Tis the Season: Absorbing Rejection Gracefully
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
By: Shanelle Woods
Tis the Season!
No not *that* season. We’re not decking halls and singing fa la las. The other one. Audition season. And perhaps more importantly - notification season. We at FAME are in the thick of it right now: seniors preparing for college auditions, students waiting anxiously for news of whether or not they got into our local School of the Arts, National Association of Teachers of Singing student auditions - literally alllllll the things are happening, and it’s all very exciting….
I want to talk about what to do if you DON’T book the gig. How to feel if you get the dreaded, “we regret to inform you…” I want to talk about absorbing rejection gracefully.
Notice what I said. Absorbing.
This is not a how to “handle” rejection post. To handle means to feel or to manipulate with the hands. To hold, to pick up, to grasp. All of these imply that after some time, you can set it down again. That definition is temporary.
I mean for you to actually absorb. Let it become a part of your being. Live with it. And then learn from it. And friends, please believe, there is indeed an element of rejection that we must learn to absolutely live with if we are to engage in this field professionally.
So….what does rejection have to teach us? A lot, if you learn to listen carefully: (Cue “Children Will Listen”...Into the Woods? Anyone? No?!? Ok, fine. Moving On…..)
1. Absorb, but be not consumed.
A rejection can make you feel like there is something innately wrong with you. Do not consume these type of negative thoughts about yourself. Did you know that sometimes a company’s decision not to hire you has nothing to do with your talent at all? *Somewhere a casting director is upset with me for divulging industry secrets - but lean in while I whisper this in your ear* Maybe you were 100% technically proficient - but they already knew who they wanted to cast, and the auditions were just a formality. Maybe you don’t “look” like what they envisioned for the role. Maybe it’d cost more to hire you than just hiring a local. (Real talk, I’ve been told all of these things. To my face. Because these are the realities of our profession. And it sucks. But it happens.) None of these things are a reflection of YOU and your gift. So head up. Don’t you dare feel like you don’t have the goods. Their loss, ok?
2. Or... maybe it was you.
You guys want to hear a funny story? Ask me about my last NY audition. Actually don’t -I’ll skip to the punch line. It was awful. Like…..absolute trash. It was one of those out of body experiences where I actually questioned whose voice was coming out of my body, because surely that wasn’t me sounding like a completely different person. It was like my voice had pulled a straight up Little Mermaid and been locked away somewhere NOT in that audition room. Want to know how the story ends? DID. NOT. BOOK. Nope. You will not be seeing any #bookedandblessed posts from me on that one. So loved ones, I say to you: be honest with yourself. Did you just have a bad singing day? Well then congratulations...you’re a HUMAN! We are not robots. While we strive for consistency in our technique and vocal production - sometimes things. just. happen. Control what you can - get enough sleep, eat well, take care of your body, know your music backwards and forwards, practice daily - do everything YOU can on the back end to ensure that you are offering your best product, and then, as my grad school voice teacher used to say “give it the gusto and pray for the best.” And THEN….if you STILL don’t book, well, refer back to item 1.
3. If you are lucky enough to get feedback after an audition, tread carefully.
Feedback is GREAT…..except when it isn’t. In this profession, you’re going to encounter a lot of people who will all have an opinion about your instrument. Filtering through all of that is hard. It’s even harder for young singers who assume that anyone who’s older than them and has been doing this longer must be right, right? Um. Actually no. So how do you know what to take with a grain of salt, and what to absolutely throw away? Seek out wise counsel. Find a teacher you trust and analyze together. Remember that a teacher that sees you on a weekly basis will know what you can do much better than anyone who got a 10 minute audition snapshot of your voice anyway. Now - disclaimer - am I saying that all comments/feedback are worthless? Of course not! Sometimes the criticism will hurt, but it will be constructive nonetheless. Take those comments and implement them. Take them and do the work. And then wow them all when you audition again next season ;-)
Lastly: a piece of audition advice for you. I find myself saying something along these lines often, and recently, one of my opera idols - Joyce Didonato - expressed a similar sentiment, so that means it *must* be true, RIGHT?! Anyway, the thought is this:
Don’t walk into the room trying to give them what you think they want to hear. Give them you.
That’s important. Catch it. Authenticity is everything. Because it’s true what they say, in this field, you’re going to hear NO a lot more than you hear YES. I’d like to think that the no’s truly weren’t meant to be. But that when the moon is in the 7th house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, and everything lines up just right - the right projects find YOU. But that can only happen if you bring your most authentic self to the audition room. And wouldn’t you rather work for a company that appreciates you at your core, for all that you are and all that you represent? Your artistry is an outpouring of that anyway. Your gift serves your highest level of self-expression. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be booked off THAT any day.
Shanelle Woods made her Spoleto Festival USA debut in the 2016 season, doubly featured as Annie in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and as Kentucky Kate in the world premiere of Edmund Thornton Jenkins’ Afram ou La Belle Swita. This was followed by an engagement as Jeanette in Chevalier de Saint-Georges' L'amant anonyme, as part of the 2016 Colour of Music Festival. In 2017, Ms. Woods debuted with the renowned Glimmerglass Festival in the world premier of the hip-hopera, Stomping Grounds, and has recently performed the roles of Tituba in Robert Ward's operatic telling of The Crucible, and as Ronnie in the rock music Hair (Glow Lyric Theater.) Equally at home on the opera, musical theater, or concert stage, Shanelle has also performed roles from Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlofsky), Die Zauberflöte (Third Lady), Noye’s Fludde (Mrs. Noye), Così fan tutte (Dorabella), The Old Maid and the Thief (Miss Pinkerton), Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley (Jennie Parsons) and Seymour Barab’s children’s opera, Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Woods received the Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Florida and is currently adjunct voice faculty at both Charleston Southern University and Claflin University, in addition to maintaining a private voice studio at Wando Voice Studio (Mt. Pleasant, SC.)