Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Day At The Office


Once upon a time, I was a young and enthusiastic opera singer.  I embraced the opera world fully.
Even auditioning.  I'd truck up to New York, my bag filled with high heels, makeup, fancy dresses, rhinestone jewelry, binders, resumes, maybe a granola bar.  And water.  Always water.  It was an exciting time for me.  I was well-prepared and my resume was spit spot perfect.  Didn't have much on it, but it was perfect.  More about that perfection problem later.

However, there was one area where I was woefully, inadequately, unbelievably, how-did-this-happen prepared - my mental attitude.

You see, at first, I did most auditions on a lark.  I really didn't think I stood a chance (this is where a lack of self-awareness can be dangerously helpful), so I'd bust into the room without a care in the world, sing my aria and just be thrilled that I was singing an audition in the Big Apple.  This attitude actually worked beautifully for me.  Without even trying, I had found the ideal level of "don't careness".  Hence, the music would shine through.  I got lots of interest and quite a few jobs.


Yup, that's me.  Singing Sandman in Hansel & Gretel with Tulsa Opera.  Just a few years ago.

That success made me care more.  Once you get to sit at the big girl's table, you don't want to leave.  In caring more, I made a huge mistake.  I started to wrap my own self-esteem into each audition experience until every audition became a do or die proposition.  Do an audition.  Die until they call you.  Die when they don't call you.  Spend weeks getting over the disappointment.  Repeat.

Then, one day, I was walking down 7th Avenue, headed to an audition, when I ran into the husband of a colleague.  Tim was further along in his career than I was in mine.  He had sung leading roles in both the US and Europe. People in the business knew Tim and his work. I knew him as Jody's husband.

Like a little puppy dog, I said hello. Everything about me oozed inexperience and naivete.  I asked Tim what he was doing in New York and he said he also had an audition.

"Are you nervous?" I asked,  assuming I'd find a comrade for my nervous state.

"Na," he said.  "It's a day at the office.  See you later.  Oh - toi toi toi."

And he crossed the street.

A day at the office.  Those words hit me like a bullet to the forehead.  Wow.  Even though I was in the early years of my career, I could tell that attitude was important.

You see, for Tim, auditioning was something he did all the time.  He didn't wait for the feedback, the phone call, the email before he went to the next audition.  He did an audition, walked out of the room and moved on to the next one.

It took me years to cultivate this attitude.  I still fail sometimes.  But I always return to Tim's words.

A day at the office.


Still me. Still singing. More recently.This time Messiah with the Bach and Handel Society of Jim Thorpe, PA.

5 comments:

Jean McDonald said...

Love this! Are you listening performers??

Heidi Hayes said...

Thank you, Jean!

Anonymous said...

I'm all in favor of losing the butterflies in all aspects of life! BUT I think there must be a middle ground - a day at the office kind of implies a lack of caring, doesn't it? I think you have to care about it on some level, or your audition comes across as "a day at the office", doesn't it? Cynthia P.S. LOVE all the pics, including the new one at the top!

Heidi Hayes said...

Absolutely, Cynthia. Finding the middle ground of investing/caring is ccrucial.That said, I find most performing artists care too much or in the wrong way. There is also a tendency to minimize the importance of auditioning. Recognizing that auditioning is a necessary part of the regular business of being a singer (aka a day at the office) can be very helpful.

Heidi (who is responding while sitting in an audition waiting room)

Heidi Hayes said...

Oh! Top photo is Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Columbia. Glad you like it!