underwater model
Stella Brüggen

Stella Brüggen

Make Decisions Like a Singer: a Wakeup Call about My Attitude

Two weeks ago, I got an email that made my heart skip a beat: an invitation to audition for a small ensemble. I say small because it’s only five women, but they are serious. They’re professionals. They’re making money in music. They’re wonderful singers.

They are the real deal.

Apparently my name had come recommended, and they asked me if I wouldn’t like to audition, even though the deadline for sending in files had already come and gone?

I got home in a state of frazzled bewilderment. My first thought was: this is too soon. I’m not ready. I’m a lousy sight-singer. I can’t do this.

I called my mother (also a singer) and told her about the invite. She nearly screamed – she’s a huge fan of this group and basically made me promise to audition.
‘A chance like this doesn’t always come along a second time,’ she said.
‘But I might have to quit the conservatory!’
‘You’re studying at the conservatory because you want to work as a singer. Are you now going to not work as a singer so you can study at the conservatory?’

She made a decent point but I was unconvinced. I called the conductor who had recommended me and asked whether he thought I was ready.

He said: ‘That’s up to them to decide. And if they turn you down, that doesn’t mean you’re not good, it just means it’s not a perfect fit with their voices. Do the audition. It’ll be a good experience for you.’

He was right: I had only ever auditioned for the conservatory. This could be an extremely valuable experience in learning how to audition.

I submitted my files and was happy when I got invited to the in-person round.

A day later I got a phone call from a tv channel. Did I want to appear on national television as an underwater model in a photography show?

I did.
I really did.
I had been on tv as a mermaid before but it had been a weird game show and there hadn’t been any swimming involved. This would be the real thing: real photographers, someone to do my makeup, a costume I wouldn’t have to sew myself, actually showing off my underwater modelling skills on tv.

I had spent years building a reputation as an underwater model.

I deserved this chance.

Then I realised the show would be shot one day before the audition. For those singers who aren’t such fans of pools: swimming around in chlorinated water for three hours is not the best way to prepare your voice.

I was torn. I told myself I would be able to do both the tv appearance and the audition without any serious consequences. My chances of getting the position with the ensemble were about 7%, I estimated. If I did the modelling gig, I’d lower those to 5% and be on national television doing something I love.
Worth it.

Then my friend Milan said something that gave me a reality check.

‘First of all, estimating your own chances is useless and self-defeating,’ he said, sweeping my imposter syndrome off the table. ‘Second of all, you say you’re only doing this audition for the experience and because you want to learn how to audition, right?’
‘M-hm,’ I muttered.
‘Then you also need to take your preparation seriously. You need to take your rest seriously. You need to take your attitude seriously.’

He was damn right. If I wanted to learn from this experience, I needed to go through the entire thing. I couldn’t half-ass it just to dip my toes in the water and see how I liked it. I needed to plunge in head-first, or I wouldn’t learn a thing.

If I want to be a singer, I need to start making decisions like a singer.

I can’t wait until I actually am where I want to be to make the decisions that fit that situation. I need to start making those decisions now.

With a considerable amount of heart-ache, I passed the modelling gig to my sister, with whom I’d worked with in the past. She did a great job and made me really proud.

For myself, I rehearsed the audition repertoire until I knew it by heart. I took the weekend off. I did nothing but study for the audition and relax – I even acquiesced to watching Lord of the Rings with my husband, which I would usually deem an incredible waste of my time.

I went to the audition with a feeling of rest: I had done all I could to prepare myself. The audition was really fun and went well – even if they don’t pick me, I think I made a good impression.

Getting that job would be fantastic, but even if I don’t, I know I made the right decision. I have set myself a good example: I am now the kind of person who prepares for auditions as thoroughly as she can. And being that person is ultimately worth far more to me than being on tv.


Wanna read something else? Here’s why all those cardio workouts aren’t doing anything for your sustained notes. 

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Comment at the bottom of this page or DM me on insta (@stellabruggen).