THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS
AND AUDITIONING ...
June, 2008 (I’ve been away
When I left the Navy to get
my education in Engineering, I really had only two immediate
goals; to get into a good program (El Camino Jr. College
supplied that) ... and join their Choir. I had never
auditioned for anything in my life for, as a natural singer,
my teachers had always just pointed at me and said you’re
singing this or that! My first role was as the comic, Chu
Few, in an operetta, In a Chinese Temple Garden, singing Hop
Lee, the Rickshaw Man. It was a lot of fun and my first
dialogue show. The audience liked me. I hadn’t auditioned. I
sang for many Assembly’s, in Jr. High, just walked out to
the mike and sang something, whatever the musical even might
be, but did mostly chorale work in High School.
I guess my first “audition” (if you could call it that) was
for R. Neil Hill, at El Camino ... I sang sixteen bars and
was put in as the section leader, in the second bass
section. Along came the chorale work, The Daughter of Jairus
and I was told to learn the part of the Father. That went so
well, my mother suggested I take voice lessons. Eleven
months later, I auditioned for the Inglewood Musical Arts
Society and won first place, that was $25 (which I split
with my accompanist, Kay Haga, and a concert. I had never
sung an Art Song, and had to learn seven, in German, French
and Italian, for the concert ... in two weeks. I received my
first review, from the L A Times and the critic said I
sounded like a young Cesare Siepi, a great bass ... even
though I sang the baritone Figaro aria, from Barber of
Seville. Oh, wait a sec ... I did sing “La ci darem la mano
...” with Patricia Berke, which was from Don Giovanni, one
of Siepi’s signature roles.
Two months later, I went in, music in hand, to the Horn, a
Night Club in Santa Monica. I asked the boss, Rick, if I
could sing a song and he asked, “What have you done?” I
showed him my Times review. ”Don’t sing anything too heavy.”
I sang Because of You and Rick had me sing three more songs.
The audience was very generous.
“Are you interested in Summer Stock?” Rick asked. “What’s
Summer Stock?” I had spent the last two years studying
engineering and working a seven hour midnight shift, running
a wind tunnel, at AiResearch Mfg. Co. He told me. The next
day, I auditioned over the phone for an agent, Philomena
Smyth, putting the phone on the top of the piano and playing
and singing On the Road to Mandalay. She called back fifteen
minutes later, having set up an audition, for the next day,
with Lewis and Young, of the Sacramento Music Circus. I took
Neil Hill with me and sang I Got Plenty of Nuttin’ with the
high G at the end ... and was hired on the spot. I took a
leave of absence, from my job as an assistant Lab Engineer
and the next Monday, started rehearsing Kismet, in chorus, a
new member of Actor’s Equity ... but, running a different
kind of wind tunnel. Immediately following that, Gershon
Kingsley, the conductor at Music Circus, hired me to sing
five shows a day, at the Band Stand, at the California State
Fair ... again no audition. I then went off to learn more
about music, repertoire, some more piano and languages, on
scholarship at the Lamont School of Music, University of
Denver ... I only stayed one year, as I realized I was being
taught by amateurs to be an amateur. Back to the Horn ...
But ... what’s this to do with auditioning?
To be continued next month ... Well, in about ten days ....