The international bass-baritone Alan Held would like to share his concerns about the mercenary exploitation of aspiring singers by respected opera companies and universities. We agree: these rip-offs must stop.
This about the money being charged to young singers in order to audition for Young Artist Programs and universities in order to further their educations.
I have known that fees were charged by some entities. I just didn’t know how out of hand it has become. Into my possession has come a list of what some of these companies are charging the young singers. It is outrageous especially as the singers are required to send in the money to many programs AND ARE NOT EVEN GUARANTEED AN AUDITION (up to $75).
I know of singers who are sending in their very hard to come buy cash and are then not receiving auditions. First of all, the companies are truly missing out on some fine young singers. Second, to take their money and then not even give them an audition? Ridiculous.
These are not fly by the night opera companies–these are some of our most noted regional opera companies. In addition, many of the “pay to sing” programs, whose goal should be to help encourage young talent in summer programs, are charging great amounts as well.
I haven’t even talked about the fees the competitions are charging (anywhere from $40 to $200) in order to enter the contest. What really gets me, however, is the amount that certain universities are charging students seeking to further their educations (post baccalaureate).
One university charges a $150 application fee (another $75 if the application is late), and then a $100 pre-screening fee (if you want someone to actually listen to the recordings you have to submit) and then $150 if you are given an audition—the total can be $400-$475 just for a singer to get the chance to step through the door to audition. Other schools are also charging large amounts.
Now, I’m FULLY AWARE that facilities cost money (if the audition is not held on “home turf”), and pianists need to be paid (if the student doesn’t bring their own). These fees, however, stay the same whether the singer brings their own pianist or not. It is outrageous. The students are being gouged and money is being made on the wrong backs. Many students are struggling to make ends meet as it is. If they apply to multiple companies/schools, etc., they are finding themselves in even deeper financial difficulty. Some singers have sponsors–most don’t. The worst part is that some very fine talent is having to skip out on audition opportunities because of these costs.
This is NOT the way things were when my career began. I’m WELL AWARE that times have changed. BUT, to have the young and upcoming singers footing the bill is not right.
UPDATE: Click here for a fresh twist on the sordid theme.