My First University Audition

My First University Audition

A Story by Naomi Bloom
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A story about my first audition for a university music program; University of Toronto (Canada). It was a stressful audition.

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It was just mom and I, in our little Yaris, rolling closer and closer to the University of Toronto.  I knew I was going to be the one David in a sea of Goliaths. 


U of T, as everyone called it, was supposedly the greatest school in the country for its opera program.  When I had told my uncle, a sound man, about applying to Queen’s and Laurier, my two favourites, he had scoffed, saying that, “applying to Queen’s for music is like applying to Waterloo for art or English.  U of T is the way to go.  Every opera singer I see in my job went to U of T.”  


Remembering the serious look on his face, I shivered and, although I was sitting still, my heart beat faster.  So many people had told me how hard it was to get in, and I believed them.  My church’s music director, Frances, had told me that only three people got into the performance program every year, the one that I stupidly applied to.  


The worst thing I had heard was what happened at most music auditions.  Vocalists who made mistakes or didn’t communicate the music were fired at with questions like, “What makes you think you can sing?” or “Why are you even here?”  The judges were known to be confrontational and, apparently, that was putting it nicely.  


My heart was very gradually beating faster each kilometer.  It whirled, flipped and flopped in every direction like a deranged compass.  Even as we sped through the streets of Toronto, my mind was still on pause, in a state of disbelief.  How did I get here?  My audition songs played one by one in the car, the sopranos taunting me with their confidence and experience.  We parallel parked near a historical-looking building.  After getting our ticket from the parking ticket dispenser, mom and I rushed to find the “Edward Johnson Building.”  Once inside, we rushed up the dirty, off-white sets of stairs, until we saw a large brown foyer with wooden benches bordering the room.  Some doors at the sides led to the dark dramatic concert halls.


We went down the right corridor through a white hallway and found a small office.  There were some university students chatting as we met them.  They both wore street clothes.  “Just sign in here,” said one of the students who had thick brown hair pushed into a ponytail.  I signed in quickly and she led mom and I back to the large brown room.  

Immediately we kept going, taking another corridor on the other side of the room.  

“You’re really early,” she said to me as we brushed past the white walls that turned beige as we walked.  


I kept wishing that I could see the other singers that were auditioning " how they dressed, how they prepared.  


We arrived at a light brown wooden door.  The student knocked on it with an experienced poise.  A young girl wearing a black overcoat with her medium brown hair in a bun emerged, carrying music and bags of clothing with her, a young man right behind her, probably her accompanist.  


“You’re finally ready,” the brunette student said, “Good luck!”


I walked into the empty classroom and laid down all my bags on some old turquoise chairs.


“I’ll come and get you 5 minutes before the audition,” the girl said.


My mom went outside to look for Oscar and closed the door for the classroom.  And then I was alone.  Recognizing the large black piece of furniture at the front of the classroom as a grand piano, I sat down and tried to call to mind some vocal exercises. 


That’s what you do here, right? I thought to myself.  


Soon, vocal arpeggios and scales flooded through the room.  I heard a squeak outside the room.  Wet shoes on the floor by the door.  Nervously, I tried to ignore the noises, hoping no one was listening in.  


I was about to open the book with my songs when the door opened, making me whip around, surprised.  


I heard Oscar say, “It’s too late now.  You’re going to fail anyway,” he chuckled, “Just kidding.”  Sometimes I don’t appreciate his “jokes.”  


The old man walked in, wearing a snow-swept sweatshirt, carrying only a few binders.  Immediately, we got to work.  I sung to the invisible classroom of turquoise chairs.  We practiced every song except Rain has fallen by Samuel Barber.  We had just started the song when the brunette student poked her head in through the opened door.


“Ready?”


I wanted to finish the song, but she said I only had five minutes.  I had to lug all my baggage with me on the way to the room, just like the last girl.  We passed the brown, high-ceilinged room for the last time.  I was about to go through the glass doors when my mom said she would wait outside on one of the benches since she wasn’t allowed past the glass doors.  There were two red cushioned chairs in a long beige-white hallway.  I could only sit on my chair and wait, clutching my music.  The wooden door was right in front of me, so close and yet so far away.  Oscar roamed the hallway, almost pacing.  He studied the mortar boards, looking for someone he knew.  He had gone to U of T for his music degree.  


“I don’t know anyone here,” he exclaimed, and then he said suddenly, “You know, Naomi, I used to roam these halls years and years ago…”


I don’t remember whether I’d said anything in response.  My heart was ticking almost as if it was a lunatic’s watch, accelerating instead of ticking at normal speed.  I tried to take a few deep breaths, but I couldn’t calm down.  In the other room I could hear a complicated but harmonious song on the piano. Why isn’t there any singing? I asked myself.


Oscar had different thoughts: “Who’s playing?” he mumbled, still pacing.  


Time would not fly!  I looked at what I was wearing " a black velvet skirt, black sandals, black nylons, a black necklace and a black velvet shirt covered with unidentifiable gold scribbling.  My hair was tied back with a black velvet clip.  When did I decide I was going to a funeral?


I stared at the door, thinking I wouldn’t be able to look at anything else until it opened.

Suddenly, a heavyset man with thick dark brown hair walked in from the big brown room into the hallway Oscar and I occupied.


“Hello, Naomi,” he said, offering his hand to shake.  Hardly able to believe that he had come, I stood up, composed myself and tried to shake his hand as firmly as I could.


“Hello,” I said.


Taking one last look at the hallway that suddenly looked wonderfully safe, I moved into the audition room.  The room was immense for an audition room.  The walls were white and the floors were carpeted with gray.  A grand piano stood proudly in the middle of the room.  A chubby woman with short straight blonde hair stood up from the piano and walked toward me.  


Immediately, my singing teacher’s advice came back: “Stand up tall, smile, walk right up to the judges and introduce yourself and make sure you shake her hand, even if she won’t let you, just go ahead and do it anyway.”


So, on instinct, I walked up to the woman and firmly offered my hand.  I tried to look her straight in the eye.


“Hi, nice to meet you!”


I sounded like I belonged at McDonald’s, not a music university.  The woman looked strict and she didn’t say anything.  She tried to search me and pierce me at the same time with her eyes.  Maybe she thought she was important enough to take that much time with her inspection.  It seemed so obvious.  


I handed the judges the books and folders and then stepped back near the piano, where Oscar sat, hopefully ready.  Pleased with the generous amount of space, I tried to stand perfectly in between the piano and the grey panel’s table.


“Please stand in the arc of the piano,” the male professor said, pretentiously.  I gingerly moved back, feeling stupid.


“So…what would you like to start with?”


“Volta la Terrea, by Verdi.”


“You can start whenever you like.”


I sang.  I can’t remember a performance of the song going any better.  Most of the time I managed to look the male judge in the eye.


“Thank you,” the judges said, seemingly pleased, “We would like to hear Se tu m’ami by Pergolesi.”


That was my easiest song, so I was wondering what had happened.  After I sang it, the panel seemed impressed again.  


Then they asked for Rain has fallen, one of the hardest songs because of the confusing tonality, or lack of it.  I got through the song without too many mistakes.


After I finished, they asked whether I wanted to sing another song.  In my panic, I said no, while Oh! Quand je dors by Franz Liszt rang in my ears, mocking me.  I should have said yes.


Oscar teased, “Sure you don’t want to do ‘The Birds’?”


I didn’t understand his joke at all.


“I’m kidding.”


Realizing I was done singing, Oscar said, “So I’m done, right?”


“You’re done,” they both said, cheerfully.


The male judge walked over to the piano and sat down, “So now I’m going to play a few intervals and I want you to identify them for me.”


He played the first set of notes.


Automatically, I said, “Major 4th.”


“No, it’s a Perfect 4th.”


“Oh, right.”


“Next one…”


“Augmented 4th


“Little higher.”


“Major 7th.”


Shocked, he crooned, “Yes.”


“Minor 3rd down.”


“Yes,” he hissed.


The next slew of questions and tests were a painful blur as I tried my best to answer them with my minimal training in theory and musical skills.  If I had been given the same tests during my third year of music at Wilfrid Laurier University, I would have laughed at the simplicity of them, but as a senior high school student I felt frustrated.  I hadn’t expected any of these questions.


“Now, some cadences.  They will either be Perfect, Plagal, Imperfect or Deceptive.”  I hadn’t heard of most of these terms and it must have been obvious to him that I was guessing at answers.


“I want you to sing this melody back to me.”


“Please sight sing the melody at the bottom of the page.”


Barely remembering what I had just experienced, I realized the man was ushering me to the judges’ table, where they left me a chair.


“The worst part’s over now,” the man said.  Did he have his master’s degree in smelling fear?  


The judges asked me two questions: “What was your greatest musical memory?” and “What are your career goals?”


I answered stiffly and simply, with little detail, hoping the interview would be over soon.

“And do you have any questions for us?”


Trying to make my answer sound more hesitant, I said no.  


“Well, that’s it,” the two voluptuous professors grinned, “Answers are sent by mail.”


They seemed satisfied, relieved.  I burst out of the room, my black bag still sitting on one of the red chairs.  I was relieved, but at the same time devastated.  I didn’t get in.

© 2013 Naomi Bloom


Author's Note

Naomi Bloom
My U of T audition was stressful and I didn't get into the school. However I ended up getting into several other schools in Ontario and I got my music degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.

This story is one of my most autobiographical pieces (although most of my writing is about my own experiences) and I was just trying to recount one of my memories as accurately as possible.

Names have been changed for privacy.

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Added on February 5, 2013
Last Updated on March 16, 2013
Tags: my first university audition, naomi bloom, writer, writing, story, prose, experience, memory, personal, audition, music, school, university, program, toronto, stress, fear, difficult, singing, vocal

Author

Naomi Bloom
Naomi Bloom

Ontario, Canada



About
An amateur writer of poems, short stories and other types of writing. I recently graduated from university and I am trying to figure out what to do with my life. Victorian England, name meanings, be.. more..

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