Last month I did a pretty crazy thing.
I drove about 2.5 hours to D.C. so I could
fly about 2.5 hours to Orlando so I could
wait about 2.5 hours in a room so I could
sing 16 measures of music in front of two men for about 2.5 minutes.
Why? Because Disney is why.
For the last couple years, I have habitually checked the Disney Auditions website every few weeks to see if the Mouse is looking for something that sounds like me. Keep in mind, I have a life and family and budding career in Virginia and I’m pursuing it wholeheartedly. It’s just in case. Maybe there’s a position, an opportunity that is too good not to take.
Technically, I had auditioned for Disney twice before: once in Fairfax, VA for the All American College Band and once through an online submission as an Entertainer Pianist for Disney Cruise Lines. But I’d never been to a “real” WDW audition in their facility or anything. So when I saw an open call in Orlando for “Voices of Liberty” in Epcot (If you haven’t heard the show, go Youtube yourself a favor), I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least try. All voice types, all ethnicities, just vocals and that’s it. I felt like it fit me perfectly, and it was too good to pass up. Fortunately, I have a wonderful friend who lives in Orlando with her husband and adorable baby, and they were gracious enough to let me stay with them for a few days.
So off I went! Picture this…
I’m sitting on the floor of Ronald Reagan International Airport (I had to charge my phone) next to all of my belongings. I was flying extremely cheap and wasn’t even allowed a carry-on, so I had shoved everything (with great difficulty, I’m a Tetris master) into one backpack. So there I am on the floor with a cold hummus plate and a green tea, feeling like a renegade world traveler. I make friends with a man traveling to Puerto Rico. He does not ask me where I am going and does not appreciate that I am a vagabond musician living out of a backpack. We board, we fly, we land, and it hits me. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
The next 36 hours were pretty quiet, I was emotionally preparing/mentally denying the audition. It wasn’t until the next morning that I started to feel nerves. Here’s basically how it all went:
6:24- I awake to no alarm, but rather to the frantic electricity running through my nervous system. I lay awake for 20 minutes before deciding to get up. I feel sick, I just want it to be over (A typical pre-audition vibe for me)
7:45- I warm up in the car on the way over. It sounds crazy and my friend’s baby is entranced. We arrive at the Animal Kingdom Rehearsal Facility and say a prayer before I get out of the car. I feel calm.
8:30- I’m officially in line, inside the building but outside the real entrance with the other over-eager applicants. Registration doesn’t start for another half-hour so we stand in the cold hallway like nervous little sardines, simultaneously encouraging each other and sizing each other up. There are a lot of first-timers, which relaxes me.
8:57- They let us in. We’re buzzing with energy, I feel like I’m in the line to Gatsby’s party. We take numbers to determine our order (I’m #25) and are left in the rehearsal space for the next hour.
9:00- I have befriended the guy in line behind me. He’s a tenor from Chicago and knows a lot more about vocal auditions than I do. Over the next hour I learn that Disney callbacks are about as common as four-leaf clovers, and that the infamous “Disney sound” for vocals is nearly impossible to nail down. Everyone is talking about “straight tone”; I hear it constantly. Classically trained vocalists are stressed about cutting vibrato, and I’m hoping my patented “jazz/church/pop/no formal lesson training” background will be an advantage somehow.
9:30- They’re piping music into the waiting room. I hear “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince followed by “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby, which makes me think first of my mother, then my father. I feel the distance from home, but the music makes me feel supported.
10:08- The casting directors and accompanist come out to greet us, then they disappear with numbers 1-15. Anxiety sets in. As people return I start doing the math and realize that I’ll be there another hour. I go over my sheet music and try to relax.
11:00ish- I line up with numbers 16-30 and am led to a cold hallway outside The Room. I can’t tell if I’m shaking from the cold or the nerves. (NOTE: People usually don’t know when I’m nervous about performing and are surprised to hear how terrifying it is for me at times. My poker face is excellent, but the shaking can give it away.) As each person leaves The Room, the next goes in immediately; it’s seamless. We can hear (and judge) every piece being sung. One girl sang a second song, another was asked questions.
Somewhere between 11:10 and the end of time-The door opens. Deep breath.
Head up, shoulders back. Smile. I walk inside.
There are the same two men at a table in front of me, and the accompanist is at an upright to my left. I give him my music and we exchange a few words about how to begin. They confirm my name, I politely correct their pronounciation. I’m given my note and I sing. The casting directors look pleased, not moved. They thank me, I collect my music, I walk out.
I wait to listen to my new friend, #26, and we congratulate each other on the way out. I effectively spill the entirety of my purse on the floor while trying to get my jacket, and step outside. I did it!
The next day and a half was a waiting game to see if I got a callback email. I kept going back and forth between resigning and hoping, but it got a little more real when I found out #26 did get a callback. Suddenly it became a little more attainable, and a little harder to accept when 5:00 came and went and I heard nothing.
For me, post-audition rejection is always tough, especially if I’ve traveled and people have helped me. It’s easy to feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time, plus there are the normal musician worries:
“What were they looking for? What could I have done differently? Am I even any good? Will I ever do more than I’m doing RIGHT NOW?” etc. etc.
But those are just knee-jerk reactions to the release of stress. After a cry and a few days, I felt really good about the whole thing. I went, I sang, I felt good about my audition (didn’t crack or freeze or anything), and if nothing else I tried. And there’s no shame in trying. Or failing.
I also had a few days to see some beautiful Disney property and spend time with wonderful friends. I lost nothing, I gained experience and some amazing views. AND! I had some wonderful things waiting for me back home. I don’t regret going by any means, but this wasn’t the opportunity for me. I’ll keep trying, whether through auditions or other avenues, and I know the right thing will click when the time for it is right. Until then, jazz on...