How Auditions Are Different–Or Are They?

Many of the singers I work with perform frequently in opera and musical theater.  In these performances, their confidence soars and they perform with ease. These singers perform a little less frequently in recital or in concert.  In these performances, some singers experience performance anxiety and experience varying confidence levels.   In auditions and competitions, however, performers report strikingly low levels of confidence and high levels of anxiety and stress.

What is different about auditions, competitions, or any high-stakes situation?   Is it the performers’ attitudes, their preparation, or their high expectations? Consider this:  In live performances, such as opera, musical theater, and recitals the audience has, in effect, been “invited” to attend to enjoy the musical experience with the performer.  In auditions and competitions, the “audience” is an audition or judging panel who has invited the performer to come and prove that he or she is worthy of the part, the position, or of winning.  In reality, these distinctions are in our imagination.  Performing a song, an aria, or work with orchestra is no different in the context of a staged work, in a recital, or in an audition or competition except our thinking makes it so.

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”-Epictetus, 2nd c. Greek philosopher

Although we might accept that the difference may be  “all in our head,” oboist and composer Dr. Stuart Edward Dunkel has surveyed musicians and found that performers find auditions mentally challenging. Approximately 70% of performers surveyed have a more difficult time with nervousness and controlling anxiety at auditions than in performance.  Auditions and competitions present a different mental challenge to some performers than other live performances.

If you are a musician who would like to improve your performance in auditions or competitions, it is important to recognize that your ability does not change from the stage to the audition hall.  What does change is your attitude and your expectations or intensity of your attention to the outcome of the particular performing situation.  You will want to address the way you mentally prepare for auditions and competitions to improve your competitive self-confidence.


If you have a strategy that has worked for you or you would like to talk about this with Dr. Allan, please leave a comment.

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    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. Please don’t hesitate to contact directly if I can help in any way. Best wishes.

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