A couple weeks ago, an opportunity I've dreamed of for a long time came to fruition: the chance to audition to be a featured vocal soloist with a local symphony. I made it through the first round of auditions (video) and was invited a few days later to do the second round (in person) along with 4 other female vocalists.
Upon arrival it quickly became clear that the other women knew as little as I did about what, exactly, the conductor was looking for, how many soloists they'd pick, etc., so we chatted nervously as we warmed up in the hallway.
One of the ladies had brought her aunt along for moral support, and as I struck up conversation (in part to keep my nerves at bay), she mentioned two striking things to me: first, that her dad had played with Louis Prima (a fixture of New Orleans jazz and one of my biggest swing music influences), and second, that she wished she had picked up an instrument as a kid but didn't think it was in the cards for her now.
I shared with her my own story of putting music aside, then learning the ukulele and eventually finding so much more of my voice vocally, and let her know that it wasn't too late for her to connect with music!
Then it was my turn to audition and we parted ways.
A few days later I received word from the symphony that I was not selected as one of the finalists this year, but they highly encouraged me to audition again in the future.
This news was disappointing, of course--I was SO CLOSE--but at the same time, I was truly proud of getting that far. All those who were chosen were more operatic singers than me, and all had vocal performance degrees (two of them even had vocal masters degrees!).
Additionally, one of the finalists messaged me on Instagram a few days later: "When we left," she wrote, "one of the first things my aunt said (and I have to agree) was that it was so nice talking to you and she felt uplifted when you mentioned that she could still learn to play an instrument!"
So even though that audition story didn't end with me singing with the symphony this Christmas as I'd hoped, this unexpected interaction with a stranger brought a bit of joy and possibility to her life.
That is a true gift in my eyes :)
I hope this story inspires you to share a bit of your own joy with others during this busy holiday season. You never know what positive effect you might have on people, so make it count!
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.