Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

Video clips! Singers, you now need video clips. And if you've been slow to upgrade your phone to the 5S or whatever your non-Apple version of "the latest and greatest" is, then wait ye no longer because wow, as professional tools those things are seriously handy.

But let me back up: Maestro Jung-Ho Pak, the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cape Symphony and the Music Director of the World Youth Symphony at Interlochen Center for the Arts has posted the following open letter to BSR singers regarding the value of video clips, and I can personally vouch that it's all totally true. I recently forwarded a series of videos to Maestro Pak of colleagues, and thank goodness those colleagues whose praises I was singing had awesome video clips online, and thank goodness also for the 5S, because I did not (cue sad trombone). Personal goal for next year: get more video clips online. (Note to self: must also look better on video.)

Before we get to the Maestro's very informative letter, please note that BSR includes a link to everyone's website directly under their name and photo in the profile search, so directors can click directly to websites with video and audio clips.  For safety reasons, however, the profile search is available only to paid BSR members.

And now, read on! Maestro Pak is pretty awesome.



To Singers from a Director:

In an era when we are increasingly shopping online for everything from washing machines to a first date, the arts are no exception. The same conveniences of viewing and researching an item online before buying, now also applies to finding new talent. In the old days of CD’s mailed to conductors with the unlikely chance of any response, today we can actively peruse a person’s talent on YouTube within seconds, without having to deal with a high pressure sales pitch or disappointing the singer after an audition. It’s much easier to view a sample of a singer’s work in private and at my own time rather than going through the awkward and cumbersome dance of setting up a live audition, which can often lead to nothing (considering the law of averages) despite the effort and expense to the singer.

Yes, there are probably some very good singers (or other soloists) who might escape my notice because they don’t have a webpage or equally problematic, no video online. However, there are so many highly qualified singers who can meet the needs of a project to some degree, the advantages a singer may have over another excellent singer is the presence of a sample video. One advantage of the Boston’s Singers Resource is that it is assumed that most of the singers are reasonably priced for local orchestras because of the singer’s home base around Boston (thus saving travel and hotel costs). So paired with video links, the Resource can be a powerful "one-stop shopping” resource for presenters.

The days of the artist's agent who will pick up the phone on their behalf is becoming rare. If you have such an agent, and they're affordable, then I would suggest keeping them, but I would still advocate having a good amount of YouTube video of your work. If you don’t have an agent, a good webpage and video archive is quite powerful and I have hired many singers based upon just video. It may be surprising to some, but if you think about how strange and remote it may seem that previously singers were hired based solely upon a CD, video is definitely the future.

(A side note. I never fully trusted audio recordings because I never knew how much the performance has been edited. It’s almost impossible to secretly edit/repair a live video without it showing. Also, stage presence is so important these days, I need to see if there is any charisma during the artist’s performance.)

Finally, there’s no real excuse for not videoing yourself these days. I know we all believe that live auditions cannot be replaced by videos, and while I don’t disagree with that fact, the fact remains that the quality of videos and video posting sites will only increase. (I predict 3D videos will be here sooner than you think.) So I think you have to ask yourself how long can you afford to sit on the sidelines while other singers are taking advantage of the most ubiquitous technology that everyone else is using? Remember, you don’t need a high priced camera crew or expensive microphones to feel well represented. You’d be shocked how good an iPhone video looks and sounds these days. And no, you don’t always have to post a scene from an actual opera or with an orchestra. Conductors understand how difficult it is to get permission from professional companies or orchestras, so a piano recital or reading will be just as good in most cases. Good pitch and good rhythm are fundamental in any situation, and a conductor can intuit a lot from a video. At the very least, it could lead to a live audition.

I hope that this encouragement gives all the singers in our region motivation to consider having their video posted. The truth is that I want to find you as well. Having more choices offers my audience greater variety and I can match singers to roles more accurately. So let’s help each other and connect!

Jung-Ho Pak
Artistic Director and Conductor, Cape Symphony
Music Director, World Youth Symphony at Interlochen Center for the Arts