Lindsey Kuper (lindseykuper) wrote,
Lindsey Kuper

Infiltrating the Jacobs School of Music, one audition at a time

Just before the semester started, I auditioned for IU choral ensembles. (Apparently, taking the foundations qual just wasn't enough having-my-worth-as-a-human-being-evaluated-by-committee for one week.) When I went to sign up for auditions, it was around 2 p.m. on a Thursday. I had to pick a time slot, and the best available time left was around 4:30 that day. This was scary. I had imagined having at least a few days to practice. But I had a piece I knew well, and I'd been working on it, so I decided to just go sing that day and get it over with.

Two hours later, I showed up in the hallway outside the audition room with a black folder, two collated copies of Dowland's "Flow my tears", and the jitters. The choral conducting doctoral student who was on door duty looked at the audition form I handed him, which listed my department and degree program at the top, and said, "I didn't know you could get a Ph.D. in computer science."

"It turns out," I said, in as dry a tone I could muster given the state of my nerves.

"What do you do with a Ph.D. in computer science?" I tried to think of the best way to answer that. "Teach computer science?" he answered his own question, chuckling.

"Or get a prestigious industry job," I replied. (Forgive me -- it was a snobbish thing to say, but I was starting to get irritated.)

"There are prestigious computer industry jobs?" he asked.

This was not really helping me think about Dowland. I managed to refrain from asking what he planned to do with his Ph.D. -- although I was tempted -- and instead drank my water and tried to relax. Eventually, some other people showed up, and we camped out in the hallway waiting for our turns to sing. We made small talk; it turned out one person had a boyfriend in Portland who sang in the opera there. She'd brought a Schubert piece to sing, and I was impressed. I love Schubert lieder, but I don't have the chops to sing them the way I think they ought to be sung. Or the mettle to do it in front of the IU voice faculty.

Finally, my name was called and it was time to go in. I was surprised by the number of people in the room. They were a mix of grad students and professors, probably ten or eleven people in all. I brought my music over to the accompanist, realizing as I did so that it had come off the copier slightly askew and that it was hard to tell what a couple of notes were. "I hope this is readable," I apologized as I handed it to him.

"Uh, I'm sure it's fine," he said, raising an eyebrow at me. I suddenly realized that "I hope this is readable" could be easily misinterpreted as "I hope you're capable enough to read this very simple piece." Oh, no! Awkward! But it was time to sing. I was reasonably happy with how I did. I didn't breathe in any terrible places, and I managed to sing the quiet bits quietly, which was good, since when I'm nervous I have a bad habit of just belting things out from beginning to end. I was taking repeats to stretch the time out, and they stopped me about thirty seconds from the end. I got a "That was beautiful, Lindsey, thank you," which felt good. Then they had me do some sight reading from stuff they had sitting out -- first rhythmic, then melodic. I felt like I was screwing up, and at one point I started to apologize, but they waved this aside and said, "No, no, you're fine."

The best part of the whole audition came right at the end of the sight reading. I came to a rather odd-looking series of accidentals -- I don't remember what, exactly, but I think there was a G♭ followed by an F♯, and then maybe a double-sharp or something. As I saw it coming, I thought, "No. Bad. No composer would put this here. They can't actually mean for me to sing this! It must be a mistake! Do not want!" And then, roughly one nanosecond before I had to actually sing the notes, I realized, "Wait! This isn't music, it's a sight-reading test. Trick question!" And confidently sang the last three notes as written. And everybody smiled.

And that was my seven-minute choir audition. I walked out feeling that it had gone well. I was glad that they had let the likes of me go to voice-major auditions at all, and I was very glad when I found out that I had made callbacks for Pro Arte. I didn't get into that ensemble, and I don't think I deserved to. They have a league, and I'm not in it. However, they put me in a different ensemble, the University Chorale, and that's the group I've been singing with, three times a week, for the last couple of months.

I love being in U. Chorale. The rehearsals are good for my voice, good for my brain, and good for my soul. Last weekend, we had our first concert of the 2008-2009 year -- the Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle. There will be three more concerts this year, including the Britten War Requiem in the spring.

We aren't the best choir at IU. (That would be the University Singers.) I can't say that we're the second-best choir, either, since there are groups that sing a specific repertoire (Pro Arte, for instance) that are more selective. But U. Chorale is arguably the second-best ensemble that sings a general repertoire. And, well, I promise not to go on at length about the whole whine-complain-I'm-not-a-music-major-anymore thing1, but as I was telling Paul stereotype441 on the phone today, there are 29 of us, and at last count I'm one of only seven who are not vocal performance majors, and one of only four who aren't music majors.

So, in other words, if you squint, I can sort of pass for a music major. I'm pretty happy about that.

And I hope to further infiltrate the music school. Because, you know, these folks are world-class at what they do, but seriously, I think some of 'em need an Eternal Golden Braid upside the head.

  1. I promise no such thing! (I'll save Confessions of an Ex-Music Major for Geek Buffet, though, probably.)
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