Not A Perfect Audition

by Elliott Hines, M.M. Voice

Greetings and congratulations on your invitation to a live audition!  Your hard work has already begun to pay off and you should be excited about the opportunity to get up and perform the music that you love.

That being said, sometimes you get up to perform the music you love and you bring dishonor and shame to the composer who wrote it, and possibly your family, friends, and neighbors. ;D

My name is Elliott Hines and I am a first year M.M. Voice student studying with Ms. Edith Wiens and a native of Houston, TX.  The majority of my undergrad experience was very extensive in choral and early music.  Coming to Juilliard was, and has been, an exciting opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone which, in effect, has pushed me to be even better than I thought I could be.

My Juilliard audition was my very last audition.  This was right during tech week of the opera at Oberlin and I had just sung another audition two days before.  I was…exhausted.  There would be no tears shed for the end of traipsing across the country and figuring out creative ways to keep my suit unwrinkled in my carry-on bag.  Nevertheless, I was very excited about this audition and had prepared the LARGE repertoire list to the best of my ability.

The morning of my audition, I met with the wonderful collaborative pianist who would be playing my audition (ADVICE: If Juilliard says, “You can meet with your pianist beforehand”, DO IT. PAY THE 30 DOLLARS AND DO IT. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT).  I brought him a separate binder with all my music, double sided, no bass notes chopped off, and clean.  We spent about 30 minutes just setting tempi for the 9 pieces and, more specifically, working out the fancy fireworks I was going to do on my Handel aria, should they pick it.   Now I was just ready to go and sing my face off and get into Juilliard!

Most of the other guys around were super friendly and supportive of one another, which was great.  I got out on stage an opened with Duparc “Le Manoir de Rosemonde” which went splendidly.  They then asked for Grieg “Zur Rosenzeit” which went ever better!  I had done my 2 pieces and if I didn’t get it, then at least I know I had sung well!

The panel began to speak amongst each other and was debating a 3rd piece for me to sing: a Stravinsky aria or an obscure Handel aria.  They decided on the Handel after me describing the aria to them.  This is where I started to sound TERRIBLE.

I got way too excited about this aria and was pushing it way too fast for me to sing.  There was a point where my voice was singing but I was not present in my body and I just knew that the sounds coming out were BAD.  I was singing super pushed, not singing HALF of the coloratura notes, and couldn’t breath. I stopped, nervously laughed out loud and asked, “Can I try that again?!”

Awkward….

Thinking that the restart would help me get back in it, I only sounded worse and worse. I missed ALL of the cadenzas that I had so carefully planned with the pianist out of sheer nervousness, I cracked a couple of times, and acting…not even in existence.  There was NO WAY I was getting in.

The thing to remember though is that the audition panel UNDERSTANDS.  They have all been there. They are all human and have had bad days and performances, too.  It doesn’t make you a bad artist or a bad person or mean that you didn’t work hard enough.  As important as those 15 minutes are, and as important as it is to do your very best and present yourself in the best way possible, mistakes happen and IT’S OKAY.  You’re auditioning to come to SCHOOL and LEARN, and they want to help you.  If your audition isn’t perfect, PLEASE trust that they see your POTENTIAL and not your hiccups.

My advice:

  1. Do music you love.
  2. Be completely prepared
  3. Rehearse with your pianist beforehand and bring nice copies of your music.  You will not regret it.
  4. Be nice to the people around you!  You’re all in the same boat just trying to do your best.  Support each other.