This past week was probably the most chaotic seven days of my thirty-year stint as a voice teacher. Auditions popped up everywhere—Simi Valley’s Cultural Arts’ Next To Normal, Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, Escape Theatre’s Oliver, Canyon Theater Guild’s In the Heights, COC’s Little Shop, several straggling college acceptance auditions and, even, for God’s sake, The Voice. I was up to my ears in a myriad of 16-bar-cuts of songs that screamed, “Look at me! I can do this!” Between drilling the notes, pep-talking for nerves, setting up tripods, memorizing lyrics, rehearsing lines and let’s not forget nagging to “smile-smile-smile,” I’m surprised I’m still standing.
I’m not competitive by nature, but the audition process brings out my inner football coach screeching from the sidelines. It may appear that the goal is for my student to beat out the next guy, but winning is not what I’m after. If you ask me, Creativity and competition are bitter bedfellows. What gets me exhilarated about auditioning is that it presents the perfect opportunity for students to pull together their hard work and skill and prove to themselves what they’re made of. Auditions create a crisis situation for performers, which throws them into a learning mode money can’t buy!
Crisis and Creativity go hand in hand. The force of Creativity brings about transformation—not just in culture (as we see how Bill Gates’ Creative energies have revamped life as we know it)—but also on an individual level. Creative acts challenge our view of ourselves and can literally change the landscape of our brains. When we audition for a role, we are taking a risk—a risk at rejection. It’s scary. But neuroscience shows us that our brains feed on risk because new and risky experiences instigate problem solving. When we are in danger, adrenaline triggers our “fight, flight, or freeze” response, which affects our blood sugars, our heart rate and makes our palms sweaty. It’s a little ironic that while we may feel paralyzed by adrenaline, it’s actually a life-saving hormone when our survival is at stake due to asthma, croup or overdose. Becoming a limp noodle at the sight of the casting director may feel counterproductive to our immediate goal of landing a role, but these Creative experiences are what make us grow.
According to Dr. Lawrence C. Katz, our brains are evolutionarily primed to seek out and respond to what is unexpected or novel. Overcoming our fear transforms our self-perception, which ultimately builds up confidence. The famous Chinese adage “crisis = opportunity” more specifically translates as “a critical point where things change.” The force of Creativity is transformative. We don’t need a dusty stage and footlights to engage with it. So, even if you’re not a singer out for a role in a musical, there’s something for everyone when it comes to auditioning. Most of us design our lives in such a way that we don’t have to endure such heightened nerves brought on by the almighty try-outs once we pass a certain age. We might want to reconsider, though. We might want to “try-out” new activities, challenge ourselves in social scenarios, take up a new sport or walk to the grocery store—anything novel or new. The neurotrophins in our brains will thank us and so will our hearts once we reflect on our inner growth. And we’re not limited to sixteen bars, either. We have our whole lives.