I have been on a long journey with my voice. And it has not been an easy one.
Many people who’ve shared a similar path would have quit by now.
But I am here to tell you that it is the best journey in the world for me to have taken.
Now, at this stage of my journey, there are 10 IMPORTANT THINGS which I want to share with you that I deliberately did before my recent BIG audition that helped me and that can help you too, if an audition is to be your next step as well.
Early in my journey, 31 years earlier to be precise, I was a young artist at the Metropolitan Opera, and I was known as a soprano.
Was I ever really a soprano?
And that is what my journey is all about. It’s a journey that has taken me now 31 years to find my real voice as a Contralto, since that time at the MET as a young artist.
And guess what?
At 53 wonderful years young, I just sang an audition for the Metropolitan Opera as a Contralto!
I can only begin to tell you how that all felt, to be back again where I thought it would be impossible to return when I left. I felt renewed validation to have reached this point and excitement as to where it could go, but I also felt that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing at this time, now as a Contralto!
To give you some idea of how the opportunity for this audition unfolded, I want to recount how I embarked on my adventure in the first place.
Last summer, I entered the Anonymous Auditions that NYIOP (New York International Opera) hosted online and found what would be the perfect opportunity. As no one would know that it was me “Heidi Skok, the MET Soprano”, I would hopefully get the best possible unbiased technical confirmation if I was a “true Contralto”, which I was seeking.
After singing the online audition I was glad to advance to the Semi-final round which gave me the nod of approval I required on my voice!
I was invited a week later to attend the POVAI (Premier Opera Vocal Arts Institute) program online that is usually in Italy each summer.
Soprano Jane Eaglen was among the Artist teachers and I so I was very eager to attend the program and sing for these esteemed teachers, my colleagues.
Everyone said to me, “You are a Contralto. Where have you been?”
During the POVAI online program, I got to work with a couple of wonderful vocal coaches.
After the program I found a voice teacher, an esteemed colleague that I had sung with at Wolf Trap Opera 30 years ago, and was also a fellow singer at the MET in the Young Artist Program.
After 9 months, and 45 online Zoom coaching sessions and voice lessons later, I told my teacher that I was ready to start auditioning as a Contralto and sing for the MET. I told my coach that I wanted to sing for the MET and he also agreed that I was ready.
I wrote directly to my contact at the MET and shared my story, requesting an audition. This is something I was able to do as a former MET singer who has stayed in contact with my MET colleagues, never having “burned a bridge”. I was known as a hard-working, punctual, capable singer for my twelve years there.
They replied within a day, and within a week, I was assigned an audition time on the last day of auditions for this season. I was SO happy!
It has taken much determined effort and courage to get myself to this point, being presented with an actual audition at The Metropolitan Opera after having left there twenty years ago.
Now that you know what I did to get to this point, I want to share some of the most critical things that I did to prepare.
These are the 10 IMPORTANT THINGS I deliberately did before my BIG AUDITION:
- To build my repertoire, for the last ten months I have studied weekly with top coaches and an instructor, which I just described.
- I got there super early. I flew to NYC on a Monday, and the audition was on a Wednesday.
- I stayed with a good friend who kindly even cooked for me. This was so much better for me personally than being alone at a hotel room and bringing or shopping for my normal dietary requirements of “clean” and non-gluten foods because my friend shares my diet! As much as I was tempted, I had a careful rule not to talk the night away and got to bed at a decent hour each night.
- I stayed hydrated. For me that means drinking one entire gallon of water each day.
- I stayed off of social media all day the day before on Tuesday and before the audition itself on the day of the audition Wednesday.
6. I spent all day on Tuesday working with my characters.
I do a very deep character study and analysis which is so important to do.
I never want to sing my character as myself.
I don’t want myself to be seen, but rather the character only and that takes layered work with the character.
7. The morning of the audition, I went for a speed walk for 2.5 mile
and then came back and stretched and did a light workout.
This is part of my normal daily routine, but also important for me to continue doing on the day of the audition itself too.
8. After my workout, I meditated for 20 minutes and did breathwork. See my blog on the benefits of breathwork for the singer.
I felt ready. After having a light lunch, I got in a cab to go to the MET. On the way, I saw a sign on the side of a building that read “Progress, not perfection.”
Wow! That was speaking directly to me.
Then arriving at the MET, what an absolutely incredible feeling I had walking into the Backstage entrance after 20 years. (My voice was retired in 2003).
…Everything looked the same. It was like I had never left.
9. An hour before the audition, I had arranged to rehearse with the assistant conductor who was playing for me, and I also got to briefly greet cherished colleagues.
10. Then, ten minutes before I sang, instead of talking to the other singers who were also getting ready to sing and chit-chatting, I went off by myself, sat down and breathed, and just thought of my characters.
When it was my turn to sing, I entered List Hall so happy.
Again – the feeling was like I had never left.
I started with Erda’s aria Weiche, Wotan! Weiche!
They then paused to decide what they wanted to hear next…
It would be Madame de Croissy!
YES! That was what I was hoping would happen. It could not have gone better.
I WAS the character, which then guided my voice.
I am such a happy singer! It felt to me like the most well executed audition of my career; I was so relaxed, well prepared and vocally in such deep connection with my characters.
When I hear other singers call me an inspiration, it tells me not only that I’m not alone and that so many other singers really have shared a similar journey, but it makes me happy that I’m showing them that it CAN be done because I AM doing it.
I am just someone who has hung in there and did not quit because of adversity.
I’ve learned over the years that adversity is necessary. The challenges we overcome that are brought on by adversity are what advances one. Facing adversity both requires and builds courage. And overcoming adversity is what brings opportunity.
To speak directly about the big issue that I and so many other singers face to even get to the point of having the opportunity to audition, the real-world adversity that continues to challenge many of us is the popular belief that a singer’s career should be over not long after age 30.
Before I could even approach any of the 10 things that I deliberately did before my audition, though, I myself had to overcome the idea that this adversity from ageism presented: “that at 53, I was more than twenty years too late and nobody would want to hear me sing”.
This audition was clear proof to myself and to anyone else that this belief about age is false and should be rejected.
If you feel that you’re facing similar constraining beliefs and adversities, challenge them with me. My upcoming 8-week online course “Mindset Makeover for the Over 30 Pro Singer” teaches singers how to take a new motivational standpoint and gives you methods and techniques that I have used to do this. The course launches again soon, you can subscribe to the Skokstudio Newsletter for updates here.
Let’s see what can happen. I am just getting started.
This was a “general audition” for me at the MET and not for a specific part, so if there is a future for me in an upcoming season there I will yet find out! And you will be the next to know! Ha!
In the meantime, I will prepare and rehearse my roles with the expectation that I will be called back for this very upcoming season, while I also continue to explore other similar opportunities nationally and in Europe for these roles.
Like I just said, but it bears repeating: I am just getting started here!
My hope for you is that you too can apply some of the TEN important pre-audition things that I deliberately did to help you start off at your very best in your next audition, too.