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What to Do After a Bad Audition

We’ve all had them, and we all hate them. Bad auditions can be difficult to handle; high expectations or even a basic need for the gig can make the stakes incredibly high for the audition. Coming down from that high so quickly can be hard. With the help of Scmopera and Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More, we've come up with a list of how to look at these bad auditions in a healthy way, how to take care of oneself, and how to keep pushing forward.

1. Let your emotions wash over you.

It’s okay to feel disappointed, sad, angry, or dejected. Whatever the feeling, let it wash over you. Feel it fully. Process through what just happened. Figure out why you feel the way you do. Be honest with yourself. Let yourself cry if you need to, or write down your feelings in a journal. If we don’t let ourselves experience the emotion, we will never be able to fully let it go. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to move forward.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Yes, we as musicians tend to be hypercritical – we live off of criticism and ways to improve. An audition panel does not get the opportunity to see all the ways we have gotten better; they only get the tip of the iceberg. As the anonymous writer of “Audition Season or the Annual Festival of Shattered Dreams” points out, we are also only seeing the tip of the iceberg for the audition panel. Give yourself some credit! In a lot of cases, it’s an honor to be chosen to audition at all, and casting may not have had as much to do with our skill level as it did with finding the right cast energy as a whole. And after all of that, you are still the same talented, hard-working, wonderful musician coming out of that audition as you were when you went in. At least you went in there and did the thing! Good for you! Now, it’s incredibly important to do the following:

3. Detach from the audition.

It’s so easy to perseverate on the details of what happened in an audition. We can drive ourselves, and those around us, crazy by reliving those ten minutes repeatedly. It’s okay to feel a certain way about how things went, but now it is a matter of how long you want to live in those feelings. This is also not to say you don’t love singing – of course you do! Melody Beattie brilliantly describes detachment as “releasing, or detaching from, a person or problem in love. We mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically disengage ourselves from unhealthy (and frequently painful) entanglements…and from problems we cannot solve.” This does not mean we have sworn off singing, it simply means we choose to remove ourselves so we can cultivate a positive relationship toward our craft. Once you have detached yourself from the audition, you will be free to make healthy choices.

4. Do what you can to relax.

Beattie says, “Do whatever you need to do (that is not self- or other-destructive) to help yourself relax.” This can be different for many people. Some need to take a bubble bath while some need to blow off steam at the gym. Others need a night out with friends to laugh and have fun. Either way, find what works for you to get yourself calm and peaceful once again. The next step requires you to re-frame your thinking and be grounded in your self-worth, so be sure you have done so before delving into anything you may not be ready for.

5. Examine the audition.

If you begin to feel anxious, sad, or dejected again, save this until later. Only when you are calm and can look at the situation objectively should you begin to look at how to improve. Maybe you had to recover from some forgotten words, or you skipped ahead a few bars and your accompanist had to catch up. Either way, you lived to see the end and did the best you could, given the circumstances. Maybe for the next audition, you would like to try to portray your character differently or try something new with your outfit. Either way, this is a good time to figure out how to move forward. And always refer back to #2 (Don't be too hard on yourself) when examining the audition!

6. Love yourself.

This quote from Codependent No More is something we should all remember:

“We don’t have to take rejection as a reflection of our self-worth. If somebody who is important (or even someone unimportant) to you rejects you or your choices, you are still real, and you are still worth every bit as much as you would be if you had not been rejected. Feel any feelings that go with rejection; talk about your thoughts; but don’t forfeit your self-esteem to another’s disapproval or rejection of who you are or what you have done. Even if the most important person in your world rejects you, you are still real, and you are still okay. If you have done something inappropriate or you need to solve a problem or change a behavior, then take appropriate steps to take care of yourself. But don’t reject yourself, and don’t give so much power to other people’s rejection of you.”

As singers, we have to face rejection far more than people in other professions. We must learn it is part of the process, and each rejection leads us closer and closer to a "yes." This yes may not come in the way we expect. We have seen many colleagues who received many "no"s from several companies, then changed the direction of their career and found their niche in another field of music. If you decide to leave this career, that's okay. There are countless other ways to stay involved in the opera world outside of performing! Whatever happens, you are still a unique, beautiful, and wonderful person, and no rejection letter should make you feel otherwise. Easier said than done, we know. Whatever happens, always make sure you take care of yourself first.

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