Coveting an Olympian’s Mind, Day 24
Unlike Evan Lysacek, the newest male figure skating champion, I would make a lousy Olympian. After the longest day in my week of sickness and recovery, having run countless errands, eased myself back into going to the gym, and practiced and prepared for tomorrow’s audition, I sat for a moment to watch a beautiful long program skated by Evan Lysacek. Although I’ve watched The Cutting Edge many more times times than I’d like to admit, I truly cannot begin to imagine what kind of preparation goes into such smooth lines and well-executed jumps and spins. Although a singer should only sing so many hours in a day healthily, one can spend a lot of time quietly learning monologues, songs, operas, languages when not singing. I often wonder what kind of career I might have if I stuck to an Olympic-worthy practice routine.
Even once one reaches that Olympic readiness, after a lifetime of preparation, how does she overcome the tension and pressure of competing at the Olympics while the world watches to see if she fails or succeeds? When a skater, snowboarder, gymnast, or any competitor slips, falls, makes a mistake, I cringe, remembering the feeling of knowing I’ve forgotten a word or tensely locked myself into a bad technique that vocally keeps me from performing my best in an audition or competition. I can practice an aria to complete current readiness, only to find that in the nervousness of the audition, I revert to old habits and muscle memories built years ago when I first learned it. Singers and other athletes (yes, I believe singing is both a sport and an art) know all about how muscle memory and nervous energy can either enhance one’s technique or backfire, inspire one mistake or a snowball of countless errors.
Tonight, I practiced my best technique into an oratorio aria I’ve sung very little since I first performed it in Maryland a few years ago. I could list the excuses – that I just heard about this audition while I was in Long Island, sick and without my music, that I don’t usually audition for temple gigs and therefore have nothing particularly appropriate, that I couldn’t practice before yesterday because of my health – but none of it will matter tomorrow. Honestly, I do handicap myself a little by widening my horizons and preparing monologues and song books of jazz and musical theater selections to go along with my opera and sacred music arias and art songs. Tomorrow I have to put on my temple ensemble singer hat and most likely sightread in Hebrew along with my aria, at a wonderful temple where I already sing as a sub.
This is my third audition since December to keep or further a job where I already work, and though I’d rather not have to do them at all, I have to figure out a way to better prepare for them, perhaps vocally and definitely mentally. I have tried, to the point of very specific performance oriented therapy, to varying degrees of success, depending on the day. Fortunately, the people who have hired me know without a doubt how well I sightread and that despite occasional human error, I make an excellent singer, musician, and colleague. Although I can comfort myself with the popular adage that they know me and always take nerves into account, I want my awesomeness to reflect in my audition. Cheekiness aside, I want to walk into that room tomorrow knowing that they will see and hear me as myself, not some nervously “perfect” and boring version of me. So today, I practiced, revamped a newly ensemble-focused résumé, and scanned and printed my music. Tomorrow, I do what really challenges me: the audition. In my mind, I have no choice. I love my work, ensemble and otherwise, and I intend to keep performing in any and every way I can. Wish me luck!