As I said, the reason I started working at the Y after grad school was so that I could turn all of my attention toward music. I was good, had a vocal performance minor and lots of experience and I thought that I'd be able to find a combination of opportunities for singing that would allow that to be my life. (i.e. I was young and stupid and still had TONS to learn...)
So as I was finishing up my Masters degree, I started auditioning for groups around town.
- Minnesota Chorale - Led by the wonderful Kathy Romey who I had sung with in the Men's Choir at the U of MN while in grad school. I made it into the volunteer chorus, but not into the ranks of the paid singers who got the best gigs.
- The Dale Warland Singers - This was few years before Dale retired and I don't remember if we knew he was going to. I was really nervous because DALE WARLAND! Totally bungled the sight reading part of the audition. (I know now that he liked to choose particularly obtuse things for those exercises as a weed out.) When I finished making a hash out of it, he said "You haven't had much music theory, have you." So 1) I knew the audition was over and 2) his condescension ensured that I never had any interest in auditioning for him again.
- Cantus - I was really excited to audition for Cantus. Listening to them made me long for my days at NCSU with the Grains of Time a capella group. And they were changing their model so that the singers would be salaried as half-time employees or some such so there would be a lot of travel but also a lot of stability. I think I acquitted myself well during the audition, but I didn't make the cut and I was inconsolably bummed.
Finally I hit on one group that was willing to take a chance on me - The Rose Ensemble. Rose had only been around since 1996 but they were already making big waves in the early music world. I auditioned for Jordan and he was very sweet and down to Earth. When I heard back, they could only guarantee needing me for the first show of the next season, but it was something.
So I worked my butt off getting ready over the summer. They had recorded a CD that included much of the music I needed to learn (Slavic Holiday - go get it!) and I listened to it on repeat at my desk at the Y. By the time the first rehearsal rolled around that fall, I knew everything on that CD by heart. So as we were milling about before rehearsal (in the robing room "backstage" at the Basilica of St. Mary where we rehearsed in those days), Jordan walks in and spouts off the opening cantor line of Svaty Vaclave, the Pavlovian response took over and I sang back the response. I wasn't alone, mind you, but the new guy wasn't supposed to know what to do. This was commented on approvingly. :)
Thus began two seasons of making music with the most talented and dedicated collection of musicians I have ever had the honor to be a part of. I learned many things about my voice because I had to step up my game so that I wasn't always the weakest link. I made dear friends and continue to see in my musical endeavors around town, always to my pleasure. The Road to Compostella show and CD are still the highlight of my musical life (I hear Eric's clear countertenor opening to Beata Viscera in my head often). Those two seasons weren't all positive, but in terms of learning and growing I couldn't have asked for more supportive or magical company than I received.
I sing with amazing people today and I've done many things since then, but that time with Rose is still the bar against which every other musical experience is measured.