College Connection: Preparing For That Next Audition

Our industry continues to “draw back the curtain,” allowing singers to see how the audition process runs from the other side of the table. You need only open the Classical Singer Magazine archives for excellent articles that will inspire and inform. Ultimately, regardless of what you think they want to see, each singer needs to ask themselves, “what do I want to share?”

However, before your next audition, let me share some advice to ensure a smooth experience. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be said, but you want to walk into every audition situation well-prepared and with a clear goal in mind. 

Musical Preparedness

What do I mean by well-prepared? It sounds simple, but being musically prepared is key to success.

  1. Demonstrate musical accuracy including correct pitches, rhythms, dynamics, and tempi.
  2. Engage in correct performance practice—make stylistic choices that are correct for the period. 
  3. Connect to and with the text—understand every word you are singing, and create your subtext to enhance your story-telling.
  4. Be physically engaged—use gestures and blocking that enhance your performance and are inspired by the music.
  5. Connect with your audience—don’t be afraid to look the adjudicators in the eye. 
  6. Practice with a collaborative pianist and sing your chosen rep for your teacher for feedback. 

Materials Preparation

You also need your materials to be prepared. Follow all instructions sent to you regarding how to submit scores, when to arrive at the audition location, how to check in, and what to expect at the audition site. If you are asked to submit your scores electronically, avoid snapping a picture on your phone and uploading; send pdf scores that are clean but marked with your tempi, cadenzas, breaths, and any other indications for the pianist. If you don’t have a scanner, ask your teacher or administrative assistant at school to scan your scores to create the pdfs. You must send the score that you sing, not one you find online. Check for accuracy when using IMSLP scores. Please note that while the pianist may work from an iPad or computer, you should always bring your audition notebook with you.

Suggestions for your notebook:

  1. Your notebook should be a hard-sided loose-leaf binder, no larger than 1-inch round ring.
  2. Include clean but well-marked copies of your scores, double sided, separate pages taped together (NEVER use staples), with your first aria at the front. 
  3. Use binder dividers and label each aria by composer and either title or role. 
  4. Include additional literature in the back only if you are prepared to sing it that day. 
  5. Keep additional copies of your headshot and resume in the pockets. 
  6. If you have a binder with a clear cover, place your headshot on the front and resume on the back. 

While most school auditions will have reserved practice rooms for warm up, you might have to schedule your time. Do that as soon as you receive your audition notification. There will be many auditions where warm-up facilities are not provided. Plan accordingly.

Audition Goals

Now that you are prepared for your audition, ask yourself, what are your goals for this particular audition? And what do you want the adjudicators to know about you? I suggest that while your ultimate goal may be to “get the gig,” there are other goals, attainable goals, that you can set for yourself that are not dependent on what the judges decide. Understand that for competitions and role auditions, there is usually only one “winner.” 

Because of this, you must have goals that go beyond the outcome of the audition:

  1. Strive to give your best complete performance on that particular day.
  2. Planning is vitally important, but find nuance in your performance as you sing.
  3. Connect with the audience (the adjudicators), allowing them to be engaged while you share your story.
  4. Be honest with your story-telling and don’t fear showing some vulnerability with your interpretations. 

This career is filled with joy, uncertainty, excitement, rejection, disappointments, and wonder. You must find a path that allows you to enjoy each audition as a performance and a chance to share your talents with others. 

We singers have the rare opportunity to support our communities through times of joy and pain. One of the most fulfilling experiences you can have is using your talents and abilities to help others. Continue to hone your skills, stretch out of your comfort zone, and take chances. 

Everyone who hears you wants you to succeed. And everyone who hears you wants to be transported when you sing. Your attention to detail and your ability to communicate and share with your audience—this is what is most important and will sustain you through the years.

Liana Valente

Dr. Liana Valente is the Denyce Graves Foundation Shared Voices program coordinator (www.thedenycegravesfoundation.org). 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.