"It's the most wonderful time of the year"! It's the YAP, YAPPIEST season of all...
Yes, it's that time, in New York City, when singers young and OLD wind their way through the bowels of nyco, warm up in the bathrooms of church basements, lip trill in the hallways of NOLA, and hope above all hopes that they are 'accepted' somewhere.
Validation, of course. And "The PATH". Feels kind of like "The SECRET". They say "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere", but, is it true for YAPs and those first programs that are supposed stepping stones to success?
(btw, do you like all the quotes and alliteration I've used so far? Yea, it's THAT kind of morning).
Here are a few case studies of friends of mine (let's stick with sopranos since it's easily the hardest 'fach' to get hired in...no matter what).
Soprano A- undergrad from a music conservatory, grad from a music conservatory, mid level Yap1, mid/high level Yap2, doctorate from a music school, "yap"abroad for a year (in all of these yaps she covered the main roles and sang the smaller roles...with a few chances to do the big stuff, like in student matinees). Back in NYC, with an management since age 29, not being accepted to many mainstage auditions, nothing in future work. Over 30 now.
Soprano B- undergrad from a big university, grad from a big university while at the same time in a resident artist program (singing and covering leading roles), small summer Yap1, small summer yap2 (and by small I mean, they do one or two shows, and they may not have the 'connections' coming to see the young artists as a bigger yap would). Big residency program (for a year, but then nothing from them). Gap year. No summer program, no residency. Not managed yet, not 30 yet either, applying to yaps THIS year (after years of doing it..since we were all about 22 or 23ish), and got into a top-level Yap- which means- connections, agent auditions, mainstage auditions from WHOEVER comes through there for the summer. My friends that have sung here have mostly ALL come out either with an agent, concert work, or a mainstage job. Here's hoping!
Soprano C- undergrad from a big university and from a conservatory, grad from a big university while in a resident artist program (leading roles), yap1, yap2 (mid-level), invited back to yap2 for mainstage, Big residency program (for a year, singing great mainstage roles), return to residency house after program for one show, management at age 25- then no more summer programs, or 'programs' at all were recommended. Mainstage- starting from regional, working way into 'important regional', Europe debut, and mainstage work into 2012.
SopranoD- JOC (that's juilliard opera center), bigYap, was heard by intl.YAP at bigYAP, now in the ensemble of major European opera house (with top management, obviously).
SopranoE- IU (music school) Master's, little yaps, big yaps, big residency asked back for 3 years (roles, covers of big roles), then nothing for THREE years, now a little yap, and tbd for the summer. No management, over 30.
What's the key? IS there a key? Is there a 'right way'?
Is it just your GUT telling you to press on for ONE more year of the insanity in New York between October and December? Is it just dumb luck about the one year that the panel decides YOU will be the 'chosen one who will join the ranks of a summer program, mostly to sing in the chorus, but also to cover a mainstage role? How old is too old and when is enough, enough? I have colleagues well into their mid to late thirties who are still singing in Yaps. NOT as mainstage artists. (And not always telling the TRUTH about their age....since many programs have age limits).
The harder truth is, that YAPs, while providing a supportive 'incubator' period, and yes, also providing the opportunity to REALLY show your stuff (if given the chance, when agents come through for mainstage performances), are not an indicator of a future career. They're like a 'hidden level' in Mario Brothers that you can collect a LOT of golden coins in, and maybe skip to level 4 from level 1...BUT it doesn't mean that you can't lose all your lives and have a "Game Over" sign flashing on your not-yet-color Gameboy Screen (I'm dating myself to about 1995 here). And by the time you start that new game from level one with no secret codes, you may be 30, with no agent, and no real 'experience' besides covering and coaching for a summer.