Tag Archives: wolf trap opera

Gone fishin’.

This little corner of the internet has been pretty quiet this spring. I’d apologize, but it’d sound disingenuous as I’m about to head into my busy professional season, and there’s little chance that I’ll redeem myself over the summer months. If you’re interested as to what I’m doing, please check my colleague’s blog here.

Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this September. Enjoy your summers!

Tagged , ,

Auditioning for a New Administrator.

Auditioning for a New Administrator.

My colleague Kim and I are so excited to announce that we’re hiring!

We’re looking for a Manager, Artistic Operations: the job will have a mix of duties, some supervisory, some nuts-and-bolts. We’re a small department, so we’re looking for a trustworthy personality who works well with us and can learn the ropes quickly. I have to say (and I’m obviously biased, since summer 2014 will be my 9th summer with the company) that it’s a great place to work. Interesting projects, good people…you won’t get rich, let’s be honest, but if your experience is anything like mine, you will absolutely have a good time.

The job posting is on Opera America’s job board and a few other internet hotspots, and I respectfully ask you to forward the bejeezus out of it! I’m happy to answer questions via this email, or in the comments.

Tagged , ,

Singers in the City.

It’s the beginning of December.

If you’re a singer, you’re likely in (or have recently been in) New York, at Nola or Opera America or any number of other venues. Your binder is organized and you’ve made sure that the accompanist can see the bass clef on the bottom stave clearly. Your résumés are proofed and copied and pristine. You have several versions of your rep list, for good days, ok days, and i-shoulda-maybe-cancelled days. You have an audition outfit that makes you feel sparkly and special. You have a pre-show ritual that allows you to perform (i.e. have a positive, expansive experience) rather than audition (i.e. be judged, which triggers the fight-or-flight response in even the best folks). You run into people you know and love, people you know and don’t love, people who are stronger at intimidating or distracting others in the hallway than at auditioning.

You also have ways in which you reward yourself for putting yourself out there, in the face of rejection, over and over and over again.

You’re looking for a job. Something that will pay you to do what you love. You’ve worked diligently, paid your dues. It’s time.

For some of you? It is, in fact, time! And you’ll wrap up the audition season with a contract or two, refreshed energy, renewed contacts…

For others? Talented, driven, dues-paying others? You could end up empty-handed.

This article is from the theater world, but it still applies. Consider this a gentle reminder that the whole process is mostly out of your hands. If you’re cool with that? I am your fan, and am in awe of your generosity, resilience and persistence.

If you’re not? Stay tuned, as we’ll have some more articles and profiles heading your way over the holidays and beyond!

If you’re interested in what I’ve been doing this fall, you can check out my colleague/friend/audition-tour-compadre’s writing here and here. And if you just need some inspiration? Check here and here and hereIMG_2965!

Tagged , , ,

The Audition Muscle

Writing this from New York City, on the eve of a week’s worth of auditions. If you’re in the biz, you know that the autumn months are a gauntlet of sorts for singers- applications, acceptances, rejections, auditions, offers, contracts. Aside from being one of the weirdest interview processes of which I could conceive, (you have 10 minutes to tell me all about your training, your aspirations, and your artistry…the catch is that you have to tell me using someone else’s words, and most likely do so in a foreign language. But, as a plus, you get to use some pretty killer tunes to make your point.), it’s the basis on which our corner of the art is built. A necessary evil.

We talk about auditioning being a muscle that, when worked out regularly, improves. I don’t believe that anyone really enjoys the experience, but I think that it does become easier with practice. Most things do.

This is also the time of year when people will start to second-guess their career paths. They didn’t get the auditions, or any offers for next summer or next year. The choice is to either dig in more fully, or to look around and investigate other options. Everyone’s timetable is different, as are the the thresholds.

Let me put it one way: after 7+ years of sitting on an audition panel, hearing over 500 singers each year? I can say that 90% of the singers I hear are doing a lot of things right. They’ve done the work; they know the text and subtext of their piece, they have good diction, they sing in tune. (That last one’s a bigger deal breaker than you might think.) There are 5% who end up singing for us who are not ready, in one way or another. And then there are the super-shiny top 5%, who give us an authentic artistic experience when they walk into the audition room. The performances aren’t perfect, but they’re compelling- fundamentals are exceeded, and we get a sense of the singer’s artistic voice.

If you hate auditioning? Before you walk away, do it more often; so that the hate becomes mere dislike, and less epic. If you can’t get there? Well, then you’ve given it a fair shake, and maybe investigating other options is the way to go.

Commit. Ride the wave. (And, when you get to shore? Decide whether you want to go back in, or whether it’s time for an ice cream on the way home. )


Tagged , , , ,

On standby.

Tuesday is Travel Day!

Posting will be light for a while, as I’ll be on the road for our Annual Autumn Audition Extravaganza…over 500 auditions in eight cities across the country over the next four-and-a-half weeks. It’s an exciting and challenging time for us – we’re vetting repertoire choices as we’re listening to singers, trying to find the right mix for our 2013 season.

During this time, I’m always reminded of my own circuitous journey, that brought me to my seat on the other side of the audition table. I’m happy with where I am now, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it was a rough path getting here. I’m hoping to post some reflections, and a little bit of inspiration, during this year’s tour.

This Friday I’ll post a recap of the profiles we’ve seen thus far. And – if you have a story that you’d like to share, or want to nominate someone whose story you’d think would resonate with readers, please email me at indirectroutes@gmail.com.

If you’re auditioning this fall, please know that I am in awe of your courage and that I’m sending you good wishes from my side of the table. And if you’ve decided that this is your last audition season, or that your heart’s not really in it, or that you need to try something else but are too scared? Well, I hope you’ll check back for a little bit of support and some real-life examples.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Killing Dreams


We’ve entered a very specific part of my yearly work cycle. Sure, we’re prepping for the audition tour – finalizing flights and hotels, confirming appointments with director and conductor candidates – but the majority of those things are already completed, thanks to our Company Manager from the summer, Roxanna.


The harder part? Application screenings.


We receive over 1,000 applications each fall for our two tiers of performers: the Filene Young Artist tier will be those singers who have established themselves as ready for a mainstage freelance career, and when we find them we’ll program a season especially for them – to showcase their unique strengths. The Studio tier will be folks who are in undergrad or are first years masters students who demonstrate talent and success in their training up to this point, but who may not have had the opportunity to hustle through a professional production period or figure out what their career landscape might look like for the next 5-10 years.


We don’t ask for recordings anymore, as the technology allows for enough sweetening of the sound to make them marginally helpful at best, truly misleading at worst. Both tiers submit applications and résumés, with the Studio tier needing to fill out some very basic essay questions.


The deadlines for Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City passed earlier this week. So I’ve been spending some quality time with those Studio applications and résumés. It’s the most difficult time of year for me – how do I weigh the potential of a senior in an undergraduate program that maybe doesn’t have a mainstage production every year against a singer who didn’t/couldn’t finish their undergrad but has cobbled together some small roles at tiny regional companies? And, having been a singer myself who sent in my applications and was rejected, my heart gets soft at this time of year, wanting to extend those audition offers to as many people as I can… but sadly, the math simply doesn’t work that way. There’s aren’t enough hours, so I have to eliminate folks from the running, before I even hear a note.


This whole thing weighs pretty heavy on me, and I tend to whine a bit on Facebook about it. A pal – one with whom I used to sing – weighed in and said:


“When one door closes, another door opens. Sometimes we spend way too much time knocking on doors that turned out to be the wrong ones. I should add that my own wrong doors have been closed many times in the past by people just like you and I’m still your friend and I’m telling you it was a GOOD THING! I’m grateful I didn’t go down that path now that I’m here looking back. So, since I can’t go back and thank all those people cause that would just be weird, I’ll thank you on their behalf. It’s the right thing to do.”



It made me feel better. In hindsight, my own experiences – painful as they were -helped me to distill and clarify exactly what it was I wanted to do. And while I hateHatehate spreading bad karma around, maybe I’ll try to reframe this part of the year…not as spreading bad karma, but as gently closing some doors so that people can notice the open ones…


I’ll be back tomorrow with a new Profile Phriday post – I hope you’ll check back!

Tagged , , , ,

Home Remodeling, as a metaphor for Career Transition

My morning started with a cup of coffee, the New York Times, and a jackhammer.

(You read that correctly.)

You see, we’ve finally launched into a much-needed home renovation project, and a 4-inch-thick slab of concrete needed to be excavated from my second-floor bathroom. Now, had I not had a family who tore houses apart for summer fun instead of going to the beach or Disneyland (for the record, stripping wallpaper is no where near as fun as riding rollercoasters or swimming or making sandcastles. Just sayin’.), I’d be scared. But even had the outcome been said cement ending up in the dining room below, it would’ve been OK. Not ideal, but we would’ve learned something important (and, likely expensive) about the structural issues in the house.

Investing in something, and following it wholeheartedly to its natural conclusion, is never a bad thing.

I’m reminded of this especially as our summer season has just ended. I can draw parallels from our Studio program, which is geared towards talented undergraduate and first-year-graduate students, to the significant kind of home renovation that I’ll be vacuuming up for days and days. The Studio program is designed to give singersfirst-hand knowledge of the field, from a professional viewpoint. We try to go beyond the rehearsal schedule (which is compact and intense), to give them exposure to industry folks, tax professionals, musical and dramatic coaches, and a whole host of people who have made careers in this crazy field. The number of careers that people have carved out, and the ways in which they’ve done the carving, are as varied as the people themselves. They also see peers and recent alums, all quite talented, but some seeing a strong measure of success, others struggling.

The part of the program that we don’t advertise as much, but that is just as important? It’s a place where they can get enough information to decide if this crazy career is, in fact, not the right thing for them. It’s an important decision, and one that may of them haven’t vetted through their years of schooling. Most summers there are one or two Studio Artists who start to ask questions about what other things are out there, what level we think they’ll get to with their innate talent (Answer: I don’t have a clue, ever… there are simply too many variables to take into account.), what we recommend. The process is not unlike tearing open dry wall, jackhammering cement, checking the subflooring for soft spots, and rebuilding from the inside out.

The great thing is that, eventually, they do figure it out. Some stay in the field, recommitted to a performing career. Some move to related fields, and explore administrative jobs, artist management, and the like. Some take the discipline that they’ve cultivated in the practice room and head to law or medical school. And while we believe in the musical talent of every one, we don’t stop believing in them because they’ve stepped away from the footlights.

So, as we limp through the last few weeks of August, towards Labor Day (aka the Educator’s New Year) and the beginning of the academic year, I have a challenge for you: Take some time to tear off some of the dry wall, check your subfloor. What parts of the room are worth keeping, and what needs a rehaul? Will a change a paint color be all you need, or will you be jackhammering cement? Look at the career you’ve invested in: it’s time to recommit or remodel.

(New profiles and a more-regular posting schedule will resume in early September. Thanks for hanging in thus far!)

Tagged , , , , , ,

A Virtual Toast to Transitions.

(Does this come in an IV drip?)We hosted a small symposium this past weekend. Kim Pensinger Witman and I were fortunate enough to attend the Opera America Conference in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, and were both inspired and challenged in the seminars which we attended. But oftentimes our artists are bypassed from these larger discussions, or they’re expected to listen but not participate actively…the general directors dictate the tone and flow of the conversation. (It’s not a criticism – the GD’s are the ones who deal with those overarching principles on a daily basis…they should be the folks to initiate the discussions about strategy and the state of our art.) We wanted to give our singers an opportunity to join the conversation.

We called our two-day event Recitative: Plain Talk About Opera, recognizing that what we wanted to do wasn’t glamorous or sparkly…not aria-like in the least. We wanted to raise the questions that the singers/directors/artistic admins were pondering, but maybe hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss. And we asked a group of people who understood our demographic to help us with these discussions.

(Have I mentioned that, by and large, opera people are generous and helpful and agreeable? The colleagues who assisted with these discussions – artistic administrators and general directors and singers and conductors, from companies in our own market to Left Coast-ers, and even a representative from the Continent! –  surely were… we are indebted to them for their time, their thoughtfulness, their candor. Opera people are indeed pretty cool.)

It was a fantastic, provoking, sometimes heated two-day discussion. I was struck very early on with two observations: firstly, that there was such a passionate feeling towards both the art form and the collaborative structure of the art form. (not a surprise, certainly, but it was a wonderful realization of the intensity of feeling.) Secondly, that there were so many people who had started as singers who were now deeply involved – as artistic administrators, casting directors, general directors – in a non-performance aspect of the art. Do they contribute to the discussion as administrators? Most certainly. Do their words hold a different weight because they know firsthand what it’s like to biff a high note in public or trample over an overture in rehearsal with a respected conductor? I think that they might. They know what it feels like to perform at the top of their game. They’ve been moved by an exceptional performance, whether as an onstage colleague or an audience member. It’s invaluable information…and sure, a lot of it can be learned. But maybe not all of it.

It’s not an unusual path, for sure…transitioning from singer or actor to artistic or general director. I’m glad that there are so many people leading companies who, at one point, made the noise…stood in the spotlight…took the curtain call…and ultimately realized that they were meant to support the art form in a different way. Raising a virtual toast to transitions!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Giovanni, interruptus


This weekend reminded my little company of the importance of flexibility. We were about two-thirds of the way through the opening night performance of Don Giovanni when a derecho (a word I didn’t know until Saturday morning) blew through, taking with it our power, our beautiful projections, and endangering the safety of patrons and performers alike.

It was frightening, and heartbreaking: hours and hours of focused work, rehearsals, a set and costumes built from scratch all abandoned in an attempt to shelter from the high winds and horrible lightning. Yet Don Giovanni was not dragged to hell by the Commendatore – rather he remained alive, able to seduce for another day.

Fast forward to the following Sunday – a matinee performance, and one which had been sold out for months. It was a 90+ degree day, and much of the region was still without power. Our theater and offices were also without power, so the performance was obviously not going to happen.

We met at the theater: the box office staff, my boss and her boss, our production manager, the house manager. We grabbed cell phones and computers, and BB brought a mini generator to recharge as we needed. We called the orchestra and cast and crew to schedule a replacement performance, which came together much more quickly than we could’ve hoped. We crafted language for the website and patron emails, and our Web Manager SaM pushed the content out. We pulled up lists of ticket buyers for the show and everyone – even the Senior Vice-President – started calling patrons to let them know that the performance was cancelled. As cars pulled into the lot, people met them to explain the situation.

I know that there were some people we did not reach. I know that many folks – including the entire cast and crew, and frankly the admin & artistic staffs – were supremely disappointed. But rather than saying “oh well….nothing to be done”, we investigated other options and quickly made a plan. That flexibility is one trait that many artistic types have, and I was very happy to have been surrounded by a group of artists and musicians – turned- administrators when the chips were down.

The takeaways? When something unexpected happens (and I think this could apply to both good and bad things), take stock and make a plan. Give that new plan room to grow and morph. Titles don’t matter when there’s a job to be done, and in fact the leaders I revere the most aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Still no power on campus (as of this writing), but we’ll be working offsite in several homes to continue preparations. And we’ll all be crossing fingers and toes that the power comes on in time for tomorrow’s rescheduled performance. (Let’s be honest, having Giovanni still running around is a bad thing, karmically speaking!) Wish us luck!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Three Chances

According to an old Chinese proverb, we’re given three chances to succeed in life. If we use them wisely, we get another three. If not, I’m afraid that’s it. There will be no more.

There’s an interesting article on Fast Company that, while it seems on the surface to be about making crazy career choices, actually seems to be about taking action. The author, Martin Lindstrom, wrote Buyology and Brandwashed, and has this to say about taking action:

As I emptied my desk ready for my new venture down under, a colleague asked, “How do all these interesting opportunities come your way? What do you do?” I didn’t know what to answer then, but I do now. Not only have I always had an eye open to adventure and opportunity, but I have always had a tendency to seize them the moment they occur. Herein lies the problem for many. Too few of us see the opportunities that are presented to us. Even fewer of us dare to meet them head on and run with them.

I’m currently watching a rehearsal of Don Giovanni – it’s my first production of this opera, and it is rocking my world. But the production, as much as I’m enjoying it, is second to the openness of the actors, their willingness to embrace some truly crazy opportunities, and to courageously run with them. I’m simultaneously inspired and humbled.

It’s Monday. You could go back to the grind. Or maybe you could keep your eyes open for that crazy opportunity to say “yes!”Image

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: