Pay To Sing

No, not as in a pay-to-sing summer program.

As in, you have to pay to get a chance to apply to sing in our audition tour.

Is this unfair? The annual autumn application/audition fee discussion is ongoing over at the new Forum for Classical Singers ( We lurk occasionally to feel the temperature of the aspiring classical singer pool. And sporadically, I de-lurk (unlurk?) to throw in a rant of my own.

I know I promised a recommendation letter post, and I’ll get to that in a few days. But for now, a copy of my post today on the NFCS.

Response to Application Fee Rant

I know you won’t believe it, but I am sympathetic.

That said, there’s no way Wolf Trap Opera could do a truly nationwide talent search if we didn’t charge. Roughly, once you tally the rental costs for audition spaces, paying pianists and monitors, and covering travel and hotels for almost a month on the road, you’re in the neighborhood of $25,000. (And all of this is done frugally – for better or for worse, the Wolf Trap way…) That doesn’t include the salary costs for the company personnel who spend almost 2 months every fall doing nothing but application & audition-related work.

As far as application fee vs. audition fee, we also used to return money orders (I’ll get to the money order thing in a minute) if an audition was not granted. In many ways, an administrative nightmare. And (I know this will be controversial) a free application process generates a lot of materials from people who are only casually interested and don’t take the time to submit a complete and thoughtful application.

I know it stinks to pay a fee and not make it to the next step, but it’s a fact of life, and not only in this business. And if you really think that the application processing part of this equation is simple, you should visit our office some day in September/October. It takes 3 people the better part of a month just to receive and organize the materials, track down missing pieces, merge or enter information into the database, review the actual applications and associated materials (audio files, resumes), and correspond with applicants. Not to mention the several weeks I spend in midwinter agonizing over requests for audition and application feedback.

Not that what you all do isn’t difficult – it most certainly is – but the resources expended on our end for this particular part of our operation are equally significant. Could we bankroll it from somewhere else? We already do, for almost half of our audition budget has to come from other sources – individual and foundation contributions.

The money order is a PITA. But we’ve been taking credit cards for two years now as part of our online application. And the checks that we’ve received that bounced (unwittingly or on purpose) cause another layer of expense and administrative headache at this end.

Well, this has most certainly been more than you wanted to know. If you take away anything, realize that we are not making money off poor singers, we’re just keeping our balance sheet defensible and protecting our future and yours. We could certainly avoid all of this and have a nice leisurely autumn casting the next season by word of mouth and colleague recommendation. But we choose to make sure everyone has a chance to be considered. (And trust me, even if you don’t get an audition, your application and CD spend quality time on my desk.)

OK, back to work.

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