Do you want to attend one of the best music schools in the country? Most music programs will require an audition in addition to the regular application materials. Ace the audition and score a spot in your dream program with these tips from Toledo, OH teacher Elizabeth B...
Have college auditions got you blue in the face? Have heart! The following tips will help you at different points of the audition process — whether you’re looking at one of the best music schools for auditions next year or you’re on your way to your audition right now, I promise these tips will be helpful to you.
While I am a vocal teacher by trade, these tips translate into other instruments and musical disciplines also. Whether you want to study music education or saxophone performance, these tips are designed to help you do your best at the audition.
Tip 1. Prepare (and practice) the repertoire
This seems obvious, but you’ll want to look carefully at the school’s audition requirements — and believe me, they are all different. I advise doing this as soon as possible, as you don’t want to be learning a new piece the week of your audition! Get with your private instructor or trusted ensemble director and discuss the options. You want to use pieces that you can perform well now and that will show you at your best. The audition panel, above all, is listening for potential! They ask questions like: What is their current level compared to their age? Can this student excel in this environment? Will they become a superb musician in four years?
Tip 2. Connect with a teacher at the school
I can’t emphasize this enough with my students — do your homework and find a teacher you want to take a lesson with. These lessons can happen at any time but I advise my students to try to set one up when you’re initially looking at schools, as well as the week before your audition, if both your and the teacher’s schedule allows. This can get a bit pricey if you’re looking at more than four or five programs or multiple teachers, but it will make all the difference. Ask the teacher at least three weeks prior to your ideal date that you would like to take a lesson; if you don’t hear back in a week, send a polite follow-up email and go from there. I am telling you — seeing a friendly face on the audition panel will help put you at ease.
Tip 3. Run through your repertoire in front of your family
This step isn’t always easy for students, but it can help make you feel more comfortable on the day you’re auditioning. This is especially beneficial if you haven’t performed a lot or if you get nervous before you perform. You’ll get experience running through your repertoire and your family will get to enjoy hearing you perform. Try having them ask for a piece after you pick your starting piece; this will simulate the audition setting and help you become accustomed to performing your pieces in a different order.
Tip 4. Be nice to everyone at your audition
Audition days are long! Speaking from experience, the staff have been there since the wee hours of the morning setting up so everything is perfect for the potential students. Everyone is tired and the last thing you want is to start off on the wrong foot with the admissions staff at your dream school. Again this seems obvious but “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” go a long way in making the people checking you in and taking you to your room much happier. You also don’t know who these people are — maybe they are adjunct faculty who got roped into helping. Better to be nice and polite than sorry!
Tip 5. Breathe when you get in the room
As I said previously, the audition panel wants you to succeed! They enjoy having too many high-quality candidates to pick from; it’s a nice problem to have and they want you to be one of them! When you take the stage, take a breath (a good diaphragmatic breath), and begin when you feel composed. Try to stay in your zone as much as you can — keep any negative thoughts out and focus on whatever you are performing, whether that be Mozart, Liszt, or Rodgers and Hammerstein. I tell my students to set an attainable goal for their auditions, things like staying in character or remembering the decrescendo in the last phrase. That way you can walk away with a sense of success no matter what the outcome.
I hope these tips help you feel confident in your auditions for the music school of your choice — best of luck!
Elizabeth B. teaches singing in Toledo, OH. She received her Bachelor of Music from Grand Valley State University, as well as her Master of Music from Chicago College of Performing Arts. Elizabeth is a classically trained singer and has been teaching students since 2011. Learn more about Elizabeth B. here!