So, you want to major in voice in college and you want to nail that entrance audition? As a university voice professor who has had years of hearing hundreds of college vocal auditions, here are my top suggestions for how to best prepare for your audition and get into the program of your dreams!
Consult the website
When planning your college audition, the first thing you should do is consult the website of the music department in the school you would like to attend. Look up their admissions information and find out what their audition requirements are. Do not email to ask a question unless you have first consulted the website to find the answer!
If you don’t have a regular voice teacher, invest in as many lessons as possible before your audition. If you find the expense of lessons prohibitive, approach someone in music in your life–maybe that is a church choir director or your school’s music teacher. Even if you aren’t in choir in your school and don’t know that teacher, they might still welcome a chance to meet with you and help you. But you must ask an experienced musician to help you prepare. Everyone needs a trained ear to provide guidance and encouragement.
It’s not about the high notes.
When preparing your repertoire, instead of your high notes, focus on things like accuracy of pitches and rhythm, diction, clean melismas, and onsets. Do pick a song that flatters your range, but do not feel as though you need to show the very highest or lowest notes in your range. College auditions are not a “the person who sings the highest note gets the spot” scenario. The people behind the table want to hear the beauty of your tone, to see your work ethic in the detailed way you prepared the music, and to experience your professionalism in materials and presentation. They will want to see your ability to communicate through gesture and expression, more than they will want to hear the highest note in your range. Trust me!
Show up with style.
Be sure you know what musical style is expected, and then perform your piece in the expected style. If the vocal program to which you are applying is a classical one, and the audition information does not mention allowing a musical theater or popular piece, only sing classical pieces. But more than that, make sure you are singing those pieces in the appropriate style. Classical music has specific performance practice surrounding vibrato; the use of head, chest, and mix voice; shape of vowels; etc. It is not enough to sing a classical piece, but you must sing that piece in a classical style. Consult a teacher for help!
Prepare your sheet music properly.
Once you have consulted the website of the program for which you are auditioning, you should know what sort of accompaniment will be available at your audition and what the expectation will be for you to provide sheet music for that audition. Make sure that the sheet music you provide is in the key in which you have been rehearsing and is the same version of the song you have been preparing. For instance, if you are preparing a popular folk song like “The Water is Wide,” you will find many keys and versions of that song in sheet music. It is important that the sheet music you provide your accompanist is the same version you prepared. This is where having a music teacher with whom you consult will prove vital if you do not yet have strong music-reading abilities. If you are asked to bring hard copies of your music, you should copy or tape the pages so that they are front to back to minimize page turns, and you should three hole punch those pages and place them in a notebook. You should also ensure that the sheet music you provide is large and clear enough to be read easily. These details say a lot about your preparedness and professionalism right away.
Professional but not formal.
Dress to impress. In the classical singing world, traditional, dressy business attire is still expected in audition settings. Always err on the side of dressy, not casual, and classic, not stylish. No cocktail or formal wear or heels so high they inhibit good vocal production. You want the audition panel to be looking at you, not your clothes! Feel free to dress in the gender expression that best reflects you.
Be kind and courteous.
Thank your accompanist for playing for you. Greet the people behind the table with a smile and hello. Do not offer to shake hands since many people worry about germs. Also, do not begin an audition with a question, even if it’s a common polite one like “how are you?” If the audition panel has already been asked fifteen or twenty times how they are that day, they may find the question tiresome. Engage in polite conversation if the panel encourages it, but do not embark upon long stories about your day unless the judges invite you to share. Keep your conversation positive and succinct. There is no bowing in an audition setting, but be sure to thank the panel before you leave. Sending a follow up thank you note or email is a really nice touch!
Now go out there and join the college program of your dreams!