, betrayal, hatred, death, and drama to the extreme in all cases.  Anyway, then came the character/role assessment.  I mean, yesterday I auditioned for roles I’ve never even looked at for Pete’s sake!  I basically asked someone in the corridor what roles were closest to a coloratura fach (specific voice type, which is mine) and trusted that she was correct!  As it turns out, no roles in either opera are for a coloratura, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Then, I spent an hour on the phone with a dear friend who picked apart my résumé and head shot and basically revised everything from what I included to the font color, arguing over whether cream colored paper was appropriate and if I could add my name to the head shot.  Details!  (Seriously, I wonder whether Joan Sutherland ever did this?)  Ok.  Finally bed time, and I’m exhausted…except that I can’t sleep.  I am not an insomniac, but I swear that last night I woke up every hour on the hour until it was time to get ready for taking my children to school and teach kindergartners for three hours.  Right.  Put a bit of extra espresso in the Moka pot this morning.

I went to school and sort of taught, but couldn’t keep my mind on anything except the audition.  Then, I raced to the university to get any feedback I could from yesterday’s faculty judges.  Got it.  Ok…beautiful voice, great coloratura, but you seem to conduct yourself like you’re in a band.  Ugh.  I know.  I’m trying to correct it, but what can I say?  I’m a music teacher.  I conduct my husband’s snores in my sleep!  Crimine!  Ok…accept feedback in grateful way, and absorb the message.

Then, I had to run to the store to pick up new prints of my head shots.  The man at the counter selected his favorite as my least favorite, so then I had to ruminate over my choice for the next hour.  Next, I went home to correct and print out my resume and bio and get dressed.  Resume and bio work fine…good!  I begin getting dressed and realize I have multiple runs in the nylons I selected and my freshly dry-cleaned dress has a spot on the front from the cleaner!  Argh!  I decide nylons don’t matter, especially since it means that they make my feet slide in my shoes anyway, and I use spot-cleaner and a hair dryer to take care of the dress; no time for changing the whole line-up at this point in the game.

I take off from my house only 10 minutes later than I’d planned only to get stuck on the highway due to an accident.  Ack!  However, I played AC/DC all the way, so I sped and made up time on the road.  Parking spots were plentiful, and I sent a prayer up that no parking attendant would notice that I hadn’t put one dime into the meter because I was fresh out of coins.  I’m actually 10 minutes early!  Yay for me!

I get to the audition space and realize that everyone’s already there.  Whoah.  Is this normal?  I thought I was doing well.  Anyway, everyone’s prepared or preparing, but I feel good that I don’t look as panicked as some.  If you’ve never been to an audition area before, it is truly a sight.  People do the weirdest things, and the weirdest part about that is no one finds it weird.  Know what I mean?  People talk to themselves, do yoga, stare absently into space to “get into character,’ change from sweats into gowns and back in the blink of an eye, and even have attendants for support.  Then, they all vie for the next spot in the audition line-up because otherwise they will vomit, pee, or pass out from nerves.  It’s all quite interesting actually, if you can detach yourself from the situation.  One girl had a plane to catch, so she had been given the privilege of going first.  After that, all bets were off.  Since I have the advantage of a degree in psychology, I thought to myself, “I should go last.  They will remember me…for better or worse.”  So, I volunteered to go last.  It’s good to be last, too, because you get to hear everyone, which is quite educational, as long as you can breathe through the anxiety, which is quite difficult.

Lots of lyric sopranos and mezzos later…

It was finally my turn.  I was going to walk in front of people from AZ Opera, give them my materials, and audition.  People don’t typically get this opportunity unless they’re under management!  Carpe diem!

I tried my best to get into the character of the Queen of the Night–furious, insane, powerful!  I sang my heart out making sure NOT to conduct myself, but to be focused on rage.  Two minutes, fourty-three seconds later, I’m done.  Then, I have to try to stuff all of those emotions into a bottle quickly in order to smile and thank my accompanist and judging panel.  It’s very discombobulating…kind of like using smelling salts.  The judges say, “Thank you.”  That’s all.  Thank you.  I’m expected to walk out without any more feedback or comment.  So, I do, and it’s over.  I’m told that the company will be back in touch probably within a week or so.  A week or so?!  Now, what do I do?!

Now, I have to go back about my business.  “The world keeps turnin’. Oh, what a day.  What a day, what a day!”

Perhaps once I’ve done this about thirty-seven million times, I’ll be able to turn the switch on and off.  Right now, though, I’m obsessing about the results, having residual character emotions, and feeling life to be mundane.  What the…?!  I’m hoping that a good night’s rest and shopping on a Saturday will help.  Shoes are always a good bet.

So, there you have it.  Pretty good audition.  Fairly normal life.  Absolutely confused and tired singer.  ‘Til tomorrow, my friends!

When Opportunity Knocks, You Open the Door

Wow.  What an extraordinary day!  I am exhausted and in much need of sleep, so brevity will be key in this story…

Today was much like any other day, except that I enrolled in an opera scenes rehearsal course at the university and attended our first meeting of the semester this afternoon at 3 o’clock.  After the faculty finished briefing us on the expectations for rehearsals and the class, the director casually reminded everyone that auditions for the study cover program for the spring productions of the large opera company in Phoenix–Arizona Opera–were at 4.  (You see, everyone in the course is enrolled in a graduate program in voice at ASU, except me, and had received notice about the audition.  Well, technically that’s not true.  I have, for the purposes of the course, enrolled as a non-degree graduate student.  But, suffice it to say that I’m not “in the loop.”)

After the announcement, I think to myself, “Pfew! I bet people are nervous waiting around right now for such a cool opportunity!”  Then, I realize, “Wait a second.  This could be my opportunity.”  Then…hot flash, throat-gripping anxiety, need to vomit, have to pee, can’t breathe…and back on planet Earth. What followed was an argument between me, myself, and I.

Me: “We have to audition!”

Myself: “There’s no way we’re auditioning; we’re totally unprepared and haven’t spent nearly enough time agonizing over it.”

I: “We’re not going out there, are we?”

Me: “Of course we are! Would Rosie sit this one out?!”

Myself: “Well, Rosie hasn’t studied the roles and operas for the audition.  She doesn’t know dates, places, nor composers. She has done any character analysis or emotional imagery.  She’s not prepared at all.”

I: “I think we’re going to pass out.”

Me: “I’m raising our hand to see if we can audition.”

As it turned out, I happened to have my handy-dandy audition binder with me thanks to seeing the “big girls” carry one around at a competition in the spring that I was fairly unprepared for, and Rosie won.

So, I auditioned with a dozen other hopefuls.  They were really good, and I went last, so I should know.  When I came out, I wasn’t dressed appropriately, having come straight from teaching middle-school band, and I hadn’t taken care of my voice that day, having rehearsed, talked, and taught all day.  Somehow, I still managed to seem composed enough (I think) to recall the roles that were appropriate to audition for and greet the judging panel.  And I didn’t burp, hiccup, giggle, or come out with toilet paper on my shoe as I walked to the front, so I was already ahead of the game.

I decided to sing my favorite aria, the Queen of the Night’s famous, “Der Holle Rache.” It’s always a crowd-pleaser, assuming you can sing it well.  As I got into the fun, yet killer, runs of coloratura, I was so happy that my Fs were pinging off the walls that I went to my Happy Place and flubbed the words in one measure.  Then, I winked, yes winked, at the judges acknowledging my mistake and bravely going on because I was actually having fun!  I have no idea who took over my body.  I finished the aria with dramatic aplomb (i.e., I waved my arms a little bit).  At least I’d like to imagine that I was the Queen at least for those three minutes.

I left wondering if I’d just done a good job or made a mistake by auditioning too soon.  (I have very little audition experience, in case you hadn’t guessed.)

Well, it turns out that I did something right because I got a call-back for an audition again tomorrow at 4pm!  Tomorrow, though, I’ll make sure to show up with resume, head shot, and high heels.  Send positive energy this way, please!

I guess brevity isn’t my strong suit…