12 Ways to Rock Your In-Person College Audition

Your application is complete and submitted. Your essays are written. Fees are sent. And now it’s time for the big in-person audition. You’re excited to put a face to your school and, in turn, for the school to put a face (and voice) to your name. But you’re also a little (or a lot) nervous. That audition is really the final step to securing your spot in the voice program of your choice.

Don’t leave such an important moment to chance. Here are 12 pearls of wisdom from four university professors that if heeded will help you achieve a successful audition.

1 – Be prepared musically. Have your music (that includes the words and languages) fully prepared, learned, and securely memorized. (Caroline Smith, Voice Area Coordinator, DePauw University)

2 – Be prepared logistically.

Have music neatly organized for the pianist collaborating with them. Showing respect and gratitude for the pianist is a big plus! (Lisa Sylvester, coach/pianist/conductor, chair of vocal arts and opera at USC Thornton’s School of Music)

Students make a bad impression when they have the wrong repertoire or number of pieces that the school requires or if they have music for the accompanist that is not complete. Remember to check that the full accompaniment is visible for the pianist when using a copy and all the pages are neatly organized! (Smith)

3 – Know what you are singing about and communicate.

You should have a point of view about a song or aria—show in some way that you’ve thought about the text/character/mood beyond the printed page. (Sylvester)

Communicate musically and say something. Always know exactly what you are singing about. (Smith)

4 – Be genuine and respectful.

Be you. Perform with confidence and poise but always be yourself. Be engaging, polite, and genuine. (Smith)

Come to the audition with a smile and enthusiasm for singing/music. (Sylvester)

Show enthusiasm but be genuine. Address the faculty by title: Mr., Ms., Dr., Professor. (Joseph Evans, Division Chair, Voice Studies Area, University of Houston’s Moores School of Music)

5 – Choose appropriate repertoire.

Offer pieces that are age and ability appropriate. (Smith)

Students who do repertoire that is not appropriate for them because of their age, ability, or difficulty are doing themselves a disservice. We want to hear you do your best and are not looking for perfection but potential. Students should always do repertoire that shows the audition panel their strengths and who they are. (Frank Ragsdale, Associate Professor of Voice, University of Miami Frost School of Music)

6 – Do your research about the school before the audition.

I am impressed when they come prepared. This does not only apply to their music but also to their research about the school to which they are applying. I’m shocked when students ask questions that are readily accessible on the institution’s website. (Ragsdale)

7 – Take charge of your audition. Be the one to communicate with faculty. Don’t leave it up to your parents.

I’m impressed when a student communicates with me directly and not through a parent. I know it’s hard sometimes to say to your parent that you are the one who will be asking the questions and making the arrangements, but it shows that you are independent and ready for college. (Ragsdale)

8  – Follow up with a thank-you note.

I am impressed when I receive a follow up email or a handwritten note thanking me for the opportunity to audition. This tells me that the student is considerate and thoughtful, and this is the kind of student I want in my school and studio. (Ragsdale)

9 – Be positive about colleagues and universities.

Don’t project egocentric attitudes or display ungracious behavior. (Smith)

One of the things that students will do that is a huge mistake is say something negative about another school or teacher. We hear that as more revealing about them than the school or teacher, and this is not the kind of person we want at our school. (Ragsdale)

10 – Dress appropriately.

Know the dress code. (Evans)

11 – -Don’t be afraid to reschedule if necessary.

If you are that sick, or if an emergency has prevented you from being adequately prepared, please ask to reschedule. (Sylvester)

If you are truly sick, you should try to reschedule. Nine times out of 10 we can tell you’re sick and will ask you and then ask you to submit some recordings. (Ragsdale)

12 – Don’t make excuses.

Don’t come in with a long list of excuses about why you might not be at your best. (Sylvester)

A student should never make excuses in an audition. (Ragsdale)

Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is editor of Classical Singer magazine. She welcomes your comments.