Auditions: A Change of Perspective

Auditions: A Change of Perspective

The college audition season is quickly coming to an end. Thanks to Classical Singer Magazine, you have ample articles to help prepare you for the actual audition day, articles that focus on everything from attire and repertoire to being mentally and physically ready for the audition. 

Re-read them. But now, let me offer you a change of perspective. 

Of course, every time we audition, we want to be hired. But we don’t spend enough time considering if we will enjoy and thrive where we are hired. Let’s put it this way – imagine that you receive invitations to attend every school at which you auditioned. How will you choose? Now is the time to start considering where you want to spend the next few years of your life because there is much to think through.

To help with this decision, take advantage of being on campus for your audition and build in additional time to explore. If you cannot schedule an official tour of the campus and music facilities, take stock of the practice rooms while you are warming up, and make it a point to look into classrooms, labs, and rehearsal rooms. How is the lighting? How many practice rooms are there and do they all have a piano and stand? Are classrooms equipped with smart boards? Talk to current students, and connect with as many professors as you can, being sure to collect names and email addresses. Ask questions, and share your enthusiasm for the school with all you meet.


Once you are home, make a list of the pros and cons of each school. Be brutally honest with yourself. What was your initial reaction to the facilities and the people you met? Will you be happy and able to thrive on campus with 34,000 students or will you be more comfortable at a smaller school? If the location of the school is different from what you are used to, will you be able to make the necessary adjustments to a rural or urban environment? 

Here are a few other points to consider.

Your future teacher

We are fortunate to have thousands of outstanding voice teachers at institutions across the country. I propose that this should be your most important consideration when choosing which school to attend. Each professor has a unique approach to teaching, so you should understand what type of pedagogical approach works best for you and seek out a teacher with a similar approach. However, just as important as the pedagogy, consider the style of delivery. Do you respond well to tough-love or do you shut-down when you receive criticism? No teacher will praise everything you do, and often during the first two years of college study, you will be modifying your technique as you continue to grow physically and intellectually. Your ability to accept challenges, learn new skills, and eagerly explore the unknown will allow you to thrive in your new school. If possible, request sample lessons with the teachers with whom you are most interested in studying. You can also ask to sit in on a lesson with a current student. If given the opportunity, sing on a masterclass during your campus visit. Understand that due to studio sizes, you might not be assigned to the teacher of your choice. So before committing to a school, be sure that you want to study with the artists on the vocal faculty. 

Your daily class experiences

Whether you attend a large university, a small college, or a community college, you will want to know some basic statistics including student to faculty ratio, the number of students in your in-coming class, and the number of music majors in your class. While you can typically expect a large class size for general education courses such as first-year English, you might want to consider how many students will be in your written and aural music theory classes. Smaller class sizes allow for more individual attention while large class sizes can offer the opportunity to meet more colleagues and can encourage you to stretch as an independent scholar. Again, by understanding yourself and your strengths, you will be in a better position to choose a situation in which you will thrive. 


Performing opportunities

Speak with current students, faculty, and staff during your campus visit to learn more about your performance opportunities at each school. Entering as a first-year student, will you be considered for casting in the mainstage operas and scenes programs? If your schools offer graduate programs, are there separate opportunities for you as an undergraduate student? What is the school’s policy concerning performing with organizations that are not affiliated with the school?

There are many other factors to consider when deciding which offer to accept including cost, distance from home, and living accommodations. Do your research and then trust yourself. This is an exciting new chapter in your life; embrace all that it has to offer.

Liana Valente

Dr. Liana Valente is the Denyce Graves Foundation Shared Voices program coordinator ( Prior to joining DGF, she enjoyed a 30-year career teaching all aspects of the classical vocal arts at colleges and universities along the East Coast including at Knoxville College, Wesleyan College, University of South Florida, Rollins College, and Howard University. She continues to perform, presents at national and international conferences, and focuses her current research on improving the quality of life for older persons through music participation. Since 2016, Dr. Valente has served as the National Federation of Music Clubs Representative to the United Nations Department of Global Communications.