Imagine living in a state of a perpetual interview process. This is what it feels like to be a singer.
We are on a constant treadmill of applications and auditions. We travel far and wide to put on a fancy dress, floof our hair, and bare our souls for people from whom we have not even gotten a handshake. By the time our eyes have adjusted to the light in the room, it’s all over.
And then we wait. I can’t be alone in indulging the daydreams about favorable outcomes. I spend the next few days imagining what the gig would be like. Half the time I never hear back one or the other. I do my best at optimism for a while (maybe six weeks of silence mean I won the competition!) and then try to distract myself by some other blind hope.
When the rejections do come, and they do, I have identified three responses to the gut dropping disappointment. Other singers can tell me if I’m wrong, but I suspect they are universal.
- The ontological flaw: This rejection must be because there is something fundamentally wrong with me as a human being.
- Transference: Whatever is my deepest insecurity is clearly the cause of this latest failure. I’m ugly, my parents didn’t love me enough, I didn’t work hard enough in grade school, I’m an imposter, I don’t work hard enough, etc. In truth, this is no more preposterous than some of the actual reasons for casting decisions, such as hair color.
- The obvious: I have a f**king ugly voice that no one f**king wants to listen to and everyone f**king knows it.
Obviously we singers have a healthy inner monologue. Most of the time I am at peace with the life I signed up for, this combination of branding and art and business and grit. But today I am feeling a little down in the mouth about it, and I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this before.
So if you have a singer in your life, give her a hug today. If the singer is a guy, he gets ten times as much work as female singers because there are ten times fewer male singers, so you can slap him in the back of the head for me if he complains. No, seriously, tenors and basses need hugs too.
As I have said before, as a lyric soprano of average height I often feel like the only way to catch an audition panel’s eye is to spontaneously combust. For now I am focused not on bursting into flames but keeping the fire burning.
Paul Murray says
Thanks for sharing this. The visceral responses to rejection are not limited to singers, even though “the obvious” may be sculpted that way. I would even add a fourth response, which would be “resentment.” We begin to resent the people who reject us, along with our colleagues who got the job. Resentments can destroy the best of us.
Nobody ever told us that being artists was easy, nor did they tell us that it would be difficult at times.
So right. I was sort of ignoring that one in an effort to keep it light, but it’s really true. Because I have so many wonderful friends in this business, I can usually muster genuine happiness for them when they succeed because they are so dear to me. But there is always the envy. I have a really hard time going to shows that I auditioned for and wasn’t cast in, and that shames me.
As an actor, I can say that my reactions to the audition process are the exact same (including the sad but inevitable resentment in the above comment). It’s a pity but I chose it to be both my burden and my joy so I guess I have to accept both. Am now hugging myself as there is no one else around to do the job.
Aw! Consider yourself virtually hugged, if that helps. It’s so hard, isn’t it? But there is great joy in it too, as you say.