Alleviating the Cost

How many auditions have I done so far in my life? Like most other singers, it is an innumerable amount that has taken place all over the country. Also, as most opera singers know, the costs for application and travel can be quite staggering, particularly in the field of opera. While one can find opera close to most urban areas nowadays, the centers for the advancement opera and the standard-bearers for the style remain in the larger metropolitan cities, along with great regional companies scattered throughout the country. Still, when considering the size of our nation, the number of cities is rather small.

I am so thankful to be living currently in the Twin Cities where I have the ability to work with Minnesota Opera, a great company that is one of the leaders of contemporary opera, and other great local organizations. However, for opera auditions I almost always have to travel: within the past 6 months I have traveled to New York, Philadelphia, Knoxville, Indianapolis, Houston, and Chicago. That, when combined with application costs ranging from $35 to $100 or more, creates quite a financial burden.

This is nothing new to singers, and much has been written on the topic. For most, it is the status quo, with nothing to be done about it since we are at the mercy of a hiring company’s ability to travel for their auditions. Like us, these companies also want access to as much talent as possible, and so they will travel to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, for example, to hold their auditions. As centralized as these cities may be in their respective regions, that still leaves a great distance for many to travel in order to participate; and travel isn’t cheap.

 As I begin to broaden my performance opportunities into straight theater and musical theater, two common buzzwords resonate with me: local and sustainable. Often attributed to agriculture and food economics, I think there is real power in the arts, particularly the performing arts, to access our local opportunities and talents. In places like New York and Chicago, and even here in the Twin Cities, there is so much already available that, when we begin to realize it, we may find that there is no reason to chase down that far-off opportunity in another town. Yes, there is great merit to winning the Met competition, working with world renowned opera companies, or playing Figaro in New York (which was fantastic!). At the same time, chasing down all those leads trying to thrust your foot in the door can be exhausting both physically and financially, especially when the answer is often “no,” which singers also know very well.

So, local and sustainable: what does that mean with regards to the arts? For me, it is recognizing the local performance opportunities around me that already have a proven record for creativity, accessibility, and outreach in their field. It also means a place that will help me to further grow and hone my own abilities close to home through work and collaboration with other talented, passionate individuals and organizations. Encompassing all of that, sustainability means that it is financially possible to do it.

Here is how this has aided me recently: within the past month I have read 5 plays, learned two audition monologues, auditioned for 3 local organizations, with 4 more in the next two weeks; expanded my repertoire to include opera, theater, and musical theater; and begun to prepare for an upcoming concert (Rodgers and Hart Highlights with Mankato Symphony) and opera (Tosca with Minnesota Opera). My cost: zero. At the same time, I have been able to work and MAKE money. How fun is that!

What this means to me is that I have found ways to have my money better spent in support of my craft and career closer to home. I love opera, but that alone is too costly a venture to pursue single-mindedly. Furthermore, I love all performance theater, so if I can be a part of that scene locally, in any capacity, then I will be involved in creating the art, music, and conversation for the community in which I live, love, and support.

Which is what I wanted to do in the first place.