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As Audition Season has started to kick into high gear here in NYC and elsewhere – and it actually started earlier this year! – here are a few quick tips and fixes for your “book” – your physical book – from a pianist’s point of view.

NOTE: The “fixes” below are all bits of practical advice, common sense, if you will. I don’t go into the areas of song selection, acting, personal coaching. Nothing should take more than a few minutes to make right. However, these very practical bits are things that can and do end up derailing an audition for both the singer and the pianist – and they are easily fixable, preventable, and avoidable.

And, yes, I will be back at the piano for the upcoming Unified Professional Theatre Auditions (UPTA) in Memphis, TN – my 19th year! – as well as for the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) Professional Division Auditions – my 24th year! – in Mobile, AL.


That one favorite song that has been falling out of your binder for the past year or two (or more!) due to a worn out hole-punch and/or sheet protector: fix it NOW! Stop apologizing for the condition of your sheet music. Get thee to a copier or printer! -And if one of the rings of your 3-ring binder happens to no longer close as tightly as it used to, get a new a binder as well.


If you know that the copy of your sheet music is hard to read:

-it’s more “gray and white” than “black and white”
-the bass clef/left hand part of the piano is missing on every other page
-it has a bunch of old markings scribbled on it and not completely erased
-there’s a coffee stain in the middle of it

…Then just go and get a better, easily readable copy of it.



Put it in a binder, or mount it on a piece of cardboard or manila folder.


That song or cut of a song which is just two pages long – and always has been and always will be two pages long – but that you have set up in your binder as back-to-back pages thus requiring a page turn: rearrange and/or re-copy it NOW so that the pages “face” each other, thus eliminating the page turn.


All of those those songs that you downloaded from SheetMusicDirect, MusicNotes, OnlineSheetMusic, Scribd, etc., that have been in your binder as single-sided pieces of paper for weeks, months (or years!) after you first printed them off: spend some quality time with those pages and arrange them as if they were in a book: facing pages, complete with the occasional page turn. -And there will be less page turns now as well.


If something doesn’t feel right about the way you’ve cut a song to work in an audition, then tape yourself singing it, then listen to yourself. Really Listen. Does the grammar still make sense with your cut? Does the melodic and harmonic grammar still make sense? -Better yet: have someone else sing your cut so that you can hear it a bit more objectively AND subjectively. Sometimes a “Frankenstein’d cut” can indeed end up sounding monstrous.


Know that that copy of your favorite song from the show you just worked on that was given to you by your conductor/music director may not provide the most piano-friendly accompaniment out there. In fact, many recent shows use a piano-conductor score that is meant more for conducting from rather than playing from. All of the notes that you need and want to hear while you are singing – all the “information” that you want the pianist to play for you – may simply not be on the page. If you see a lot of small, cued notes in the “accompaniment” then that’s usually the first sign. A few of the big “offenders” in this regard are “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “All Shook Up”.


Look at exactly where you’ve written “START” and “STOP”. Are those your start and stop points? Or the pianist’s? There is usually a difference.


While I appreciate the service that MusicNotes provides, I still recommend going right to the two online sheet music stores that are directly aligned with the publishers:

Sheet Music Direct* which started off as the digital offshoot of Hal Leonard’s SheetMusic Plus.

Online Sheet Music which got its start as the digital home for Warner Bros. and Alfred. (Alfred does have it’s own digital shop, but I find their offerings and functionality limited.)

And because SMD and OSM have a more direct line to the publishers, their single-song price is also cheaper than it is on MN since MN licenses much of their catalog for resale from the Big Two. And due to the incestuousness nature of the music publishing biz, there is a big overlap in the catalogs of SMD, OSM, and MN. It’s worth the extra mouse-clicks and keystrokes to check all three sites for the song that you’re looking for.

*Note that SMD now offers unlimited transpositions and printouts of your purchased titles since they switched over to a PDF format. It’s also worth looking into the SMD PASS program which not only allows you to purchase single titles at a discount – usually 50% – but also grants you internet browser access to most of SMD’s digital library. The monthly or yearly fee can easily pay for itself with your first couple of discounted(!) downloads, purchases. (And you could always split the fee with a friend of two.)



My two cardinal rules for audition prep – which essentially distill down all of the above:

1) I – the pianist – should never be the first one to play your sheet music for you.

2) If the first two words out of your mouth when you come up to me at the piano are, “I’m sorry…” then that’s already two strikes against you.


See you in the room!
Have Fun!
Be Brilliant!


Do I want to blog about my Mom’s health, surgery?   12:48 AM Oct 10th

Can’t sleep tonight. Too many things.  Mind is racing.   3:40 AM Oct 14th

Doctor just gave us the good news! First time I’ve seen my Dad cry in years.   12:28 PM Oct 14th

Just saw Mom in CICU    1:21 PM Oct 14th

Had lunch with Kirsten. So good seeing her again.  Asks if I Twitter?   2:19 PM Oct 16th

Mom finally moved to her recovery room.  Time for me to breathe again.   12:34 PM Oct 17th

Heading back to NYC, but will be back in another week.  12:28 AM Oct 20th

Auditions, auditions, auditions.  If I have to play “Part Of Your World” one more time…   1:20 PM Oct 21st

Has it really been a month since my last blog entry?   2:43 PM Oct 22nd

Just “re-lived” the Bernstein “Mass” at Carnegie Hall. So proud of my friends. So moved by the music. 10:22 PM Oct 24th

Well, I guess DST is next weekend after all.   11:52 AM Oct 26th

Carnegie Hall: Pollini playing Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. How classic(al).   2:34 PM Oct 26th

Hint #2: Last row of CH = leg room and behind-the-seat storage.   3:01 PM Oct 26th

Four encores! Including the G-minor Ballade! Grazie!   5:39 PM Oct 26th

Walking through Central Park.. Guess it has been a few weeks, there’s color on the trees and on the ground.   6:06 PM Oct 26th

Little girl, age 9 – “It smells like popcorn and horses.”   6:34 PM Oct 26th

Thank You, Matthew Weiner! -Can’t wait for Season 3!   10:55 PM Oct 26th

Pack-a-little, Post-a-little… Getting to head back down to Richmond for the week.   11:24 AM Oct 27th

The wheels on the bus keep going round and round. 100 miles to go.   8:37 PM Oct 27th

Being a ‘rent to the ‘rents today.   1:36 PM Oct 28th

Over at Steve’s right now taking a break from the parents. Soup’s On!   6:28 PM Oct 29th

Heard about this ( ) on NPR yesterday, downloaded the free(?) album today ( ) Mash-Up!   1:17 PM Oct 30th

Pumpkin & Coconut Brownie Ice Cream from Bev’s Ice Cream 8:07 PM Oct 30th

Happiness is a non-sold-out Bolt Bus. Two seats for the price of one.   7:31 PM Oct 31st

Off to MoMA for the last Member Preview Day of the new Miró exhibit.   2:06 PM Nov 1st

This exhibit keeps going and going and going… “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement”   4:50 PM Nov 1st

Tracking a couple of friends in today’s marathon, and wondering how delayed the online results are.   11:58 AM Nov 2nd

Standing amid a sea of Silver, Blue, White and splashes of Orange! Inspiring!!   4:05 PM Nov 2nd

About to head out for some post-Marathon sushi with my brother and Maria.   5:58 PM Nov 2nd

Off to meet some friends for a morning-after-the-marathon breakfast. Could be interesting.   10:01 AM Nov 3rd

Times Square at 2:28pm EST – CNN Central 2:29 PM Nov 4th

Overwhelmed, but in a good way. The sense of Purpose and Hope was palpable in the midtown air (regardless of who you voted for).   6:14 PM Nov 4th

Just listening to the Cheering and Car Horns outside my apartment in Harlem!!!!!!!!!!   11:11 PM Nov 4th

OOPS! HA!!! ABC (in NYC at least) just interrupted their coverage for a Flomax commercial?!?!?!?!?   12:26 AM Nov 5th

Magnolia, Levain and Shake Shack all within seven blocks of each other… Is that a good or bad thing to know?   1:56 PM Nov 5th

At Lincoln Center about to experience Doctor Atomic.. And watching a lot of people trying to sell their tickets on the plaza…   7:30 PM Nov 5th

Intermission at The Met: People eating,drinking, chatting… leaving…   9:43 PM Nov 5th

Back at MoMA to catch the Kirchner once again before it closes… And the Van Gogh and Miró, of course   3:33 PM Nov 6th

Back at The Met tonight for the Berlioz. Technology and Art striving for their potential. I hope.   7:15 PM Nov 7th

Ah… The (Bittersweet) Hot Chocolate – with Marshmallow – from ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park 3:52 PM Nov 9th

At Zankel Hall tonight for Jeremy Denk playing Ives Concord & Beethoven Hammerklavier. Monster program!   7:13 PM Nov 11th

Bravo, Jeremy Denk! Bravo!   9:52 PM Nov 11th

I was looking for an excuse to be lazy today: Thank You, Rain.   1:26 PM Nov 13th

Coolness in progress at MoMA 3:43 PM Nov 14th

I wonder if they’ll have the Basil Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park today…   1:34 PM Nov 16th

More cupcakes coming to midtown Bway & 53rd… (Magnolia recently opened in Rock Center) 2:45 PM Nov 16th

Thank you, Mr. Carfizzi and Mr. & Mrs. (Grant) Murphy for a wonderful recital. 6:27 PM Nov 16th

Well, I thought I got here early enough to get in line for the movie. Probably #100ish, and still 30 minutes till they open   7:54 PM Nov 16th

“Slumdog Millionaire” – SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank You, Danny Boyle   10:35 PM Nov 16th

Everyone seems to be seeing snow this morning except for me – and I like snow!?!?   9:31 AM Nov 18th

ReTweet: @BravoTopChef Get ready! Spike is back and so are his shenanigans. Make sure to follow our boy tomorrow during the show   2:12 AM Nov 19th

Best lunch deal in Chinatown – 5 dumplings for $1 4:39 PM Nov 19th

Warming up with a Café Mocha at Abraço 5:35 PM Nov 19th

Hmmm… No line… very tempting… 5:55 PM Nov 19th

What I’m playing this afternoon.. 5:14 PM Nov 20th

Dinner at El Toro Partido – Torta! 4:54 PM Nov 22nd

O Christmas Tree Stand, O Christmas Tree Stand… (145th & Broadway) 9:15 PM Nov 24th

On the Acela down to DC for the holiday weekend 7:13 AM Nov 26th

@BravoTopChef Thanks, Andrew!   11:02 PM Nov 26th

Eat Well. Stay Safe. Happy Thanksgiving!   11:31 AM Nov 27th

Horse-Drawn Carriage rides in Carytown this weekend 5:21 PM Nov 28th

Then down to Cafe Gutenberg for dessert    9:05 PM Nov 28th

My dessert: Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Float Yes! Beer (stout) and Ice Cream (chocolate gelato)   9:08 PM Nov 28th

Back at Bev’s Ice Cream – Chocolate Chai with…   7:30 PM Nov 29th

With a Cranberry chaser – 7:31 PM Nov 29th

My parents’ church actually has TWO late seating breaks during the mass.   12:22 PM Nov 30th

Who knew that my parents liked Vietnamese food? 12:49 PM Nov 30th

Anderson Cooper swimming against Michael Phelps on “60 Minutes” tonight.   7:44 PM Nov 30th

Back on the bus back to NYC. Thankfully no one got trampled once the driver opened the doors, but there was definitely a throng.   7:29 AM Dec 1st

Take a Moment to Remember – World AIDS Day 2008.   9:44 AM Dec 1st

Happiness is a D (or A) Train across the platform.   3:49 PM Dec 1st

Anyone else going to the World AIDS Day “Bacharach to the Future” Benefit at New World Stages tonight? 3:54 PM Dec 1st

Condee Rice playing Brahms? I knew she was a good pianist, but… The Quintet is a LOT of notes! about 16 hours ago

Just saw a cop tie an elderly man’s shoes – I love New York City!   about 11 hours ago

It’s beginning to look a lot… about 8 hours ago

I really should be asleep by now, but just came up with an idea for a new – and long overdue – blog entry.   about two hours ago

Well, I guess I am going to finish this blog entry tonight, well, this morning. -Who needs sleep?  27 minutes ago

Done! Publish. less than 5 seconds ago

-Flying out of Washington-National in the middle of a snow storm.  -The plane’s departure delayed due to de-icing.  Twice.  -Getting off the plane in Savannah, Georgia, and discovering that it felt like summer – it was only March.  -Buying pralines from various vendors along River Street, then discovering that they were giving them away for free at the convention hospitality booth.  -The mile walk between the hotels. That’s really all I remember about the 1994 Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention.  My first set of Spring SETC Professional Division Auditions.

The most recent SETC Convention was just held in Chattanooga, Tennessee; it was their 59th Annual Convention.  As I was preparing my opening remarks to the actors and actresses auditioning, I was all set to say that it was my 20th Anniversary year with SETC.  Well, after thinking it through, I realized it was more likely my 15th year.  Then after consulting the "Past Conventions" listing in the convention program, it turned out it was only my 12th.  I guess it only seemed like I’ve been playing the Spring SETCs for 20 years already.  *For anyone doing the math: I haven’t played for all of the Spring SETCs since 1994.  Due to work commitments, I’ve missed three of the annual conventions.  Strangely enough, the three years I missed (1997, 2001, 2006), the conventions were held in Florida (Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando). We’ll have to see if that pattern continues in the future.  (I also play for the smaller Fall Professional Auditions, so I’m guessing that may have contributed to my 20-year syndrome.)

My first SETC actually came about after I had lobbied for the job.  That year, a number of theatre students I played for at Virginia Commonwealth University had made it through the state screenings, and were passed on to the regional level.  I just wanted to see if I could play for them.  As it turned out, the pianist who had been playing for the auditions the previous couple of years was not available that year. After a few brief phone conversations, as well as some recommendations – including a particularly glowing, unsolicited one from the Theatre VCU secretary – I was hired for the gig.  It was basically a blind and deaf hiring.  No one in the central office had ever heard of me, let alone had heard me play. And, truth be told, I had no real idea what I was going to be in for once I got down to Savannah. I had heard tales of the "Big Convention", but I had never experienced one myself.

Besides the travel woes, the weather and the pralines, there really is not much more I remember about my first SETC Convention. Oh! I do remember that a group of students had gotten mugged while walking along the River Street Waterfront, and they took a collection up to help them with their food, clothing and other expenses.  But as for the specifics of the actual auditions themselves, well, there’s actually not a lot I remember about those.  I think I had a grand piano in the ballroom.  It was the usual three days of auditions, with about 250 people auditioning each day.  And I was asked to come back the following year – and the following years – so I guess I did a job.  What I tend to retain about my annual SETC adventures are the airports, the hotels, and, yes, the food.

There aren’t that many specific auditions or auditionees I remember from the past 14 years.  Yes, I can remember being generally entertained from time to time, but as for which song and monologue went with which number, name and face in a particular ballroom, hotel and city, well, all bets are off.  However, there is one young gentleman who totally caught me by surprise by actually including me in his audition…

(to the tune of the Gershwin’s "They Can’t That Away From Me")

The way you play my pitch
The way you hit those keys
I think you’ve found your niche
Oh, no, they can’t take Jose away from me.

…Or something very close to that – and he continued on through the bridge and final refrain.  It also turned out that the monologue he performed before the song was directed towards me, but since I was multi-tasking – getting the tempo and other info from the next person – I didn’t pick up on that until someone told me he had customized his whole audition package "towards" me.  His monologue, I believe, was one of Shakespeare’s Fools.  Alas, since everything had happened so fast – and since I was sort of in shock – I was not able to follow-up with him to thank him, nor to see how many callbacks he ended up getting.

Otherwise, what I tend to remember are "trends". The end of "Soliloquy" made a huge comeback in popularity the year the Lincoln Center revival of Carousel opened.  There was even one young gentleman who, as he was placing his music on the piano, asked me, "Do you know this? It’s from a new show."  After making sure I only rolled my eyes inside my head, I just responded that I did know it, and made a semi-obvious gesture towards the copyright date on the opening page. Then there was the year of the Damn Yankees revival where I believe "Goodbye, Old Girl" set the record for the most performed, most repeated song. There was at least one actor who sang that song in each group of 25 auditions, sometimes two; and in the final group of the day, of the convention, there were four renditions of that song, perhaps even five, with at least two back-to-back. I had blocked it out after a while, and had had the accompaniment memorized by rote by the middle of the second day of auditions. It had even become sort of a joke among the people auditioning. One guy didn’t even bother giving me a tempo indication as he put his book on the piano, "I guess you know this one by now."  The most recent trends seem to center around the Kristin Chenoweth and Sutton Foster Songbooks: "Taylor, the Latte Boy", "The Girl in 14G", "Not for the Life of Me", "Astonishing", "Show Off", and, of course, "Gimme, Gimme".  And, yes, playwrights also seem to inspire trends from time to time.  If Christopher Durang, Jane Martin (the long suspected and speculated nom de plum of theatrical administrator, Jon Jory) and Neil Simon had a nickel for each time one of their monologues had been extracted, well, they’d have a lot of nickels.  -Too bad William Shakespeare’s benefactors and heirs(?) had not set up some sort of royalty agreement in place at the time of the Bard’s death.

I guess it’s a good thing I don’t remember more about the thousands of auditions I’ve played over the years at SETC and elsewhere. God knows, I kick myself enough during the process whenever I have a bad audition, I would go crazy trying to retain all the details of even just a fraction of the auditions I’ve played – the good, the bad, the ugly, the downright awful, the painfully oblivious, and the refreshingly brilliant ones.  Although, I have to wonder if somewhere down the line, something in my head will snap, and I will be found walking around Times Square re-enacting the audition packages I’ve experienced over the years.  So, if you happen to come to New York City, and run into a shaggy-haired Filipino with a sign around his neck reading, "Will sight read for food," and reciting the "Tuna Fish" monologue from Laughing Wild, and sprech-stimming "How Could I Ever Know?", well… Just remember: He likes the Monkey Cake from Amy’s Bread, and the Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Levain.

I’m here.

Just an hour before I arrived at the rehearsal studio, I was still slumbering away in my bed on my still somewhat comfortable mattress, cocooned in my still surprisingly insulating comforter. I could hear the muffled vibration of my cell phone buried in the pocket of my winter coat which was across the room.  Of course, by the time I had put my feet on the floor, stepped over some stray laundry, and fumbled through the pockets of my coat, the vibrating had stopped, but now the little red light was flashing. You have voicemail.

I didn’t even bother checking the message, I just went ahead and called back the "Missed Call". I had suspected why I was getting that call at 9:00 on a Sunday morning, and sure enough, my suspicions were correct. Someone was sick, and they needed someone else to come in and cover the day of auditions. Sure, I can come in. See you soon.

In retrospect, I’m not really sure just why I said, "Yes." Under normal circumstances, I would have just let the phone ring, and checked to see if someone left a message later on; but since WQXR had been quietly sounding in the background since 8:30, I was already coming out of my slumber to the strains of some Bach and Elgar. When I called back, I may have just been too tired to say anything but "Yes".  A pianistic Pavlovian response – Work equals Money, Money equals Rent. I guess I could have said, "No. I’m sorry, I already have other plans today," then gone back to bed for a few more hours.  Or, at the very least, "I’ll come in today, but only if I’m paid double the usual rate due to the last minute notice." Hindsight is 20/20. But I just hung up, and started getting ready.

It wasn’t until the D Train reached Rockefeller Center that I realized I had not brought my laptop with me. No book. Not even a magazine. Nothing to help me pass the time, nothing to keep me company. I stopped by one newsstand in search of the Sunday New York Times… We only carry the weekday.  What?!?! I passed a Starbucks – one of the twenty (at least) that bask directly in the neon glow of Times Square – and thought about getting a coffee, but then remembered that they carry the New York Times. I was able to grab one of the last two copies they had, and the barista/clerk even let me cut into line since she could tell I just wanted to buy the paper.  Nothing Tall, Grande or Venti for me at that time.  Another block or two later, I realized that I should have at least have gotten a Mocha.

I’m here.

The day was quite leisurely paced. I had plenty of breaks, plenty of time to read. Plenty of time to text silly messages to some of my friends – although, I had to step out of the studio into the hallway to do so since the signal was pretty week behind the closed doors. Plenty of time to give a listen to the audio-feed of the show that was running in the theatre next door.

The studio itself was very conducive to reading, if not ideal for reading. High ceilings, one wall lined with mirrors, a decent grand piano, but despite the number of recessed lighting fixtures, the general lighting was surprisingly dim. It was just The Room and I and the Times for most of the day. No distractions. It was an interior room, so there were no windows which made me feel better about not having my camera with me since there was really nothing to take pictures of.  Even the two big, round windows in the hallway were frosted – they were there to let light in, not to let one’s gaze out.

Every couple of minutes my reading would be interrupted by a familiar face coming through the door.  Some I knew by name and greeted with a hug; others I recognized from a Playbill bio, a television appearance, a movie role, and greeted with a smile, keeping a professional distance. Each person was taught a few short sequences of steps, and some were asked to improvise some movement accompanied by my own improvisations at the piano in the designated, requested style. It was during those brief exercises that I really wished I had not forgone the caffeine that morning.

That was pretty much the routine for day, interrupted only by a very quick lunch break. Work, work, work. Read, read, read. By the time the casting director informed me that I was done for the day, I had managed to make my way through the Sunday Times. Consequently, I was brought up to date on matters International, National, Local, Arts & Leisure, Style and Magazine. Even Real Estate.

I bundled myself and my newspaper up – I would take it home with me and put it in the recycling bin –  and headed back down to the street. As I stepped out of the stage door, I realized it was the first time I had been outside since rushing to the studio that morning. That first intake of the cold, NYC-fresh air into my lungs finally cleared away the bits of my interrupted morning slumber. Just a few feet later I found myself in the middle of Times Square. Like most New Yorkers – native and otherwise – I have a love/hate relationship with Times Square. Sometimes all the people, the noise, the lights, the smells are just too much to deal with, something to be avoided.  Other times – and this was turning out to be the case this evening – it feels great to be a part of all the fabled and infamous hustle and bustle of those few blocks of midtown. To be both and Observer and Participant. Native and Tourist.

I’m here.

As I navigated the crowded sidewalks, I noticed a couple trying to take a picture of themselves with the lights of Times Square as their background. Would you like me to take your picture? They kindly refused stating that they had perfected the art of the outstretched-arm-point-and-shoot self-portrait.  However, they did ask where I had picked up my copy of the Times. I told them that I had picked it up earlier that morning, and had managed to read all of it during the course of my work day. I then offered it to them. At first I could sense that they were waiting for me to attach some sort of catch to my offer, but they eventually accepted my gently-used newspaper. They even said they would make sure to put it in a recycling bin. Nice catch.

As I looked out through the window – a window in dire need of some cleaning or at least a good strong rain – just staring somewhat blankly into the distance seemed to muffle the din of room. Observing the buildings in the distance, the brightly clouded sky, the water towers on the rooftops across the street provided a pleasant distraction. At least momentarily. At least for me. Shuffle-hop-step… Reverse Cramp Roll… Push… Pull-back… STOMP! Over and over. Again and again. The roomful of Hopefuls – at this moment all men – were learning or, at least, attempting to learn a tap dance combination. Not easy stuff today. Very aggressive, very athletic. Very loud. Thankfully, I always keep a set of ear plugs – two sets, in fact – in my bag, so those helped to protect my ears from any possible auditory damage. Alas, there’s only so much noise they can keep out, and since I still had to hear the "sounds" in conjunction with my own playing, I could not totally isolate myself from the twenty pairs of tap shoes making contact with the studio floor.

I noticed the small length of pink ribbon sitting at the top end of the keyboard, just resting quietly on the highest B-flat. Previously, it was used to tie up a small bag of macarons that I had bought at lunch. I just happened to come across a recently opened café on 36th Street: a sliver of a place which consisted of a counter, a display case, a set of chairs and a small couch. More of a café in spirit, if not in execution or square footage. Besides the macarons – one violette and matcha green tea (which always seems somewhat redundant labeling to me) – my petit déjeuner included a baguette layered with a few slices of jambon and gruyère, sliced cornichons, moutarde and beurre.  A Ham and Cheese Sandwich which the café’s management called a "Paris".  Alas, when the order was called back to the kitchen, it was a "pair-riss", and not a "pah-ree". Ce ne fait rien. At least the proprietor was a true Monsieur.

As I played the brief excerpt of music, the piece of pink ribbon proceeded to do its own dance. Not only was it rocking along to the shuffling boogie that I was playing, but it was also succumbing to the room-quake caused by the 20 men dancing just a few feet away – the literal repercussions of each footfall. Between repetitions, it would settle back into place, although, if a breeze would come through the window, I would watch to see if it would get blown further down the keyboard or onto the floor, but it managed to stay put.

After the teaching phase was done, it was time for the Hopefuls to dance for the judges: the assistant choreographer and the casting director. The assistant choreographer’s assistant, the "dance demonstrator", for today went through the combination one more time before each Hopeful went up for their final exam as it were. He counted off the tempo, "5… 6… 5, 6, 7, 8…".  I started playing. As he danced/demonstrated, he called out the names of each step – a vocabulary still somewhat embarrassingly foreign to me after many years of playing dance auditions. Some of the Hopefuls just watched and listened, others moved their feet along with the demonstration checking to see if their movements were in sync. Still others just closed their eyes, running the steps in their head, hoping (and praying) for the best.

Three names were called out. The first three Hopefuls were lined up left to right. This time, after receiving a nod from the people behind the table, I started the count-off… 5… 6… My left hand hit the first octave of the descending bass line… 5, 6… My right hand started playing the offbeats… 7, 8… And we were off. The three Hopefuls picked up their left foot for the first step, then three taps made contact with the floor a fraction of a second later, while three pairs of eyes and ears watched and listened and evaluated. Two hands, ten fingers played along, emphasizing the rhythms, accenting the downbeats to help keep everyone from rushing. Eight short measures of music, 12 seconds later, it was over.  Well, at least for a few seconds, just enough time for the three Hopefuls to catch their breath before running the combination one more time. And then it was over. Another three names were called out, the next three Hopefuls lined up, the nod from the table… Line Up. Dance. Repeat.

By this time in the day, this whole routine had already been completed three times. The day started off with a group of women and a group of men before lunch, and another group of women after lunch. We were dancing the final group of men for the day before moving onto the singing portion of the process. Due to the number of people that were called back, that needed to be heard, the singing part of the day was a flurry of 16-bar cuts of pop/rock songs, or at least something resembling a pop/rock song for some of the Hopefuls. Lots of Billy Joel and Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Janis Joplin, etc. Towards the end of the session, I found myself just playing what was put in front of me, not really recognizing the titles, the melodies. It had all become a visual and aural blur.

After the last singer had come back to the piano to reclaim his "book", the three-ring binder filled with the copies of his music, I began to put the piano back in order. As I lowered the fallboard, I noticed the length of pink ribbon still sitting quietly on the upper keys. After the countless repetitions of the dance music, it was still there. After all the dance-induced rumbling, it’s shiny finish still reflected the dull, yellow-gray output of the fluorescent ceiling lights. It reminded me of the café I had discovered on my lunch break, and of the two dainty, delicate and delicious pastries that were placed in a small cellophane bag that was then tied and sealed with that piece of pink ribbon. I continued to close the fallboard, leaving the ribbon undisturbed, content in its stillness. I wondered if it was afraid of the dark, of being closed off from the rest of room. And I wondered – No! – I Hoped that the next person to open the piano, after catching a glimpse of that piece of pink ribbon out of the corner of their eye, would suddenly think to themselves, "Ah, macarons."

Gimme, Gimme – You’ve Got That Thing – Vanilla Ice Cream – Her Face – Stranger to the Rain – I Could Write a Book – The Hostess with the Mostest – Sweet Thursday – Almost Like Being in Love – Could I Leave You? – Rain – A Summer In Ohio – Home – As We Stumble Along – It’s an Art – I Believe In You – Goodnight, My Someone – I Can Hear the Bells – What Do I Need With Love? – Easy Street – Days of Plenty – A Little Bit In Love – Someday – You Should Be Loved – Sailing – Your Daddy’s Son – Don’t Tell Mama – Dance Ten, Looks Three – I Won’t Send Roses – Some People – I Could Have Danced All Night

When I woke up today, it was just so nice not having to be up and out of bed and functioning by 8:00am Central Time. However, I am always amazed – and proud of myself! – for being able to switch over my bodily waking-sleeping schedule like that when I need to do so. I have no qualms when it comes to admitting that I am not a "morning person", but at least I know I can play one in real life from time to time. In Memphis, I basically worked six to seven hours each day – well, there was a lunch break in there too – but the monologues and the other periodic breaks helped to ease the built-in stress and fatigue that comes with any set of auditions.

Gimme, Gimme – How Could I Ever Know? – Keeping Out of Mischief Now – Here I Am – The Life of the Party – Heartbreak Hotel – Miss Byrd – Don’t Do Sadness – My White Knight – Solla Sollew – Those Were The Good Old Days – Easy Money – Dancing Through Life – It’s a Perfect Relationship – And They’re Off – Old-Fashioned Love Story – The Streets of Dublin – Our Time – Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun – The Girl in 14G – The Devil You Know – Comedy Tonight – The Beauty Is – Into the Fire – One Track Mind – Dancing All the Time – Fools Fall In Love – I Wanna Go Home – Younger Than Springtime – You Can Always Count On Me – A Wonderful Guy – Gorgeous – My New Philosophy – Maybe This Time

All in all, it was a pretty good batch of auditions. Thankfully, the ratio of Good to Bad was very much in favor of the Good this year, but, at least from my perspective, there weren’t as many "WOW!"s as I would have liked. However, I did find myself giving some very hearty nods of approval from time to time. I was particularly impressed with one young man who sang two simple, non-show-off-y songs. He sang them well with a perfect sense of style and with no personal interpolations. He was not trying to prove something. He was just being himself. Very honest. Very refreshing. Very smart.

Gimme, Gimme – I Am On My Way – That Dirty Old Man – Take A Chance On Me – Poisoning Pigeons in the Park – Wherever He Ain’t – On the Street Where You Live – Legally Blonde – I Want To Be A Producer – Not A Day Goes By – Waiting For Life – Enchantment Passing Through – Roadkill – Maybe I Like It This Way – The Music That Makes Me Dance – Bride’s Lament – Infinite Joy – Lucky to Be Me – Never Neverland – Beauty School Dropout – Take Me or Leave Me – Times Like This – Use What You Got – Mama Who Bore Me – One Hundred Easy Ways – The Highest Judge of All – Life With Harold – Coffee – Astoria Gloria – A Trip to the Library – Daddy – Notice Me, Horton – The Sadder-But-Wider Girl – Holding to the Ground – Ol’ Man River – Rita’s Tune – Someone To Watch Over Me

Of course, there were a few crash-and-burns, train wrecks, totally botched auditions – it’s just the nature of the beast, the luck of the draw. Some of these not-so-good auditions resulted from a bad choice of material – songs and/or monologues. Others were hurt by severe lack of preparation. Some self-delusion also seemed to be in evidence this year. Sadly, I could also tell that some people were the victims of bad advice, teaching and coaching; coupled with a lack of honesty, reality, from the people giving them pre-audition opinions and criticism. I would have thought that with the popularity of "American Idol" that people – well, at least actors – would be a bit more honestly self-critical in regards to evaluating their talents. -Especially after paying for headshots, registration fees, airplane tickets, hotel rooms, cab fare, etc., to just get to the audition. It’s a far cry from taking the R Train into Manhattan for $2.00.

Gimme, Gimme – Gooch’s Song – Tonight – A Quiet Thing – Nobody Does It Like Me – A New World – She Loves Me – So Many People – I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today – Lost and Found – Nothing – You Must Meet My Wife – Jimmy – Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat – That’ll Show Him – My True Love – My Rules – Look What Happened to Mabel – The Finer Things – Someone Like You – Where in the World – This Place Is Mine – Let It Sing – Forest For the Trees – See What I Wanna See – Not While I’m Around – No Other Love – Home (the other one) – Till There Was You – Lost In The Wilderness – Glitter and Be Gay – Art Is Calling for Me – Soliloquy – There’s a Fine, Fine Line – Should I Be Sweet? – Anything – Come To Your Senses – Kind of Woman

As I mentioned, there was a lot of Good this year, and, there was also a greater variety of songs and monologues being presented. Anytime you get just under 1000 actors in one place – or even just 20, there’s bound to be some duplications of material along the way. Again, it’s just the nature of the beast. However, there were more than a few times during the last day of auditions when I would take my first look at someone’s music, and say to them, "We haven’t heard that one yet." -Which, of course, would bring a big smile (of relief) to their face. There were even a few "Greatest Hits" that did make the rotation this time around: no "Maria" (from West Side Story, not Paint Your Wagon), no "Defying Gravity", no "Old Red Hills of Home", no "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". No "I Can Cook Too"!?!?!?

Gimme, Gimme – If I Can’t Love Her – Astonishing – Dear, Friend – Crossword Puzzle – Sara Lee – I’ll Know – You Don’t Know This Man – Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee – What Is It About Her? – All That Jazz – I Am Adolpho – Hold On – Lost In The Wilderness – Glitter and Be Gay – The Mason – One Night with You – No Man Left For Me – You Don’t Know This Man – Winter’s On The Wing – There Won’t Be Trumpets – A Cockeyed Optimist – What Did I Have That I Don’t Have? – If You Could See Her – Thank You for the Music – Much More – Schaudenfreude – Turn Back, O Man – Me – Is It Really Me? – (Not) Getting Married Today – On the Street Where You Live – Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm – Let Yourself Go

So, today is my recovery day. My first auditon-free day in over a week. A month from now, I will be repeating the same duties for the SETC auditions in Chattanooga. In the meantime, well at least for today, I shall watch the snow fall (yes, I’m happy about that), perhaps take a walk in it, watch the some TV, hang out with some friends. I don’t have to be "on" today. I don’t "have" to smile. I can giggle out loud.

Oh, and…

Gimme, Gimme

July 2018
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