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I'm Blue

Article by Jillian Mitchell // November 02 2007
I'm Blue

What do New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam, Oberhausen and Orlando have in common? Ah, yes, grown men in greasy blue makeup beating out awe-inspiring drives on whatever they can find. Indeed, I am referring to the Blue Man, “a mystical, magical, mute being—a hero and a clown, a child and a shaman that defies description as readily as it welcomes speculation.” Every minute of every day, countless hopefuls jump at the chance to try out for this incredible, experimental-rock, performance-art escapade that is one of the hottest commodities on the scene today. Now, we all know that it takes a lot of dedication and preparation to ace a high profile audition such as the Blue Man Group (BMG), but, as Pat Craig of the Knight Rider Tribune states, “if the hopefuls have rhythm in their hands and fire in their eyes (not to mention the ability to spit and catch small expectorated objects), they have a shot at becoming part of the Blue Man Group.” Therefore, allow me to inspire you with my confidence boosting antics (Shocking, I know). This month’s article is dedicated to transitioning the fired-eyed “hopefuls” into the “hired.”

THE BLUE MAN'S CHECKLIST

First let’s discuss how a high-profile audition works using the Blue Man Group as our example. Although the BMG is a rhythmically-based entourage, the audition is surprisingly less metrical in nature, focusing more on the specifics of the human form. Both men and women are encouraged to audition, especially if they have the “look”—a strong, confident and athletic build between 5 foot 10 inches and 6 feet. Since the Blue Men are, as the website suggests, “bald, blue, closed-mouthed and silent,” much of their expression must therefore come from the eyes, hence the need for the majestic “look.” Furthermore, the musicians that are selected for this group come from a variety of backgrounds—some classically trained, some self taught—but in the end all great musicians that have that special spark significant to the BMG. After combing through everything and anything Blue Man, I have devised a checklist for the hundreds of hopefuls out there that will explain what the music directors are looking for:

  • Drummers, percussionists, guitarists, and bassists who play with a pick. Multi-instrumentalists a plus.
  • Excellent musicianship.
  • An open mind.
  • Able to intuitively play well with other performers.
  • The ability to rock.
  • Visceral musicians who play with guts, conviction and feeling.
  • Musicians who can leave their ego at the door and plug into intuition.
  • A good ear.
  • Dedication of mind body and soul to your playing.
  • Quick learners, not necessarily able to read music.
  • Confidence that exudes leadership qualities.
  • Ability to create a steady meter with and without a click.

If you meet the above requirements, then you are encouraged to apply. The audition process has multiple steps, and the first begins on your end. To begin the audition process, you must first submit your information (contact info, resume, and headshot) either by mail or via the internet (www.blueman.com), and then wait for the casting team’s call. Keep in mind that the casting team may contact you for an appointment; it is not a for sure. But if you get the call from the Blue, congratulations, you are well on your way! During the audition process, you are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing, arrive on time and be prepared to try something different. That’s it!

In the initial audition, there are two parts. First, you will find yourself in a call-and-answer scenario. You will enter a room with a drum kit where the Music Directors will play a short version of a song from the show (usually the simplest song) and you will be asked to play it back. Seems easy enough, right? In the second part of the audition, the directors will be studying your physical characteristics. What you look like when you play. Can you keep your feet together? Do you play with power? With grace? Both? Those kinds of things. This part of the audition may be slightly intimidating, however it is a necessary requirement. The role of a Blue Man is highly physical and the directors just want to ensure that they are hiring the most passionate and visually interesting players. Who knows? In the end, it may be worth it. Following the initial audition is the callback. The official website of the BMG states that, “If the Directors feel that you exhibit the ability to play with feeling, intuition, and skill, that you match their style, and that you play well in an ensemble, you will be asked to come back for the final part of the audition.” Here, you will get to play with more musicians where your playing skills will be more heavily weighted. Interestingly enough, the group highly emphasizes that musical skill is more important than technical skill, so play with feeling! That’s the whole gist of a Blue Man audition.

THE AUDITIONER'S CHECKLIST

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Jill, that’s all fine and dandy but how the deuce do I prepare for this audition? My nerves will be out of whack!” Fair enough, I expected this kind of reaction. Many of us are familiar with the Auditioner’s Blues: you walk out of the audition feeling like you are the worst drummer in the universe because you couldn’t perform at your best, whether it was nerves or health reasons etc. It’s a terrible confidence buster! So, in all my wisdom (no laughing), I have devised the Auditioner’s Checklist. The Auditioner’s Checklist will help you feel more in control and is designed to ensure that you confidently step into this high profile audition with your best foot forward. Godspeed.

Confidence: Auditions are real confidence busters, so this is where good acting skills come in. If you’re not confident, pretend! No one would be the wiser. In Andrea Emmerton’s Auditioning Advice to Remember, Emmerton insists that there are too many variables that are out of your control [at an audition]. The trick is to zero in on what is within your control. If you are fully prepared (which always gives confidence) then you are able to silently state, 'I am committed and dedicated to my craft.” She adds this final note: “Remember, your 'jury' wants you to succeed. They are not setting you up to fail.” So go kick some butt with your new confident self! One audition will not make or break you; you will break through when the time is right.

Have your chops in order: Research your project thoroughly and prepare. Be sure you have flexibility in your playing and that you have knowledge of multiple music genres. You should have the ability to not only work efficiently with a click but also to create a steady meter on your own. Drummer extraordinaire, Kirk Bewer, the subject of August’s article “Aboard the S.S. Cheese,”offers this advice: “I would recommend having your rudiments together on the snare drum or practice pad. Listening to the Blue Man CD audio is also critical. Know the tunes or at least the rhythms.”

Etiquette: Think of an audition as a first date. The employer (jury) is about to embark on a long-term relationship with you, the employee (auditioned), so give them ample reason to want to initiate a great love affair instead of a “wham-bam-thank you-ma’am,” if you catch my drift. Make them fall in love with your great personality and your awesome talent. Make them want to work with you. Be polite and courteous, but most of all be yourself. A jury can smell a phoney a mile away. (In case my analogy has been a little muddy, do not actually start an affair with any members of your jury. That’s a definite no-no!)

Appearance: Did you know that within the first 10 seconds of an initial meeting, the human mind develops an opinion on the person at hand? So, make sure it’s a good one. Dress for success. Be comfortable and professional in your choice of attire. Personal hygiene is very important as well. No one will hire the smelly kid in class; it just doesn’t happen. It goes without saying that I’m also tying sobriety (and the absence of hangovers) into the appearance category—by now, that should just be common sense. If drinking bestows upon yourself the false sense of confidence you supposedly need, then you need to decipher an alternative method. Watch an empowering and motivational drummers' DVD, take lessons again in preparation, practice everyday for an hour. Do whatever it takes to get psyched.




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About the Author
Jillian Mitchell

As a professional vocalist (and self-professed grammar nerd), Jill brings a fresh perspective to The Black Page. In addition to earning a B.A. in music, creative writing and English, Jill has also studied vocals with Philadelphia-based vocal coach Owen Brown, known for his work with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and Wyclef Jean. Jill makes up the other half of world soul group The Mitchells, alongside Black Page creator, Sean Mitchell.



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