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January 31, 2017

So you want to get into a YAP next year? Here’s where to start.

When I asked a group of people about their goals for 2017, I noticed a lot of them mentioned wanting to get into a Young Artist Program (commonly referred to as a YAP). My initial reaction is one of concern naturally, as this is a really confining goal: not only does it have a very narrow margin of success (typically no more than <1-9% depending on program and voice type), but it’s also based on someone else’s opinion and permission.

But Young Artist Programs do pick people of course, and while the odds of admission are low, someone has to take those spots, right? Low odds make things difficult, but not impossible.

If you were one of the few who took a spot in a YAP for 2017, congratulations! Realizing what the odds are, you should see if you can find out why you were selected and capitalize on that. Whatever it was made you stand out, and it should continue to serve you.

If you wanted to get into one of these programs but you did not, try not to be too hard on yourself. As the odds point out, you can be completely fabulous and still not get accepted. If five wonderful, incredible singers audition and there is only one opening, then four of those fantastic people will not have a place. That’s the business.

There’s also the fact that opinions differ, and so while you might be accepted into one program, you may be rejected by another, which is why artists oftentimes will attend the same program for multiple years. If you’re already in and there’s no guarantee of work elsewhere, it makes sense that you might stay if there’s something for you again.

So – regardless of whether you have a contract for 2017 or not, if you have your sight set on the 2018 YAP season, here are my suggestions on what you can do to prepare, starting now.

1. Check out who was hired for this season.

Many companies post a list of the young artists who were selected for their upcoming programs. There are three places that this information might show up: on a company’s social media page, on their website on a page about the program, or in a press release (which is often tucked away somewhere on the site as well).

For example, two lovely posts of young artists came across my social media feed, including these graphics:

These are immensely helpful as a starting point for research. Not only can we see exactly who was chosen, but we know exactly how many people were chosen.

In Chautauqua’s post, we see that only 8 singers, 2 of each voice type, were chosen for the Apprentice level program and 4 of each voice type were chosen for the Studio level program. So out of ~1000 singers, if you came in as the 3rd or 5th best choice for those programs respectively, you were one below the cut off. Disappointing undoubtedly, but certainly not something to be discouraged about.

The tough part, of course, is that you don’t get to know how close you were to the top. If you were wait listed for a program, chances are you were pretty close.

Houston Grand Opera produced this post of their 17 semi-finalists, which were narrowed to 8 finalists who performed in a live concert on January 27. This year, HGO live-streamed the event so that people could watch the concert online and also participate in an Online Viewers’ Choice Award.

HGO recorded the concert, which can be viewed on their Facebook Page. That means you can listen to the singers’ live performances, audition-style, all in one place. Convenient!

There were First, Second, and Third Place prizes awarded, along with the Online Viewers’ Choice, Audience Choice, and Ana Maria Martinez Encouragement Award. Broadway World produced a great article about the winners, giving background information on each singer as well. You can access the article here.

It should be noted that the singers invited to be in the 2017-18 Studio have not been announced yet, but they will be chosen from the list of semi-finalists. One does not have to be in the competition to be considered for the Studio, and competition winners are not automatically guaranteed a spot in the Studio, but this still gives us a good idea of who is being selected at this level.

The article also tells us that 457 singers applied to the HGO Studio/Eleanor McCollum Competition. By watching the video itself, we find out that approximately half of those singers (233) were chosen for an audition, and from those, 17 semi-finalists (seen in the picture above) were chosen – approximately a 7% chance of being chosen from those that auditioned, give or take odds based on voice type (information we don’t have). During the week-long interview, rehearsal, and coaching process that takes place, those 17 are narrowed down to 8 finalists. These are the singers shown in the concert videos.

You also get a chance to hear the current Studio Artists sing in the concert. More good information.

2. Perform a comparative analysis of those chosen

Leave your ego at home for this – it’s not a time to evaluate whether you like the singers or think you’re better, etc. Really look, listen, and learn. Gather data.

Check out each singer’s experience level, technique, and performance presence if you can see videos. Don’t do that thing where you only watch the people that are of your same voice type…that’s not a complete picture.

See what you are attracted to and what you’re not. See if you feel like you are on a similar path technique-wise or not. I’m not talking about your sound – that’s unique to each of us – I’m speaking of consistency, ease of production, etc. See if your level of experience is similar or not.

Listen to the repertoire choices within your voice category. What do you notice? Are they typical aria choices? Unusual?

Look at the lists of singers – are the selections relegated to a certain number per voice type? In our two examples above, the answer is yes for Chautauqua and no for Houston Grand Opera. A glance at HGO’s website shows us a list of decades of alumni, categorized by year with voice types listed. In some years there are several of one voice type, and in some years there are none. The 2014-15 group of Studio Artist had no tenors. There are typically 8 singers in the Studio, sometimes 9.

If the singers are listed but not their voice types, you’ll have to do some digging to find out how many of each were chosen. A Google search makes this happen in almost no time.

An article like the one mentioned above in Broadway World makes it easy to get some previous history on each singer. If there is no such source, which is often the case, see if the singers’ resumes or bios are online. Look at the history that led up to where the singers are currently.

3. Get to know the people involved.

All of these companies list staff on their websites. Anyone from the General or Artistic Director to the Chorus Master could be weighing in on the decisions. See what you can find out about these people. In addition to those recently chosen, what are the characteristics of people they chose in the past? Are there any similarities?

Do these people have social media accounts? What do they talk about? Have they been interviewed? Do they know people you know? Follow them and listen to what they have to say. Join groups where they are active in discussions. See if they write a blog (they definitely exist). Look at the way they write – what are their “voices” like? This can give you an idea of what the person is like.

When possible, join conversations if you have something of value to contribute. If you like an article or a post, share it and make a comment about why you like it. Tag the company or person of interest in your post.

Look at the productions the companies create. Are they traditional? Avant garde? Do they favor a certain composer or language? This might give you an idea of what goes in an audition and what they might be interested in seeing/hearing.

You might notice a theme in all three of these points: they all require research and analysis. If you thought those things would go away after formal training because you’re a creative artist, think again. These skills are imperative to the success of any entrepreneur. After all – the more informed you are, the more confident you can be in your decisions going forward.

Once you’ve done your research and analysis, you’ll be ready to move on to the next phase: action on your part. This entails deciding which programs would be appropriate choices and what you need to do preparation-wise to give yourself the best chance at success. Selection to one of these programs is never guaranteed, but it should go without saying: knowledge is power.

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