Though these are rarely spoken of, there is a set of rules for good audition etiquette. It can take a long time to learn these by trial and error, so I thought I would lay these rules out clearly to enable people to be cognizant of them and more considerate to their fellow performers.
Keep all advice to yourself
As harsh as this might sound, before an audition is the last time to give advice to any other singer. It is up to each singer to determine in advance what to do the day of an audition. This can include special foods to eat or avoid, supplements or medications, gargling or nasal hygiene, exercise, extra rest, extra hydration, etc., etc. Keeping to a schedule is important for some, whereas others treat an audition day just like a normal day. The crucial thing is to find what works for you. Once you do, any last-minute changes can throw everything off. That is why advice right before an audition is unwelcome. Afterwards, when there is time to experiment, it is fine to make suggestions. But the last thing a singer needs to be thinking when walking on-stage to do an audition is, “I should have tried that menthol steam so-and-so told me about on my sinuses last night.” The singer needs to be focused on the situation and the music.
As a singer, you need to trust in your own experience when preparing for an audition and not be easily swayed. The history of operatic performances is littered with unusual quirks and customs. A famous soprano used to eat hot dogs before every Metropolitan Opera performance. It sounds unorthodox, but it worked for her. If you feel better singing with nothing on your stomach, you are in the camp of many an illustrious singer, so do that. Everyone is different and your unique body needs to be honored.
Don’t expect normal behavior
If you are auditioning with a group of colleagues, let everyone do their own thing the night before an audition. The colleague always up for a beer in the evening might want to forgo it and head to bed at 8 pm. Someone else might stay up late reviewing music. It all depends. Just realize that everyone needs to focus on themselves and you do the same.
If you are dealing with someone else auditioning, give them their space. I remember one audition I did for which I had to fly half-way across the country and stay with hosts the night before. After six hours in airports or airplanes, I was tired by the time I got there and really just wanted to rest. My hosts were delightful people who were fascinated by my being an opera singer, but they did not have any boundaries. I ended up having to talk to them for four hours, when all I could think of was lying down. I was too nice to be firm. Don’t make the same mistake. If someone wants to take over your time before an audition, just explain to them kindly, but firmly that you have a set of important preparations to perform your best and ask for their understanding. If you smile sweetly when you say it, they probably will.
Be considerate of others when warming up
On the day of the audition, you will have to warm up and make sure you are ready to do your best as soon as you walk in to sing the audition. However, you might not have the facilities available to you to do your normal warm-up. A hotel room at 7 am is not the place to spend an extended time warming up, nor is the bathroom at the audition venue. Know your voice and develop a short warm up you can do with humming, lip trills, etc. to help get your voice going. Research ahead of time if there will be a place for you to warm up. If not, rent a practice room and organize your day to include that. If possible, ask the audition organizers for suggestions. By planning ahead, you will be able to make sure that you are as prepared as possible and won’t be warming up during the audition itself.
At the audition
As nice as it would be to chat and have a social hour before the audition, especially if you meet old friends and colleagues, realize that many people don’t want to do that. Some people are happy to chat and then walk directly in to sing, but others need to focus. Make sure to respect the needs of others by keeping talking to a minimum and at a low volume. Remember, the auditioners might also hear you talking, so quiet is best. If you decide to have an extended conversation, take it out of earshot.
Always dress appropriately for an audition! Audition dress doesn’t vary much with the whims of fashion. It is always better to overdress than underdress. Skirts or dresses for women should be longer than the knee and men should wear ties and at least a sports jacket. Wear attractive, comfortable shoes that are polished.
When called in to sing for the audition itself, walk briskly, smile, be pleasant, give you materials to the auditioners and get focused to sing right away. They have lots of singers to hear and you don’t want to waste their time. Try to seem friendly and approachable, while maintaining professional composure. Answer any questions promptly and don’t get defensive. Smile again before leaving and say, “Thank you”.
After the audition, it is best not to hang around. Again, you want to be respectful of your fellow singers. Set up times later to catch up with colleagues and leave the venue quietly, feeling that you have done your very best for now and learning everything you can from the experience.
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