Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dealing With Rejection

Thursday evening musings...

Be it music theatre, straight theatre or opera - we have chosen a profession that has has an unemployment rate of 95% according to SAG statistics.  We are over-saturated by people wanting and trying to be in the business and the number of jobs vs the number of us out there is ridiculously not in our favor!

Now, don't get me started on how many people are there and shouldn't be...this whole "I wanna be famous" and no craft drives me to drink! But I digress...

Given our odds, and the nature of our business, what we can almost bank on is the rejection we face.  NOT getting the job happens much more often than getting it.

NOT getting seen for an audition happens daily.  NOT being heard for an audition happens daily.  NOT finding an audition we are actually 'right' for happens daily.  

Then, IF we get seen/heard,  getting a callback isn't guaranteed.  And then IF that callback comes, or heaven forbid, several callbacks for the same show come, and THEN you are told, "Thanks, but we've gone another way", the rejection can be, interesting.

How are you dealing with that?  

This is PRECISELY why I DEMAND a professionalism and a sense of proportion from my corner of the business.  This is why I think it is morally and ethically wrong to not recognize and respect the sanctity of the audition room.  Performers are vulnerable in the moment of audition.  They are sharing and evoking, not just interviewing, and deserve the respect of just having the guts to walk in and stand in front of somebody who will make a yay or naye decision about what they see/hear in 60 seconds.  

First, and foremost: I applaud you as artists.  What we do is unique and full of risks.  Those risks allow you to create, to feel, to BE, but they also allow you to discover self-doubt, darkness of spirit, fatigue, disappointment, disillusionment, vulnerability and bitterness.

Allowing ourselves to feel all of that and be open to it all takes GREAT COURAGE.  YOU HAVE GREAT COURAGE to DO and BE WHO YOU ARE!!!!!

It takes great courage to walk into an audition space and open up.  As I am consulting with singers during this season, it takes great courage to walk into a studio and speak to a teacher about WHO you are and what you want to discover and then SING!

Dealing with rejection in this business can be tricky.  We are told not to take it personally, and on an intellectual level, we can understand that, but it still can get under your skin, and itch or tug a bit.  

Learning HOW to acknowledge the reality of what we DO within the business is primary.  

Again, I say to you - being an artist is one thing;  being an artist trying to make a living in this business is something else.  They are different beasts.  If you truly are an artist, then NO MATTER WHAT, YOU ARE AN ARTIST.  You do not need a job to validate that.

Dealing with rejection within the business of singing, has to remain there - in the business.  We must acknowledge that it stings, it bites, and then in the acknowledgement, we can release it.  However, the rejection is NOT about the artist within.  It is about the external business.

Decisions in business, and ours is no different, are made in ways and for reasons we are not privy to and have no control over.

We can either bitch about it and get drawn into the mire of mediocrity and whine about it, and  "poor me" a lot, or we can MAKE A DECISION to live our lives, and thus, our craft, in a particular way, that leads us.  It may not get us the job, but it will create an energy that is more positive around us, draw the people we need to us, and allow us to live with AUTHENTICITY!
It's okay to be irked by rejection, even when you know it's not personal.  Pretending it doesn't bug you isn't real either.  Recognition of self is the KEY.  Respond and then learn where that response is best served.  

When I was a growing up and had a disappointment, I went through a ritual of "blowing out the fuses" that my parents always supported and allowed.  I screamed, I cried, I made blanket statements of "I hate this! I am never doing it again! I am doing something else!"  and then I went for a walk, or slammed my bedroom door, and within an hour, I was right back at the piano working on something else.  My father was so patient with me but he knew I NEEDED to do that.  I couldn't say "oh well" because that wasn't me.  It isn't me now - but I believe I have evolved a little over the last 30 years!!!!  My responses still respond!! They are just a little more appropriate to my age and experience!

So, RESPOND to the sense of rejection.  Acknowledge it.  Put it in the perspective it deserves and then leave it there.  It does not deserve more weight than it needs.  It does not need brooding or days or what-ifs;  it needs proper balance and proper acknowledgement.  

Often by saying - "wow that sucked."  and everything else you need to say (!) you put that rejection into perspective IMMEDIATELY.  When that happens, it releases you fully.  You have the power of perspective and perception.  You are being honest, and you are being true to the situation and your feelings, and your place in the moment.

If you are the artist you say you are, rejection will NOT hold you back if you find a place to let it rest.

Artistry is a way of BEING.  That creative spirit will want to move and morph and develop.  There is no time limit or expiry date for artistry!!!  

If you keep your business and your artistry very clearly defined, when it intersects, you will not be side-swiped when a rejection comes your way.

Remember, YOU HAVE CHOSEN THIS LIFE.  Rejection is part of the fine print. 

Acknowledge it; feel it; release it;

Taking is seriously - fine.  Taking it personally - not fine.  

When I was adjudicating a music festival one year, I overheard a singer say "I am not winning - she hates me!"

I addressed it publicly.  I simply said this: "These are my decisions, based on what I hear, based on my expertise.  I cannot hate you, because I simply do not know you well enough to hate you!!"

Rejection is business. Rejection is NOT personal.  It is NOT about you.  It is NOT about artistry.  It is about BUSINESS.  Business is NOT artistry.  Business is business.



  1. Great post! I especially liked "Taking is seriously - fine. Taking it personally - not fine." ABSOLUTELY!

    Rejections over the years have kept my garden in great shape - nothing like a disappointing letter / phone call to fuel a pair of secateurs!

  2. Glad to hear your garden is THRIVING!

  3. You've got it so right! I think the more of us that speak out about how to handle these many issues of being on a singing career path, the better. It is so about knowing the person inside the singer really well and being OK with that, that allow one to muster through. Carol Kirkpatrick, author,"ARIA READY" The Business of Singing

  4. I know this is YEARS old, but I would just like to thank you for writing this. Just today, I got a major rejection. It was a musical I had wanted to be in for my entire life (not exaggerating), and this post was comforting and made me reevaluate the way I'm coping with my situation. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous - thank you for taking the time to post! I am so glad you found something the resonated with you and comforted you and validated what you are feeling and how to evaluate it! This makes my Monday morning truly!

  6. Hi Susan, I been taking pop singing lessons (I'm a guitar player) and though I haven't finished or performed any original song, I also deal with the insecurity of "did I choose the right song?" for auditions or recitals. I listen to a great variety of music, mostly in english, but our teacher ask us it to be in spanish or italian (spanish is my mother language) so I start searching in a genre I'm not very familiar with, most of times a hit song within my vocal range. So I had like 3 options and started asking for opinions of friends (approval) and one of my fellow guitar mates said to me about the song I chose "Boy choose another than song makes me so bored" and though he has other tastes, his rejection towards the song made me feel insecure. I have two more weeks of rehearsal until november 9th, I wanted to write all this because I know someone who reads this great blog may find it useful, but now I know rejection is part of the game, and somehow I like that risk, didn't know you loose more than you win, thanks for sharing all this thoughts, I'll be sure to come back and read it again.