Taking Things Personally

This is my biggest personal flaw. Which is not a good one to have when you are in a field where rejection is a major factor more often than not. And as a singer, it is easy to take rejection as a personal affront, because after all, your instrument is a part of your body. It doesn’t sound like anyone else’s instrument.

Let’s say you’re a pianist and you’ve made it to the finals in a competition and everyone has to play a Chopin prelude in the last round. Everyone is as good as you are. And (assuming it’s an in-person audition), you’re all playing on the same instrument. Assuming that note/rhythmic accuracy isn’t an issue, since you’re all in the final round, what is different? What are you being judged on?

  • Phrasing
  • Touch
  • Dynamics
  • Overall interpretation

But the instrument’s basic tone is going to sound the same.(And pianists, if I’m full of it, call me out on it.)

As singers, we are being judged on all of the above, plus our tone quality. And assuming that we are all at the same level of ability at a competition, the feeling that “they don’t like my voice” can result in a “they don’t like me” response. And that is difficult.

When I returned to the East Coast after being gone for 17 years, I reauditioned for WNO, where I had performed steadily for 7 years – in the chorus, but also in comprimario and supporting roles. I was the mezzo soloist for two years in a row at the Kennedy Center Open House, representing the company as one of their finest singers.

It took me four years to be hired again. The first year I wasn’t offered anything. The second and third year, I was wait-listed. The fourth year, I decided that it was going to be my last audition for them. If they didn’t hire me then, I was done. I wound up getting a really bad cold the month before and wasn’t able to prepare the piece I intended and auditioned with a really old piece that I didn’t even like that much, but I knew I could sing it well, even just recovering from a cold. And I did sing it really well – I was so pleased at how it was going while I was singing.

They cut me off after the first section. “Well, that’s it,” I thought.

And then, three months later, I got a contract. And then the next year (and the year after that), I got two contracts (each year) and was asked to sing in the end of the year galas.

I thought about the experience of being cut off when I read this a few months ago:

(Honestly, it was a really tedious aria.)

As I wrote recently, when you hear no, it means “Yes, but not yet.”

Or it really might mean no… but it means you need to go somewhere else. Somewhere you can be appreciated and nurtured.


Looking for a place to be appreciated and nurtured? Contact MVS to talk about developing your voice and being heard.

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

5 thoughts on “Taking Things Personally

  1. I could/should re-read your blog about taking things personally every day. I tell myself that I don’t, but I do 🙂 Very wise words.

    1. Believe me, a few days after I wrote it, I had something happen that really upset me and I’m still fighting how I feel about it. BUT at least I didn’t lash out with some passive-aggressive nonsense! #progress

      Thanks for your kind words.

  2. Wise words. When it comes to auditioning and performing, the voice is also the most unreliable of instruments. As a pianist, as long as the instrument is in tune, I have a solid baseline. I can play with tone, warmth, brilliance, but the fundamental spund is there. When I sing, the moisture in the air, how rested my body is and my state of mind will affect my sound.

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