Consider the following scenario: you decide to try out for your school musical. They announce that the auditions are just days away. They either give you a few excerpts from the show that they’d like everyone to prepare, or they tell you you can sing whatever you want.
You’ve never had a voice lesson before, or been in a show, and you feel you need some help preparing for this audition. So you go online, Google “voice lessons in [town x],” and contact the first teacher who comes up. You set up a lesson with him or her, and are hoping the teacher can work some magic to help you land the role you want.
Or, consider this alternate scenario:
You auditioned for last year’s school musical, and didn’t get in. This year, you’ve begun working with a voice teacher ahead of time in order to prepare. You schedule extra lessons and coachings leading up to the audition, work your behind off, and… you still don’t get in. Your teacher tells you that you should be proud regardless of the outcome, because you’ve made tons of great progress in the past weeks/months, but you’re still frustrated, and feel that you spent a lot of time and money on lessons for nothing. You decide to “take a break” from lessons.
If you can relate to either or both of these situations, you’re not alone. They are incredibly common.
Voice teachers are usually happy to help their students with upcoming audition materials, even if it is somewhat last-minute. They understand that schools don’t always allow students a lot of time to prepare, and also understand how much it means to their students to land a role in their school’s show.
The Problem, However…
In scenario #1, the student is at an immediate disadvantage because of the school’s short notice. I applaud the student’s instinct to seek the help of a voice teacher; however, the student must realize that working with a voice teacher is not a guarantee that you will land the role you want – especially if it is just a single lesson, right before the audition. Many students come to these one-time lessons or coachings thinking that the teacher can work some magic, or give the student a “silver bullet” solution to landing the desired role. And they are disappointed when the audition results come out.
In scenario #2, the student has made the decision to work consistently with a voice teacher toward a concrete goal – a decision which I also applaud. It’s likely that, in addition to working toward the audition, the teacher has also helped the student to progress in other ways. However, upon receiving the disappointing audition results, it’s clear that the student has fallen into two common traps: the first is that she became so goal-centered as to be blind to the other benefits – and the real purpose – of voice lessons; and the second is that she expected her work with a voice teacher to guarantee her a role in the musical.
The student in scenario #1 doesn’t realize that developing technique takes time and consistent lessons with a good teacher in order to take hold; the student in scenario #2 doesn’t understand what the purpose of voice lessons and a voice teacher actually are. Both students also need to realize that there’s a heck of a lot more that goes into casting decisions than just how well you sing – you need have the voice type, body type, acting abilities, and/or dance/movement skills the directors are looking for. There are also issues of personality dynamics, reputation, work ethic, and – sadly – school/organizational politics.
Our Advice: Remember…
- Your teacher is not a magician. Even a highly experienced, qualified voice teacher cannot work miracles.
- You need to practice. That means practice now, last week, last month, tomorrow, next week, and in the weeks and months to come. Building technique takes time, and giving a strong audition is a skill that does not come overnight.
- If you are interested in music/theater and know you will want to take auditions, consider finding a voice teacher now, rather than waiting until an audition opportunity presents itself.
- If you find yourself in a last-minute audition situation, go for it, if you wish, and do the best you can. Schedule a lesson beforehand, if possible, and synthesize as much of your teacher’s advice as you can. Practice, practice, practice in the little time you have.
- Remember that neither working with a teacher nor hours of practicing guarantees or entitles you to anything. Casting is a highly multi-faceted process. If you don’t get cast, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were terrible – it just means that you weren’t the right fit for this particular opportunity.
- If the audition results do not come out in your favor, use the whole thing as a learning experience. Assess what went well, what could have gone better, and what you can improve upon for the next time. Having a positive attitude makes a world of difference.
If you want to find a qualified teacher but don’t know where to start other than Google, you can search the teacher databases at nats.org or learningmusician.com. Or, contact Kim or Ellen here at Rising Stars to get your lessons started!