Being In It to Win It…At Any Age!

 Hi Singers!  Just in case you're auditioning for something, I’d like to go over some lists of do’s and don’ts for winning auditions, contests, and the hearts of an audience. And for the inspiring part…just wait!

The Do’s :

1. Dress to brand yourself! If you don’t look like ‘you’ or you’re uncomfortable in your clothes, you’re already making it tough for you to win. Are you a Diva, a Rock Star, the Girl-Next-Door, or the Quirky Guy? And it has to be authentic--you have to feel like a “larger-than-life” you when you wear it. And it has to fit your song--more on that later.

2. Don’t shut your eyes when you sing! The audience feels disconnected and ignored, and may immediately feel it’s time to check their email.

3. Pick a song that is right for the venue--sometimes you can take the audience on a new journey, and you’ll really stand out when you do, but often a biker bar will not like show tunes!

4. Pick a song that you can feel confident with--if you can only do part of the  Mariah Carey song well, then go with the Cher song. And just because you like that “Grenade” song does not mean you can just sing the high notes an octave lower and we won’t notice. We will.

5. Own the stage the moment you walk on: it takes less than 5 seconds for an audience to “feel” you, and if you’re nervous, they will instantly be nervous for you. Fake it till you make it. Be more committed to sharing the passion you have for your message and for the music than you are to “not making a mistake”.

 The Don’ts:

1. Don’t pick a song without extreme emotions! It can be a party song or a breakup song, but it has to make you feel passionate about it! You actually need to be TWICE as passionate about sharing the song than it requires--over the top is good here!

2. Don’t wander aimlessly around the stage, twirling the mic cord. Walk with a purpose to different parts of the stage and sing directly to that section of the audience.  Then sing to another part of the audience. If you feel like opening the song with getting the audience to clap, do it! Have an informal plan about your stage movements, but be in the moment while you’re singing so you’re authentic no matter what happens.

3. Don’t pick a song that doesn’t let you shine! If there are no “money notes“, this is not the song for you.

4. Don’t let your voice get “cold” before your turn. Vocalize during other singer’s applause--br-rr-rr-rr-rrs (Tiny Bees)  from the bottom of your range to the top and ‘wee-wee’s” from the top down. Hiss your breath out, low inhale to your stomach, and then hold. Do it again. Instant calm!

      Now for the inspiring part: do you tell yourself that you waited too long to follow your dreams? That you’re too old to sing or perform now?

     Shirley Hook, age 77, originally thought she was too old to take part in the very difficult Certificate of Merit singing competition.

The Certificate of Merit levels start at 1 and go to 10--with increasing difficulty in tests on sight-singing, music theory, and songs.  Even the lower levels demand much studying and expertise, with students working for months and months. Shirley entered at Level 7. She had never studied music theory, and it was extremely demanding and complicated. She also had to memorize five songs, in three different languages.  Shirley did start out as a music major at Northwestern University, but marriage and children intervened, and she never completed her dream of singing opera and arias well, in several languages. 

     Cut to over 50 years later: Shirley is studying opera with my sister, Jan Bunker, and they decide that Shirley should enter the contest, although she would be the oldest contestant by far.  Shirley was at first “sure I was going to fail, now that I’m old”. At her lessons, my sister was worried about the difficulty of memorizing all the songs--Shirley “blanked over and over again on the German.“ Nevertheless, Shirley just  worked harder on it,  forgoing any social events to study.  At the final performance, as the judges watched Shirley in astonishment, she sang with a voice that sounded “young, high, and gorgeous, with a beautiful vibrato. She never missed a word. She was breathtaking!” The highest score is a 5. Shirley got a 5 plus. And not only did she win the highest possible score, she beat all her 16 and 17-year-old competitors too! She said the most worthwhile moment of the whole experience was  feeling “for the first time in my life, the songs became a part of me.”

     Shirley Hook, now inspired by her great achievement, is planning to compete in  Level 10 next year at 78. Let’s all be like Shirley and never give up on our dreams. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never quit!”

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