Monday, April 24, 2006

The Audition

A few weeks ago I really got in the mood to sing again. I’ve been in different choirs, choruses, quartets, and other assorted singing groups on and off for years. Not that my interest keeps waning, but rather, I’ve just not been able to find a group that felt like the right fit.

So I looked on Craigslist and saw an ad for a cappella singers. Well, now that’s getting close I thought. So I responded to the ad and began an email exchange with the musical director of a local group looking for singers. The group is all male and sings all styles of music, mostly arranged by group members. Not exactly what I was hoping for. My ideal group would be male/female and would sing nothing but a cappella jazz. But since I didn’t see anything like that, I decided to investigate this group further.

The musical director of the group, Hugh, said the group was open to doing jazz, but didn’t currently have anything in their repertoire that was arranged in a jazz style. Well I could fix that, I thought to myself. I was upfront with him about my ‘dream’ group, but also thought this might be a fun something to do in the meantime; a way to satisfy my desire to sing and perform again. It might also give me exposure to people who want to do jazz.

Hugh suggested I come to one of their rehearsals, to meet the guys, hear their sound, sing with them a little, and see how the personalities matched and such. It sounded very easy, breezy, and laid back, so I said yes. We arranged for me to join them the following Tues.

That’s when I got that terrible sinus infection. So I emailed Hugh and told him I’d gotten sick and could not make it. He was very gracious and told me to rest and get well; that they’d be there when I got better. So two weeks later when I’d finally gotten most of my congestion relieved, I emailed him and told him I was ready to meet everyone. Great – it was set.

When I showed up I met Hugh first, and was briefly introduced to the other 3 guys. Hugh asked me to fill out a little questionnaire, and then when I finished he asked me “So, are you ready for your audition?” Of course I said ‘yes’ even though the truthful answer would have been ‘no’. I mean, I’d warmed up before arriving and had picked two songs to sing, just in case they wanted to hear me solo, but I really didn’t think I’d be “auditioning” that night. I tried not to let on.

The audition started by Hugh asking me to sing something. I’d chosen my favorite audition piece “It Might As Well Be Spring”, a rendition I’d copied from an old Ella Fitzgerald album. Hugh shook his head and simply said “Nice. Very nice.” Then he asked me to sing another piece so I sang “Misty”, my own rendition of the Johnny Mathis classic. Hugh liked that as well. Then he had me sing scales, to get an idea of my range. He seemed quite pleased, which didn’t surprise me. I do have a pretty wide range, especially in the upper register. Then he had me take a deep breathe and sing a sustained note for as long as I could, to test my ability to hold notes for extended periods. He reported to me that among the singers in the room, I was #3 out of 5 for holding the note the longest. That seemed about right. Then we all stood to sing some pieces together. I was handed a notebook with music in it, and I followed along while they sang the first verse of each song. Then I sang along with them the 2nd time through, and then I was asked to sing the solo parts the 3rd time through. Fortunately I was familiar with 3 out the 4 songs, so I really just needed to get the pitches right, since I knew the rhythm and note values. It went pretty well, although I got really lost on one of the pieces and stopped singing completely. But that’s sight-reading. Most people don’t like doing it, and once you’re in the group, you really don’t have to do it often. Once you get your music, you learn it at home. We ended the audition by just talking a bit about ourselves: what we’ve done musically, what we like, etc. Hugh came outside the apartment door with me as I was leaving, thanked me for coming, and said that after they finished talking about me, he’d give me a call in a few days.

As I walked to my car I felt a sense of accomplishment. I’d done it. I’d gone to an audition that I didn’t even realize was going to be an audition, I’d managed not to let my nerves get the better of me, and I’d done a good job. I felt proud of my performance. But oddly, I almost didn’t care. I thought that if they liked my singing, liked my personality, and wanted me in the group, that would be great. But if they didn’t select me – because I was too ‘jazzy’ or too old or too anything – I wouldn’t take it personally, and I probably wouldn’t even be disappointed. (In fact, I thought it might be a relief NOT to be selected, because I found Hugh to be very attractive, and almost a distraction while I sang my solos.) It was an unusual feeling for me to almost not care, because most of the time I’m very one way or the other. I wasn’t familiar with this feeling of ambivalence. I figured it must have been because it really wasn’t my ideal group. I wasn’t nearly as vested in the outcome of this, as I’d have been if the group were a male/female jazz group.

So, of course because I didn’t really care, I got the position. Well, sorta. Actually, when Hugh called me on Thurs he offered me the position as a substitute. See, they want the group to have a duplicate or substitute singer for every voice part so that the group never has to turn down a gig due to somebody’s schedule. The voice part that I sing is already ‘cast’, so they offered me the substitute position.

At first I felt a little funny about it. I mean, its not like I was dying to be in the group to begin with, but then to be offered a substitute position – made me feel a little ‘less than’. When I sang and competed in high school, I was used to being 1st chair, not 2nd chair. Once when I competed for a place in the All-state choir, I scored 299 out of a possible 300 points, tying a statewide record. However, my good friend Kerry’s response to this story put it all in perspective for me. She said it was perfect: I’d be able to satisfy my desire to sing by going to rehearsal once a week and occasionally performing at gigs, but wouldn’t be obliged to go to rehearsal twice a week or to be available for all of the gigs. She was right! Now I’m happier about my ‘substitute’ status.

So tomorrow night I go for my first official rehearsal.

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