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Being Grace Slick: Diary of a Bay Street Open Audition

Bay Street Theater held open auditions in Sag Harbor this past weekend. This is a rarity for the theater, which features many big-name stars. Since the call was for a singer in the style of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, I decided to give it a try.

Truth be told, I have been away from singing for quite a while. My acting career credits are mainly non-musicals. I enjoy the comradery of small ensembles in straight shows rather than the flurry of activity surrounding large cast musicals. Though I am married to a musician, we went our separate ways when it came to performing until last summer when my husband encouraged me to start singing again.

We practiced a few songs, me singing with a microphone and him on guitar. We did our first open mic together at the Velvet Lounge in Stony Brook. That performance was met with enthusiasm, so we continued working on music. Recently, we performed at Bartini’s in Babylon Village and received an offer from the manager to do an entire evening. We are now putting together a band and a strong set of songs. I am delighted to have returned to my former love of music. I fronted a band when in my teens into early 20’s, so the prospect of singing was not totally alien to me.

Equipped with my new-found singing success, I decided to go to Bay Street’s open audition. The venue is currently offering evenings of tribute band concerts during the winter and into spring. They have already done The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and on March 4 and 5 they will add the Grateful Dead. Then, on April 2 they have scheduled “A Night at the Fillmore” celebrating the music of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane.

In my old band I got to wail on Grace Slick’s “Somebody to Love,” so my husband encouraged me to audition.

After a week of You-Tubing old Jefferson Airplane concerts and scrutinizing Grace Slick’s fashion style, I dressed in all black and even wore a long velvet cape similar to one Slick sported in concert. I ironed my hair straight so it cascaded over my shoulders, layered on heavy eye liner and painted light gloss over my lips, creating a somewhat mod look, and then headed for the theater.

I stood on Bay Street’s stage before John Sullivan, associate producer, Gary Hygom, managing director, and Joe Lauro, filmmaker/musician. They were cordial and tried to make me feel comfortable during my audition. The keyboard accompanist started and we were off with “Somebody to Love.” I immediately felt like a fish out of water. As a club singer, I am used to working with a microphone. Being mic’d certainly helps not to push the sound and it serves as a prop. With no mic, I felt this space was eating up my sound. I’m sure the stage is mic’d for performances or at least they hand a microphone to the singers, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case at the audition. The more I pushed to fill the room with sound, the more my voice cracked. Sullivan and Hygom were very kind, and when I completed “Somebody to Love,” they asked me to sing “White Rabbit.” I was somewhat warmed up by that time and was able to produce a stronger sound, but I knew this wasn’t the performance I would give had I been mic’d.

Honestly, if I hadn’t experienced such recent encouragement, I never would have gone to a singing audition. For that I fully thank my husband who brought me back to music. In the end, all I really sought was to audition on the Bay Street stage.

I never had delusions of being their Grace Slick. I learned that I definitely need a mic to belt out rock without cracking and I’m proud of myself for having the guts to give it a try.

The bottom line—I am writing this on Sunday, the day after my audition and no I haven’t received “the call” for their “A Night at the Fillmore” concert, but I’m never expected it.

The best thing that came out of all of this happened today while my husband and I practiced our music. The hippie spirit that burns deep inside me has wanted to bring “Somebody to Love” into the mix, only to be met with a shrugs. After working on it today, I’m happy to report it has been added to our set. So I do get to resurrect a beloved tune from my old band days.

Thank you, Bay Street for giving me a chance to sing on your stage. Thank you John Sullivan, Gary Hygom and Joe Lauro for being so pleasant during the audition and even letting me sing two Grace Slick songs. I think you probably heard enough after the first. I sincerely wish Sullivan, Hygom and Lauro much luck with all the tribute concerts. I might even go to “A Night at the Fillmore” on April 2, but I will be comfortably seated in the house enjoying someone else take the stage as Grace Slick.

Note:

John Sullivan sent a note thanking me for auditioning last Saturday—he’s such a nice person. No, he didn’t offer me Grace Slick, but he invited me to audition in front of Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz at their annual AEA Equity Principal Auditions on March 12. I’m thrilled since acting is really my thing.

Wish me luck!

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