News & Views

Seven tips for staying sane in the Covid-19 crisis

Audition OracleTue 24 Mar 2020 @ 15:49

Dear Artists,

Today we have a guest post from one of Britain's leading young director's - Nina Brazier.

Nina Brazier - Director (headshot)

Seven tips for staying sane in the Covid-19 crisis

Chances are, you have just had a whole load of work for the foreseeable future washed away. Those idyllic festivals that stretched ahead over the summer months, the concerts, the church gigs, teaching work that is now impossible… those opening nights that you were so looking forward to, or even those other gigs that you might have been dreading, all gone. And, for the most part, with almost nothing to show for it (aside from some incredible companies that are managing to honour all - or as much as they possibly can - of their contracts, even for freelancers).  The answer is, what on earth comes next? And when? Questions, that for now, no one can answer for us. So we need to find some coping mechanisms over the next weeks…months… let’s not think any further than that for now.

I’m guessing we’ve all had quieter periods in our lives where something’s been cancelled, or we simply had a gap (or terrifying hole) in the diary, and we got through it one way or another. If you haven’t, well that’s fantastic, I guess there’s no time like the present to learn!  Now’s the time to tap back into the coping mechanisms that kept us from going insane at that time, and extend them for as long as this crisis lasts.

I loved reading the Audition Oracle post on Controlling the Controllable about controlling your environment and giving yourself boundaries to your working day, and there’s nothing more important than this in such a strange time, otherwise your life and work blend into one, big messy blob with no clear beginning, middle or end, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and as if we have achieved a big, fat nothing for the day (week, extend as necessary…).

I’m going to share a few things that have helped me during recent weeks and previous work ‘troughs’ as I sometimes call them.  Some of these overlap with Controlling the Controllable, only because they deserve to be repeated.

1) Set up your new work environment 

Make sure it’s as distraction-free as possible, even if that just means clearing your dining room table to make space for your laptop. Your workspace can dictate how you feel about the day, and can contribute to your productivity. Check that there’s not stuff in your eyeline to distract you, such as kitchen tasks in the background that you suddenly have to jump up and deal with.

2) Find a completely new work pattern

Even though the look and feel of your work may be very different for a while, you need to give yourself a structure or timetable and treat these new tasks as your current ‘work’. Even if that’s calling your landlord/mortgage broker to negotiate your rent or mortgage holiday, talking to HMRC about your new status, chasing overdue invoices – it’s not work as we know it, but it’s work nevertheless. Sometimes I used to imagine that I was doing these tasks for someone else, and being endlessly on hold became less frustrating. Remember that being on hold or not being responded to is something you really can’t control, so let go of your expectations about what ‘should’ happen and try to think of it as a task that needs to be worked through.  Remember to take proper breaks and regular exercise to stop you going stir crazy.  Also, basic as it sounds, a good old To-do list does help you feel like you are achieving something.

3) Look at the ways you may be able save money around your home.

I remember a long period of being literally down to the last pennies of my overdraft, and I just had to come up with something. I ended up selling off a load of books and CDs to which was a complete lifesaver (and really easy to use). Then I dug into all the items in my cupboards and freezer to find ways of cooking up what I already had without spending any additional cash. In a strange way it was satisfying to find solutions from items I already had, and see how long I could survive without going to the market or supermarket.  It’s certainly not something I would want to continue forever, but it definitely helped me get a handle on my situation. For budget recipes, check out Madeleine Oliver on YouTube and Jack Monroe or just get creative with the ingredients you have.  Check out this great Vlog from The Vicar’s Wife’s Frugal Life for more practical money tips in the Covid-.19 climate, on cancelling subscriptions and preventing unnecessary spending wherever possible.

4) Clearing your space (and make money while you are doing it)

I had a stretch of time last year where I was on the edge of a burnout and reaching breaking point, and one thing I had to do to clear my head was completely strip my workspace of extraneous items. Literally everything had to come off my noticeboard, and almost everything was swept off my desk. The ‘noise’ of stuff around me had to be reduced to a minimum. Only after Marie-Kondo-ing my space (minus the thanking and tender farewells for all the joy things had sparked) could I focus properly on the work in hand. Since then I have noticed that the fewer visual distractions there are around me, the better I can concentrate. My more recent Covid-19 de-cluttering projects include:

  1. Collecting together a box of items ready to go to charity (as soon as the shops are open again).  For clothes that are no longer good enough for charity, check out any clothes banks near you where textiles can get recycled. 
  2. Going through and reducing all my old photos, sending any doubles to friends and family members and putting the rest into albums
  3. Going through old cards and letters and creating scrapbooks instead of having them wasting away in boxes
  4. All the things that for months (years?) I was always going to ‘put up on Ebay’ I finally put up on Ebay and actually made some money. This can also of course work on Facebook Marketplace and Shpock or wherever you find is best to sell your stuff. It just takes a bit of patience, and the outcome is so satisfying!
  5. Going through my scores and photocopies, recycling and giving away any doubles I no longer want, tidying up my notes

5) Update your calendar (if you haven’t already)

Organise your website with the latest news as far ahead as you can – remember there’s absolutely no shame in being honest about the situation, so many of us are in the same boat. Add those photos that you’ve been meaning to, any outstanding news and reviews, and upload any recordings you haven’t yet had the chance to.  If you haven’t yet got a website, now’s the time - is a great, easy-to-use starting place.

6) Tackle future tasks and develop new projects 

The most obvious (and dreaded) being the next Tax Return – imagine your relief at when it’s completed, and how smug you will be when the deadline comes around. Or on a more enjoyable note – what about those roles you always wanted to prepare for, but never had the time?  Or some new audition repertoire? Team up with colleagues and develop a pitch to a venue or festival for a future concert.  Those industry people you always intended to write to? They may now even have the time to respond. If you are not panicking about money, what about starting to learn a language you really want to tackle? On a necessary note, think about the ways you might be able to monetise what you do – online teaching? Teaching English online? Be creative and don’t be afraid to brainstorm with friends, they might also have good ideas for your skillset that would never occur to you.  

7) Stay connected and reach out to others during this strange time

Whether for you that’s just with your immediate friends and family, or if you are able to help those in need in the wider community (without risking your health or theirs that is). Make and send cards and presents, bake (if you can get any flour at the moment and if you enjoy it), post books you’ve read to friends and family who might enjoy them, pick up the ‘phone and share your highs and woes with others going through the same thing. 

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have lived through long periods of uncertainty where I have questioned whether I will ever work again (or make any money), and somehow or another there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. In this instance, there should be a ghost light burning in every theatre, a gentle reminder that each and every single one of us will be back on the stage, however long it takes.

Nina Brazier - Director

Nina has joined the staff at Oper Frankfurtfor seasons 2018-21 where she has revived Brigitte Fassbaender’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Harry Kupfer’s La Damnation de Faust and Florentine Klepper’s Julietta to critical acclaim.

Nina trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Exeter University, The Royal Court/Channel 4 Directors Scheme, The Operating Table course at the Royal Opera House, and has taken part in the Opera Europa Opera Management Course

Her productions include Alex Mills’ new opera Dear Marie Stopes at Kings Place, London, the revival of Krenek’s Drei Kurzopern at Oper Frankfurt, Philippe Sands’ East West Street at MuTh in Vienna and Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Le Nozze di Figaro for the Berlin Opera Academy, Die Sache Makropulos at Theater Bonn as Associate Director to Christopher Alden, Così fan Tutte for Ryedale Festival Opera and the Chiltern Arts Festival, the world premiere of Swan's Inlet at the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York, If This is a Man at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre and an ongoing world tour of Philippe Sands' East West Street which recently toured to the Berlin Konzerthaus, 92nd St Y, New York and Théâtre National de la Colline in Paris. Her Ryedale Festival production of The Magic Flute, and her double-bill of Spilt Milk & Trouble in Tahiti at the Arcola Theatre in London were both Time Out Critic's Choice. 

Nina has previously worked as a visiting Staff Director for opera houses in Europe including the Royal Opera House, London, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Staatstheater Darmstadt, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and Opera North, and she has acted as a visiting director at the Royal College of Music, the Italian Opera Summer School, Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Birkbeck University

Outside of her operatic work, Nina is joint head of the English Language Committee for Eurodram, the European network for drama in translation.


Beating Burnout - Controlling the Controllable

Audition OracleFri 20 Mar 2020 @ 15:08

White clock on a blue background


As we go into the weekend remember to play the long game and take some time out to relax. We are likely to be in this for a while yet so resist the urge to thrown yourself in with no time for adjustment. 

  1. Clean your home. Spend some time creating an environment in which you feel able to relax and work. 
  2. Remove anything unnecessary from your workload. Don’t make anything more complicated than it needs to be
  3. Create a designated separate workspace even if it can’t be a whole room
  4. If at all possible, position your workspace near a window for natural light and fresh air
  5. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself some time to adjust to your new lifestyle
  6. Create a basic achievable daily routine within which you can begin to build a schedule for working from home
    • Set a realistic time to get up each morning. Parent's - I realise most of you have no choice around this and many of you are up way earlier than you would like!
    • If needed, put the alarm clock in the other room so that you can't hit the snooze button but have to get up to turn it off. 
    • Don’t look at your phone till you are up, dressed and ready for the day
    • Decide what time you will stop working each day to allow yourself time to wind down and relax in the evening
  7. Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news and listening to the noise around COVID-19
  8. Be kind to yourself

FInally, today is International Day of Happiness! They are running a free 10-day online course supported by scientific study to help you maintain a positive outlook in these crazy times -

Have a great weekend, 

The Audition Oracle team. 


Help Musicians UK

Arts Council England

Funding Artist Relief Tree -

HELP FOR FREELANCERS/SME’s surviving Coronavirus

Coronavirus Crisis – Musicians’ Information Page

Creative Scotland


Money Saving Expert ttps://

Find a food bank

The Vicar’s Wife’s Frugal Life


Notes from Musicians Kitchen

Creativity Challenge


Arts Minds

Coronavirus and your wellbeing


Taking your Teaching Practice or Choir Rehearsal Online

Audition OracleThu 19 Mar 2020 @ 10:06

Celebrate Voice taking the chorus rehearsal online

As more and more of the world heads into full on lock down, the majority of you are now looking for ways to earn money from home and that includes teaching online. Many of you are already singing, theory, intrumental and language teachers and for those of you that don't know, most of these lessons can still take place online from your laptop, desktop, tablet or smart phone even. It will take a bit of getting used to but it is all very possible. There are many teachers that have been doing this for over ten years either building up their own personal studio or working for companies such as Your Space Music Lessons

If like me you don’t teach, there are lots of other online work opportunities to consider such as copy writer, website builder, website tester, content creator, social media expert, blogger, proof reader and so on. Myself and the team will get some information about alternatives in another newsletter over the coming days. 


Ideally a Laptop and headphones. That's it.
  • If you do have a separate camera and microphone, it can be helpful but if right now you are looking to reduce your outgoings, get experimenting with what you have before rushing out to buy expensive equipment
  • No laptop? Some teachers are making this work armed only with a smart phone
  • If you are without any suitable equipment and are on a tight budget, see if your school or friends can lend you anything. You would be amazed what people give away on Freecycle and Marketplace 

Internet Connection

As a remote digital worker, I cannot stress enough how important a decent internet connection is.


Zoom seems to be the favourite platform but try them all. Find out what suits you as it will depend on the device that you are using and the decices available to your students.


There are various free online timetabling resources out there

One-to-One Teaching Online Teaching Advice

There are a few hurdles to overcome such as the time delay and where you get students to position cameras but there are some really useful blogs from some really experience online teachers

Billy Gollner gives a clear demonstration of how to set up a Zoom account and a session

The Online Music Teacher has taught online for over ten years and so is a great resource

Advice For Running a Choir Online

Running a choir online can be a lot more complex but Celebrate Voice’s Lynsey Docherty was undeterred jumping in and taking a rehearsal live from her kitchen. It’s not just about keeping your choirs going but also keeping your community connected.
For a full description of how to set up for a choir, the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark have posted the following instruction video

Keeping your students’ lessons and choirs going will not only help them, it will help you retain some sense of your normal working life and connection with the outside world in these crazy times. If you are able to keep your students to their normal timetable, this is even better as the routine will be great for you both and also help you to retain them as students as they will stay in the habit of working with you.

If you know of other free resources or tips that you feel would be particularly useful to our community please email [email protected].

Finally, have you stopped to breathe for two minutes or 20 breaths today? Do it now. Your vegus nerve will thank you for it. It's science remember!
Happy teaching,

Director & Founder of Audition Oracle


And breathe! Controlling the Controllable

Audition OracleWed 18 Mar 2020 @ 12:56


BREATHE: White clouds in a blue sky

Hello fellow freelancers,

Welcome to 'Controlling the Controllable'. Over the coming weeks I'll be sharing some of the free resources around protecting your mental, physical and financial health that I've found useful when I moved from being a heavily in debt performer to a remote worker over the last seven years.

Marathon Not a Sprint

Rather than bombarding you all with too much information at once, I’ll be focusing on one thing at a time. Today, it’s time to stop and breathe.  Make sure you are in a safe environment to do this. 
  • Close your eyes
  • Take a natural breath in. counting as you do so
  • Pause
  • Take a comfortable but slightly longer exhale. Eg. Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4 - Pause - Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Do this for 2 minutes or if you don’t have a timer to hand, do it for 20 breaths 
  • Stop reading this email and do it now. See you in two minutes 


Welcome back

How do you feel? Calmer? More focused? If so, you’ve just learned how to hack your vegus nerve and therefore your nervous system. Soothing your vegus nerve has many health benifits including
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Reducing stress
  • Improved immunity
Decide on a time tomorrow that you can do this and make sure that they are directly before or after one of your good daily habits. Eg. As soon as you wake up, get out of the shower or after brushing your teeth.

If you are an all or nothing person, avoid setting yourself unrealistic targets of “I’m going to do an hour of this each day” then beating yourself up when you don’t manage it so not doing it again for another week. Little, regularly and often. Choose your realistic and achievable plan of action below and stick to it. 


Feeling overwhelmed?

  • Set a specific time to practice your elongated exhale once a day for 2 minutes or 20 breaths
  • 2 minutes is 100% better than zero minutes
  • The important thing is to start

Comfortable with a bit more?

  • In addition, set an alarm at regular intervals to remind you to stop and breath for two minutes or 20 breaths as well as your chosen 2 minute 

Ready to take it further? Introducing you to Friendly Eyes

Friendly eyes is a fantastic online course developed by former professional tennis player Jackie Reardon to aid
  • better concentration
  • less stress
  • increased mental resilience
  • the ability to enjoy challenges such as AUDITIONS

Train your brain with

Sports personalities have been learning to train their minds through their breath for years. If you struggle with focus, concentration and audition or performance anxiety, I cannot recommend this resource enough. Barbara Hannigan endorses this programme. If you don’t know who Barbara Hannigan is, google her (but not now!) as she is an exceptional artist. 

You do not need to spend 100’s of pounds going to guru’s to train you to improve your concentration or audition anxiety. Unless you are prepared to put the work in and do any homework given, it’s unlikely to work. Take advantage of these free resources and any extra time you may have to train yourself, for free.
Happy breathing,
Melanie Lodge
Founder and Director of Audition Oracle

Caveat: All views are my own and not that of Audition Oracle. I am not a health, physical or financial professional. I’m simply sharing what I’ve found challenging and what has worked for me over the last seven years as a remote worker, as someone who at one time was heavily in debt, and as someone who has had to learn to develop healthy routines when working home alone.

If you need professional help, I urge you please to go and seek help from someone you are close to and/or one of the many free resources out there. Help Musicians UK has listed a number of Help Lines 


Further information on the scientific benifits of calming the vegus nerve


Controlling the Controllable amidst COVID-19

Audition OracleTue 17 Mar 2020 @ 19:57

Audition Oracle Controlling the Controllable

Dear Artists,

We are in the most extraordinary of times that few of us could have imagined. I know that the vast majority of you are dealing with an instant and unexpected loss of work, social contact, the challenges of caring for loved ones, immense financial pressures and so much more. This situation is having a huge impact on us all.

We have indefinitely reduced the yearly fee by up to 50% to £49 /year regardless of student or pro status. We will endeavour to leave it there as long as we are able to. Our team are looking for other related opportunities that could be of interest to you in the current situation as well as continuing to search for future performing opportunities for when we emerge out the other side. 

For those that don’t know me, I was a professional singer for 13 years when whooping cough rendered me completely unable to work for three months. At the time I was £20,000 pounds in debt and that debt was mounting quickly. With this enforced time off, I had the opportunity to focus on a project I had meant to start for years - Audition Oracle. I've been grateful for its continued growth from solo operation to a platform supported by a wonderful team of remote tech and freelance admin – the majority of whom are singers.

Why am I telling you this? Many of you are now looking at ways you can work from home and some of you will be experiencing the difficulties associated with going from a very sociable and physical career to working largely in isolation. I’ve developed many tools over the last seven years to cope with the challenges faced. Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing what has worked for me via newsletters and social media. I’m raising my hand now to say I was either that person still in their pyjamas at 3pm furiously working at an ancient brick of a laptop having not moved, eaten or rested my eyes for hours at a time. OR. I was in a state of inaction completely frozen and overwhelmed.

I’ve had to work hard at finding a balance so if my experiences and strategies can be useful to any of you, please sign up for the FREE newsletter I’ll be focusing on sharing FREE resources and including content around Controlling the Controllable!

  • avoiding procrastination
  • beating burnout 
  • building routine
  • creating an online studio
  • maintaining motivation
  • strengthening mental resilience
  • surviving social isolation
  • taking control of your finances

Caveat! I live alone so my challenges will differ to those of you with families. If you have any tips or suggestions to offer to the wider community, please do email us on [email protected].

Wishing you and your loved ones good health over the coming months.

Kind regards,


Director & Founder of Audition Oracle