Those of us that don't live in New York save lots of money on rent-- but use lots of whatever we saved taking trips there to see our teachers, coaches, and of course the dreaded audition season! Actually, I don't dread it. I like it. But that's because I'm probably crazy.
I remember the first audition trip I ever took with my friends Hilary and Nakia, we were broke and warmed up in the subway when the trains went by. But now, I figure it's worth the 15 or 20 bucks to get a practice room to warm up and change and touch up my face. Its hard for me to feel really prepared and relaxed for an audition if I have not had a few minutes to myself and can look in the mirror and see that I look okay. In New York, some people find Nola Studios just totally painful, and I get that-- it's cramped and full of singers (singers!! AUGHHH!!! I run screaming into the horizon) and we all have varying degrees of post traumatic stress disorder from audition experiences of yore connected to that place. But the gentleman that runs it has always been really nice and accommodating, and I love that there is a Subway downstairs to get a non-fattening lunch and a Diet Coke before an audition. There are tons of studios in Manhattan, and we all have our favorites, but so far, the one that feels the most civilized to me is Rehearsal Studios NY and the location is great because there are diners and coffee places to get a grilled cheese to reward yourself after a successful lesson or audition.
Places to stay
Of course, we would all like to have friends to stay with and couch surf for free every night, but sometimes you just can't impose on them again, or they aren't in town. Often the problem with getting a hotel room is that you don't know your audition schedule soon enough to get a really good rate. Okay, now I'm not pretending its going to be cheap or anything, but if you plan to travel with another singer, you can get a room with two double beds and split the cost, which is pretty darn economical. Now, please heed my warnings: if you are a soprano, you will need to travel with a mezzo, tenor, baritone, or bass. If you are a tenor, you will need to travel with a soprano (ooh la la!), mezzo, baritone, or bass. Are you following the pattern here? No matter how strong your friendship is, you might be surprised at how weird it is to get ready for an audition with someone who is your direct competition. Even though as evolved, enlightened human beings we try so hard to not see it that way...it's best to try to just keep stressors to a minimum, nonetheless. I have several very dear friends, even best friends, I would say, who are sopranos. But I'm just sayin'...
I have a friend who has had tremendous luck with AirBnB, where you pay people to host you in their apartment. Also, if you are not adverse to staying closer to the airports, those hotels are often much cheaper. You will spend money, however, getting to Manhattan, so... that is something to consider.
Saving a Few Bucks
Another thing to think about is starting a fund. A while back I stopped getting regular mani/pedis and started doing them myself. I figured I'd rather spend that money on having an extra lesson or coaching or having a decent place to stay when I go-- and if I have any extra money during my trip to NYC, the mani/pedis are cheaper and better and more readily available there any way! Come to think of it, that's probably a more diet-friendly way to reward myself than by eating a grilled cheese. :) Or, you could start packing your lunch everyday and try to put five bucks a day in the old audition trip kitty. For five days a week that's twenty-five bucks a week, and it really adds up fast! Here's another cheapo thing I do to save money for singing things: I buy most of my clothes on Ebay. I go to the department store and try on brand name things, figure out the sizes that work for me in those particular brands, and then look for them on Ebay. You would be amazed at what you can find at a good discount. I've also started to sell things that I don't wear any more, and the money I make just stays in my Paypal account until I see another Calvin Klein dress on Ebay that's perfect for auditions!
My late teacher admonished me often: don't go to a coach unless you really need one. Do your own work first. Learn everything as well and as thoroughly as you can first. Do research. Get a cheap Kobbe's Complete Opera Book on Amazon. For historical research and invaluable background work, get The Timetables of History. I was in a masterclass with Lauren Flanigan, and she admonished us to get this-- I am so glad I did. It's amazing to see what was going on in the world your character lived in. I have a friend who asks for a Nico Castel Opera Libretti book every year from her parents for Christmas. Guess what-- now she has almost all of them! Can you imagine not having to go to the library to use that resource?? In other words, there is a lot we can do on our own. Coaches are there to help us polish our languages so they sparkle, fix any little things we just may have missed, give us suggestions for more rep, and to help us strategize for competitions and auditions.
What I Wear
Okay so being on a bus (train/plane/car/vespa) for three hours is pretty unglamorous in the first place, but being on a bus for three hours in an uncomfortable, shlubby, or stained outfit is even worse. Am I right?
I have always felt that a little planning can keep me from feeling bad when I look in the mirror, even if the odds are against me—which of course they always are when you’re on a bus.
My first rule for travel: wear dark colors. Period. Because if you’re like me, you’ll spill things on yourself—coffee, chocolate, the odd cheeto. And then when you get off the bus and find yourself in stylish midtown Manhattan, no one is the wiser.
I absolutely refuse to sit for long periods of time while wearing Spanx. It makes my stomach hurt. So this means that shapewear is out, which means that formfitting clothes aren’t really an option. You know what I love best that is really put together looking and still majorly comfy? Jeans with a lot of stretch and a black turtleneck and fun flats for winter, or a flowy, easy maxi dress and cardigan with flat sandals for summer. I have a navy maxi dress that is perfect for this kind of thing. And I always do a maxi dress instead of something shorter because sometimes I get cold on the bus, and also because I can cross my legs and get comfortable without showing anyone my biscuit by accident.
Some of you might be thinking by now: She sure does spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff! Why doesn’t she just put on some darn clothes and shut up?
And to you I say: You have obviously never been on a bus. It can be downright sucky. So anything that makes less uncomfortable is GREAT.
And now for the conversation about carrying around your damn audition attire. This is the part I actually hate the most. It is truly painful to have to lug your make-up, shoes, dress, hairspray, etc. around the whole day whilst trying to think about singing. It rarely puts me in a good mood. And not that this has changed that really, but the only thing I’ve found that really keeps me from the edge of insanity is one like this, and even this (this model is quite expensive), you’re still going to have some wrinkling. You need a shoulder strap on it, and it needs to have room for your binder and shoes, and your wallet, obviously. What I always do to combat the wrinkles is to either bring or buy a travel size wrinkle-releasing spray like Downy makes. When you get to your practice room or wherever you are going to change, take the dress out immediately, hang it up, and spray it liberally, then fluff it out. This helps a LOT.