Deadline – Wolf Trap Opera Studio – Monday 10/1

Monday’s deadline is for our new Studio Artist program, targeted toward upper level undergraduate students or those in transition to graduate school.

The next Young Artist roster application deadline is the following Monday, October 8.

Application information links are on the right sidebar.

I’m Happy to Recommend…

I’m finally getting back to the recommendation letter discussion that I promised weeks ago in response to watching the chatter over at the New Forum for Classical Singers.

My colleague Josh Winograde (who is responsible for running the Studio) dashed off a detailed response to the recommendation letter discussion, and I’ve been meaning to run it as a guest blog. Here ’tis.

MYTH: Doesn’t the resume speak for itself without letters or rec?

FACT: If you are applying for a “career ready” program like any of the big YAPs (Met, HGO, LA, SFO, etc), chances are you have plenty on your resume to help you get the audition: you may have won a competition, you may have gone to a fancy conservatory and done lead roles, someone may have called us and said “you gotta hear this kid!” etc. However, when an undergrad applies for college-level programs, a resume shows very little.

Last year at the Wolf Trap Opera Studio auditions, we heard (and hired!) singers whose resumes were basically blank and who came from schools that I had never heard of (or at least had no idea had music departments producing fine young singers). It is impossible for us to hear every applicant because we simply don’t have time, and without the supplemental application requirements, these few singers I am thinking of would certainly have been ruled out by their resumes alone. Thankfully, we required letters of recommendation and personal statements that got them their audition appointments. Thinking about these few singers who we hired AND PAID to sing in a professional setting for the first time, and thinking that without their letters of rec they may have spent last summer working at a movie theater (which I did when I was 21), I am SO HAPPY that we asked for letters, and we will continue to do so.

However, as Kim pointed out in her post, there are no letters required for the Filene Young Artists because their resumes contain much more experience that DOES speak for itself.

Myth: it is a colossal waste of paper, time, and money.

FACT: Actually this CAN be true but isn’t always.

PAPER: At WTOS, we have no specific requirements. The letters do NOT have to be sealed in envelopes, notarized, dated recently (or dated at all), or even on paper (we are happy to receive e-mails). They can be copies of a letter that someone wrote 5 years ago as far I care (although that in itself may be a telling fact). However, at the actual audition itself, it is very interesting for all 4 of us on the panel to remind ourselves who the singer is, so during the audition we pass around a packet that we have created which includes the letters (“Oh, right! This is the lady who worked with Frank Corsaro.” or “This is the one who was clearly dating his coach judging by the effusive tone of this letter” etc…). For us, there is no paper saved, ALAS! If they were e-mailed, we subsequently printed it out (on recycled paper … go Wolf Trap!).

TIME: Advice to singers … please make the process easier on recommendation-writers and provide us with a stamped, addressed envelope (recycled paper … go Wolf Trap!). In many cases, especially if I know you VERY well, I am happy to e-mail you the text of my letter which you can type up yourself (recycled paper … go Wolf Trap!) and present to me when it is absolutely done and ready to simply sign. Since I plan to sign the letter, please make sure the format, spelling, addresses, etc, are perfect. Also, please feel that I know you VERY WELL before you ask me. Unless you want the letter to say “I have known her for two months and she seemed pretty cool and sings pretty well,” you should KNOW IN ADVANCE that I will have more than that to say about you. If someone says to you “Perhaps you should ask someone else who will have more specific things to say,” or “I am too busy,” do NOT take it personally. What WOULD be a colossal waste of time is if I had to e-mail 600 people asking “Should I hear this guy who put you on his resume?” I think the whole “If you are curious about someone, ask me” method is potentially impossible unless it is only about a handful of singers.

MONEY: If all of the above duties are left to the writer, I would imagine that it could get costly for one person to write 60 letters or more. But postage, paper, envelopes at the very MINIMUM should be provided by the singer. I mean what could that possibly cost the singer, 20 bucks at most for a nice box of resume paper, some business envelopes and a role of stamps? Of course this does get worse when things like letterhead and personalized stationary are required, but it doesn’t have to include those elements at all.

Perspective

I am sorry to have to reiterate that there are more singers than there are jobs for those singers. It is a sad fact that is true in almost any business. Unfortunately, there are also more applicants than there are audition slots … (talk about a lot of time and money, have you heard what a space in New York costs for us to rent for the day?). Many programs have certain elements that will naturally limit the applications (i.e. some programs who charge tuitions may miss hearing talented kids who have no money; advanced programs will know that someone who is 35 and has never done a role before PROBABLY won’t be a competitive applicant; programs who limit their audition tours will naturally weed out singers who simply can’t clear their calendars to travel). But at the WTOS, we have no way of knowing, and we depend on (and READ!!!) all the supplementary materials we require.

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