Innovation Part II - The Call Back

"Is that what you're wearing?" The production assistant sporting low-rise jeans and a walkie talkie asked our group as we stood in line in the hot sun waiting for the call back auditions to begin. "Yes", we replied confidently. Then Angela, Sheila, and I shrugged our shoulders at one another in confusion. The previous day at the first audition, we were told to return for the call back wearing the same outfits.

As parents dropped off singing groups in mini vans, we stood in line surrounded by boy and girl bands wearing retro 80's gear. I smirked when I noted the boy band in front of us had vertical lines shaved into their eyebrows and were wearing graffiti t-shirts. I was actually around the first time this look was fashionable.

The Filipino boy band behind us harmonized to a Boys to Men tune for their warm-up. They were from Oakland, drinking designer coffee, and sounding good. Angela opened her umbrella to protect her fair skin from the sun, while Sheila and I ducked underneath to escape the heat.

Representatives from the cable network emerged from the studio toting cameras, a boom microphone, and an electronic bull horn. We were all instructed to sing the chorus of "Killing Me Softly" as one large group. One of the members of the shaved eyebrows boy band was asked to start us off on a key that would be suitable for all.

On cue, all the groups competing for a spot on the reality show sang in unison as the camera panned down the line. After the first take, we were told that our energy level was not quite as high as those auditioning in New York or Chicago, but we'd done okay. We were allowed to do two more takes. Our singing was to be spliced together with the New York and Chicago groups. Then we were told to yell with excitement and brag about our musical groups as the camera came down the line once more. Some of the boy bands took the opportunity to show off their dance moves. I even heard a few people yell, "Obama for your mama." I chose not to yell too much because we hadn't even had the singing audition yet.

Once inside, each group was photographed. In the lobby area, hip hop groups started to battle with their freestyle rhymes. The adrenaline was flowing. I tried to keep the the playfulness I'd felt the day before. I kept repeating the mantra that I was only there to help Angela with HER audition. But this was a call back and I felt some pressure to "step up."

Although we were told to be prepared to be there all day, we ended up being one of the first groups called. As we sat just outside the audition studio, Sheila, Angela, and I speculated as to whether being called early on was a good thing. We decided that it was. We said a prayer and did a last minute rehearsal. A production assistant came out and told us that when we went inside we were to pretend that we had never met the judges before. We weren't to refer to the previous day at all while we were on camera.

We walked into the audition studio in our line up order. The judges were once again friendly- no Simon Cowell in the bunch. They asked us how long we'd been a group and what we were going to sing. We answered as if they hadn't asked us those same questions the day before. We sang, "No One", by Alicia Keys. I remembered the judges' advice from the day before and I really "went for it". At the end of our song, the judges told us that we had the best energy of any of the groups, but unfortunately that was as far as we'd be going in the audition process. We thanked them and exited the studio. Surprisingly, part of me was relieved.

In the hallway, we were met by a camera. We were asked how we felt about not being selected. Off camera, the interviewer tried to egg us on and get us to say something negative, but we didn't play into his hands. We talked about how kind and complimentary the judges were and how much we enjoyed ourselves. Further down the hall, someone else who was auditioning asked us how we did and in spite of the fact that we didn't make it any further, we said in unison, "we did great!" And we meant it.

Part of me wondered briefly if the reality show people took one look at our identification cards and decided that we were too old. After all, not one member of our group had been dropped off in a mini van by our parents. Yet, another part of me was extremely proud. I measured my success by my willingness to do something risky and out of the ordinary. By my own definition, I was successful that day. Long live Innovation!


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