Monday, January 08, 2007

Musical auditions

Today were the auditions for the high school musical, which is Cabaret. I am music director. The uber-director seems competent and experienced and smart and funny (thank goodness!) and nice, and I'm looking forward to working with him.

How strange to be on the other side of these auditions! I feel like I was just there, although I suppose none of my kids would believe that. And I remember how important this is, and how heart-broken some people will be. It's also unfortunate that the leads for Cabaret are all either high tenors or low altos. There are no parts for basses. Aside from parts of songs, there are no parts for sopranos. This sadly means that a great many qualified people don't even have the beginnings of a chance for a lead. I think every single male part has a high G, and more than one has a high A. I hate the thought of disappointing people, especially people who really don't deserve to be disappointed. But there are more good singers and dancers and actors than parts to go around. In some cases, there's hardly anything to choose between one person and another - you know they'd both do great. I'm dealing by forgetting, most of the time, how centrally important this is to some students.

The auditions also highlighted one thing I have a lot of trouble remembering about being a high school student - in fact, it's almost impossible. I don't remember the terror. I am so far from being nervous when I sing in a choir, or sing in front of people, or even sing in an audition. I get a little nervous for solo singing performances, but not much. I get more anxious for conducting, but again, nothing like the fears of a high-schooler trying out for the musical. And I can't even really remember it. I look at them, and have to tell myself how nervous they are, because otherwise I really wouldn't be able to see it, it's so distant. My empathy has to be conscious - I have to remind myself.

I suppose I should be grateful for the boons of experience! And I'm sure the kids will remind me often enough of how nervous they are before opening night.


  1. I suppose you can't really worry about the effect you're having on these people's lives, but you can think about whether the person you're putting in the lead is a more or less kind, decent person. Does that ever come into it, when there's nothing else to distinguish between equally qualified auditioners? You don't have to answer if you don't want to, but it would be interesting to know. I always wondered why the popular kids always seemed to do so well in auditions in high school; it couldn't be because they were more talented (they certainly weren't better singers, although there's an argument that they may have been more charismatic) so it seems that if all other things are equal, directors might want to give an edge to the nicer person. Perhaps all other things are never *that* equal.

  2. Anonymous11:16 PM

    If all things are equal, what about chemistry between leads?

  3. To Betsy:

    Well, they're pretty much all nice people, so that doesn't really help. I'm actually not always aware of who's popular and who's not. Those currents are not as obvious when you're not a student yourself. And from what I can tell, they all treat each other OK. Maybe that's not true, but if they bother each other, I don't really see it.

    Your comment did make me wonder if the popular kids "always" do well in auditions because they are the ones with confidence - that matters a lot. Of course, in my HS it was the drama geeks or the chorus geeks who always got the leads, which is hardly surprising!

    And it's true. All other things are never *that* equal, and you can't really go around factoring "niceness" into auditions b/c then you'd just end up with a bunch of brownnosers.

  4. To Adrian:

    We did briefly consider that, actually, although it wasn't a large part of the decisions.

  5. We always theorized that the directors chose the musical somewhat based on who they planned to cast in the various roles. Of course, that was at a HS with a group of 3 directors (art, music, choreography) who had been working together for years, both at the HS and in other community productions, knew the town, knew the kids, knew the kids' younger siblings (so they knew what was coming in the door with every 9th grade class) get the picture.

  6. To La Vaca Se Fue:

    Well, they actually chose the musical before they even hired me. So by the time they were asking me whether or not I would be musical director (which is a separate position from what I do normally) they were able to ask me to sign on to Cabaret specifically.

    Also, even if I had been involved with the choice, I don't know all the kids well enough yet - it's a big HS, and I only know kids in the choral program, so I would have been unaware of the great singers (and there definitely were some) who didn't sing in chorus.