How to wow an adjudicator

He who sings scares away his woes.

~Voltaire

Every time I adjudicate, I come home thinking about what I wish the contestants knew.  As I continue to reflect on the singing I heard last week whilst adjudicating in Illinois, I think it’s time to put some ideas out there for others to see.

We adjudicators joke that we should bring a checklist of ten things we always say, and just mark which of these statements apply to that particular singer.  Perhaps that’s what I’m doing here.

Given that some of the students I hear at a contest are 15 to 18 years old, and given that many do not sing in public regularly, and a large number do not take private lessons, here are some general thoughts to share with teenagers (and adults!) who are singing in public for any reason —

  1. Just breathe.
  2. Sell the song.  We want to be wowed.  We want to believe you.  And we want to see and hear you succeed.
  3. All other things being equal, open your mouth taller rather than wider.  Let us hear uninhibited resonance that rings proud and true.
  4. Know the meaning of every word you sing.
  5. When singing in foreign language, prepare yourself better by hitting YouTube and finding video of people who natively speak/sing that language.  Go for idiomatic pronunciation.
  6. Just breathe.
  7. Stand proudly.  And get your hair out of your face so that you can communicate with the fullest visage possible.
  8. Think about what you wearing.  The party dress or the tight vest is probably not the best choice. (See this posting for more on this topic.)
  9. Smile at the adjudicator as you provide music.
  10. If you receive applause, bow.  And then acknowledge your accompanist.
  11. Just breathe.
  12. Don’t try to lower the adjudicator’s expectations.  Stand proudly and present what you have to give.  No apologies or excuses are necessary.
  13. If in doubt, take the song faster rather than slower.  Plan your breathing so it coincides with punctuation marks and rests in the music.  And then breathe earlier than the last eighth-note rest!
  14. Review my Radical Rules for Righteous Singing.  I wrote these over 20 years ago.  They are still true and honest.
  15. Remember that the words came first.  Honor them.  Interpret them.  Start and end with the text.
  16. Singing is a visual act, as well as aural/verbal.  Show the song in the face.  We watch you as well as listen to you.
  17. Just breathe.

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