A career in the arts is one of the hardest careers you can enter into. No matter how good you are and how hard you work, there is no guarantee of a successful career. A former GVAI singer, Susan, is currently pursuing her opera career in Germany. We’ve been following her story every week on our blog. This week on her audition tour, Susan both wrestles with rejection and seeks out inspiration. Like the champ she is, she uses her rejection as a motivator!
“This week, I took myself to the Salvador Dali Museum in Berlin because it’s important to stay inspired. Did you know that he never finished art school because he decided that his teachers were in no position to judge his genius and so he refused to complete his final project? I wish I had that kind of bravery. Also, he illustrated a surprising number of stories, so it was cool to walk through his illustrations of stories I know so well – Carmen, Tristan & Isolde, Alice in Wonderland. I’m glad I went, it’s important to fill the well.
Next, it was off to Düsseldorf for an agency audition. This trip was a real adventure. The train turned out to be three trains – with 15 minutes and 5 minutes allotted in order to make my transfers. So that was stressful. That last transfer was so quick I spent most of the last train ride convinced that I’d jumped on the wrong train. I had not jumped on the wrong train. I made it to Düsseldorf and my hotel was a ten minute walk from the train station with free Wifi. Excellent. The nice lady at my hotel gave me a map and showed me how to get to the historical part of town and the shopping and the coffee, but I’d just spent seven hours on various trains, so I was pretty wiped out. I got a chocolate bar for dinner and went to sleep because I am an adult.
The next morning I got up early to go buy stockings. I brought stockings to Germany, of course, but they’ve already got a run in them and that’s the kind of thing that will bother me even if nobody else notices. Also, simultaneously, and I must say, I’m really not sure how this happened, because all I seem to do in this country is eat breads, cheeses, chocolate, and beer, but I’ve recently lost some weight. Not a ton, just a dress size down – I’ve gone from a size ten to a size eight. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any of my favorite snack foods here, or maybe it’s because it’s so easy to get sucked into some forest or museum and suddenly four hours have gone by and I didn’t have lunch, or maybe I’m just walking around a lot more in general due to how often I get lost, but there it is.
Suddenly none of my audition dresses fit just the way they should. When a dress is slightly too big, it tends to make your body look bigger than it is, so that’s not great. While I was in the store getting stockings, I spotted a gorgeous burnt orange number. I tried it on and it fit like a glove. I probably should not have, but I bought it and I don’t regret it.
I still had a few hours to kill, so I got coffee and a Berliner with apricot jam in the middle and took a walk. Düsseldorf, a place I’d never considered coming before, is totally gorgeous. I found a little market on the Carlplatz with flowers and fish. I stumbled upon the Rhine River, sitting just there where it’s been since before the Rhine maidens – only now there is a ferris wheel there!
Ultimately, I was really glad I did the walk to the audition. I wasn’t in town for very long, so it was good to see a little bit more of the city. I walked past the Goethe Museum! I didn’t have enough time to go in, but it looked fabulous from outside. I started with Adele’s audition aria and they asked for Blonde’s aria. The agent said that it was a really busy day, and she did want to have a conversation with me, but could she verify my phone number and she would give me a call in the next day or two? She said if I hadn’t heard from her by Friday morning, I should go ahead and call her. I said sure thing and that was that. Was this the best audition I’ve ever sung in my life? No, but it wasn’t the worst either. I felt fine about it. In my coachings lately, there have been a smattering of German text things to fix, so I was happy to have an opportunity to see that all of those fixes would stay put in performance – the closed e in “wenig” not being closed enough, a glottal stop between als and ob to make it clear that those are two words, that kind of thing.
The train back to Berlin the next day was actually only one train, so the getting home was much simpler than the getting there.
I’m a little embarrassed about this next bit. I somehow managed to call this agent, panic and hang up like a nervous middle schooler calling her crush up for a date. I told myself if I just took a shower, I could call again and she’d never know it was me. She totally knew it was me. So this phone conversation was off to a great start. The really thing that got me into trouble here was mistaken expectations. I really thought, if the agent thought I was terrible, surely she could’ve just said so then and there would be no reason to call me the next day. Why go to the trouble of doing that if you already know you don’t want to work with me?
So, I must admit that I had an expectation that what she had to say when she called would be largely positive. That turned out to not be the case. She thought I didn’t open my mouth up enough and my German was unintelligible as a result. As a grown up, I’m perfectly well aware that I am not going to be every person’s cup of tea. I was disappointed, though. There is no one person who can make or break your career. Hopefully what this rejection does is inspire me to go work harder. That’s really all it’s useful for.
I’m off to Munich in a few days for another audition. Onwards and upwards!”
In the end, the only person who can make or break your career is yourself. Never write yourself off. Always work hard and follow through. Don’t let one “no” (or a dozen of them) discourage your dream. As a singer, you will be rejected more times than you are accepted. The trick is to try one more time than you fail. Keep up the great work, Susan!
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