Well, it’s everyone’s favorite season—and not just because everything from your coffee to your cardigan is pumpkin spiced. No, it’s audition season, and so far this year, mine has been non-stop. I am rapidly becoming more familiar with the many highways and byways of the greater New York and Philadelphia areas, and, more importantly, I’m gaining some invaluable experience singing for men and women “in the business.” But what’s most significant is how prepared and comfortable I’ve felt so far this season, and that is a direct result of some of the wonderful skills I’ve acquired while at Westminster. In particular, there are two classes here expressly tailored to professional development that are highlights of the academic curriculum: “The Singing Actor” and “Opera Auditions: Preparations and Techniques.” Related and independent, both courses offer various doors through which students might approach and improve upon everything from their presentation skills to their “package.” Both courses are incidentally taught by my teacher, Professor Laura Brooks Rice, which gives my studio colleagues and me yet another safe and supportive forum to try new things and receive feedback.
One of the best features of the courses is that they can be taken multiple times. I am currently enrolled in the auditions course for the second time, and this is primarily because world-renowned artists and industry professionals visit this class to offer their thoughts and criticisms. Of course, at the end of the day, we’re a results-oriented culture: so I can attest to the fact that these classes get results! At the most basic level, all participants come out with a firmer command of their repertoire, greater self-confidence, and more concrete ideas of their strengths and how to market themselves when auditioning.
In some select instances, as well, the work in the class can lead directly to work in the “real world.” For example, I sang for Neal Goren of Gotham Chamber Opera last year when he was a guest of the auditions class, and that “mock audition” led to a real audition for his company—and a contract for one of his productions this season. I also know that my colleague and friend, Brian Mextorf, who was hired by operamission in New York for their recent production of Antinous and Hadrian, would cite the work he’s done in these classes as a factor in his hiring—and his resounding success in the production! And just last week, another of my close peers and classmates, Rexford Tester, was offered a contract to cover Ernesto in Santa Fe Opera’s production of Don Pasquale as an apprentice this summer (congratulations, RJ!). It goes without saying that Westminster offers students a plethora of varied and valuable performance experiences, but I think it is worth taking note of how equally skilled we are at the “nitty-gritty” work that, ultimately, makes a big difference between a “yes” and a “no.”
Next week: the opera program! Before it gets too far from the event, though, I want to quickly congratulate our director of the opera program, William Hobbs, on a breathtaking recital a few weeks ago. Professor Hobbs is a master of many, many things—but I think it was a real treat for everyone there to see his absolutely superb and inspiring musicality and skill on the piano.