It was the day of the audition. I had never seen the Metropolitan
Children's Chorus perform before, but my mother explained to me
the honor of being accepted in the Chorus, and since singing was
my passion, I agreed to audition wholeheartedly.
We were there. My mother slid the door of the van open for
Cristina and me, and we walked out of the parking garage
toward the Met. When we reached Lincoln Center, I got a
full view of the Opera House. I had never seen anything
so immense. The colossal archways spread across the
front of the Opera House, five in total. The floor-to-ceiling
windows also added size to the building, making it
intimidating and powerful through the eyes of a fourth grader.
I held my mother's hand tightly as we went through the Met.
I saw the giant staircase with everything around it red and gold.
I thought it was incredible that my father performed in such a
magnificent place six years ago, and I longed to get into the
Children's Chorus and perform where my father performed.
With my hand still clasped to my mother's, I entered the audition
room. The room smelled musty and strange like old furniture. The
set up of the room was similar to that of a classroom, except it
was shaped like a pipe. In the far left of what would be the top
of the pipe was a desk stacked with papers, and in the far right
there were two large, wooden library shelves about to break from
the weight of carrying so much sheet music. In what would be the
bottom of the pipe and the center of the room, there were petite,
little chairs all lined up in long, slim rows. A black bench was
in back of the rows of chairs. On the left and in front of the
chairs there was nothing but a thin, brown piano.
As I finished observing the room, I realized my mother was
introducing me to the director of the Children's Chorus, who
would also be my judge for the audition. She was a tall, slim
lady with short, gray hair and wore a blue-ish-gray sundress.
Her description appears normal, but her mind was far from it.
She was not a mentally insane person but rather had the
light-headed mind of a 1960's hippie, yet she kept punctual
to finishing the task at hand like the White Rabbit in
Alice in Wonderland.
"Why hello, hello, hello!" the judge stated exuberantly.
After we had introduced ourselves, my mother explained
that both my sister and I were here to audition for the
The judge pointed at Cristina. "Oh no, no, no!" she said,
"She can't be in the Chorus, she's too mature!" She put her
hands beneath her breasts and lifted her breasts with her
hands on the word "mature." My sister was in the sixth
grade at the time.
My mother replied with a slightly bitter tone in her voice,
"Okay. What about Robby?"
"Well let's here him sing."
I took my place next to the piano while my mother sat on
the piano bench and got the sheet music out to play for me.
The judge sat on one of the small chairs.
"He's prepared Schubert's 'Ave Maria' to sing for you today,"
said my mother.
"Oh no, no, no!" replied the judge, "He can sing 'Happy Birthday.'"
"But he sings 'Ave Maria' beautifully."
"No, no, no! 'Happy Birthday' is fine."
"Okay," my mother replied with even more bitterness in her voice.
She looked at me, gave me a smile, and played my starting note
for "Happy Birthday."
I began singing, "Happy Birthday to--"
"Oh no, no, no! You have to sing Happy Birrrrthday,
Happy Birrrrthday!" the judge exclaimed. Over pronouncing
the consonant "r" in the English language was something
I knew, even at my young age, was wrong. When singing,
it is always important to sing on the vowel and not the
consonant, because otherwise you are straining the voice.
It was the first time I realized professionals do not
always know all the right things.
The judge continued, "You know, I had a young boy
audition once singing 'Happy Birthday.' He was this small,
six-year-old boy with adorable, rosy cheeks, and he was
so cute." She never mentioned anything about his vocal ability.
At that point it was time for the Children's Chorus's
rehearsal, and she invited us to stay and listen.
The three of us took our place on the black bench in
the back. The lady took her place at the front of the room
and began conducting the children that had already come in
and taken their seats in the little rows of chairs. In the
middle of the rehearsal, one boy raised his hand timidly
and asked, "Excuse me, can I go home? I really don't feel
well at all." The boy grudgingly sat there in discomfort.
It was obvious the boy was sick.
"I'm afraid not," the lady replied, "now pay attention and
go back to looking at your music." Cristina and I looked at
each other appalled. The boy returned to his music and made
his best effort to sing.
At the end of the rehearsal, the judge came up to my mother.
"Well, I don't know if we have a costume big enough for you son,
but we'll call you!" she said with a menacing smile.
"Oh no, no, no! We'll call you," replied my mother.
As we left the Met that day I realized a valuable piece of
information: I was too big a person in a world that wanted too
small a people.