Escaping the Feedback Loop: Auditions 2018

On Saturday, Verdigris held its very first round of formal auditions, and Sam had a dream team of Verdigris choir members at his side to support and assess the auditionees. Over the summer, Sam compiled a committee of singers to provide input at pivotal moments throughout the season. He’s going to pop his head into the blog next week with his thoughts behind choosing to shape the process in this way.

You might be thinking, “Wait! How did they find singers for their first season, if the first auditions they’ve held were on Saturday?” For our first season, we relied on personal connections and recommendations to form and grow our ensemble. Our second season involves more concerts and larger projects. While relying on personal connections can yield dependable, vetted singers, it’s exhausting and time consuming to spend time swimming through this web of connections. Plus, we don’t want to end up in a DFW singer feedback loop. Believe me, we know wonderful people, but there are many other incredible singers waiting to be discovered. The choir world (like many fields) can feel incestuous at times

Singers from across DFW submitted prescreening recordings prior to the audition date. Not all professional ensembles require this first step, so why prescreening recordings? Especially as this process used a committee of Verdigris singer volunteers, we had the time to hear live just those voices that we felt had a promising sound for this season’s repertoire. Potential auditionees were also asked to answer a few questions that allowed them to share a bit about their inspiration behind applying for Verdigris. Demonstrating talent in the pre-screening was important, but it was paramount that the singers interested in auditioning were thoughtful and invested in the group’s mission.

At the audition, each singer brought a prepared classical solo, vocalized to demonstrate range and color, and sight-read portions of the upcoming repertoire. Since we have demanding repertoire coming up that requires high levels of musicianship and vocal control, the choir committee sang selections from Little Match Girl Passion and Mass Transmission with the auditionee to see how they blended with a small ensemble and navigated challenging musical passages.

The choir committee also had to chance to ask them a few questions in person. I have it on good authority that one of our kindest, gentlest singers, Katrina, turned on the heat for this part of the audition. She grilled auditionees, asking them to examine their willingness to make music with vulnerability and honesty. Go, Katrina!

During our first season, one of our greatest assets was the ensemble of singers who genuinely cared about the mission of Verdigris. This was not “just another gig” but a chance to really invest in the future of the art form. We want to keep that collective mentality, and we want to grow by adding people who share this commitment. As we look forward to building and growing the ensemble for this coming season, personal investment in our mission is key. The Verdigris team that we (and you!) have watched grow this past year cares deeply, makes music honestly, and has eyes firmly fixed on the future of the ensemble and the art form.

Erinn Sensenig