Nailing Your University Scholarship Audition

This article was originally published in Classical Singer magazine. To subscribe to the print magazine, go to

College tuition has become a hot topic across the country. The truth of the matter is that it has always been a hot topic in the homes of families everywhere. For many, the cost of tuition can mean the difference between going to college or not, so it comes as no surprise that a premium is placed on those precious, performance-based scholarships available to incoming freshmen. 

Colleges and universities work hard to provide scholarship money for their promising incoming students. At the same time, upperclassmen are busy trying to put their best foot forward to secure the highest amount of scholarship money possible to reduce or eliminate tuition costs. With a little organization and preparation, you can make sure that you are considered for as much scholarship money as possible. 

You see, colleges and universities are looking for students who are going to come into their music programs with a certain level of preparation and musical development. Unfortunately, not all high school programs are created equally. With that in mind, the suggestions listed here will help you identify and strengthen any deficiencies that you may have. 



Preparation can begin as early in your high school career as you would like it to start. In fact, the earlier your interest is noticed by a college/university, the more the faculty can get to know you prior to your audition to the program. Additionally, most voice faculty will be happy to work with you in selecting the right repertoire for your audition and perhaps even bring you into their private studio to get your voice in the best shape possible during the time you have. 

By knowing what schools you are interested in, you can then proceed to determine what their unique audition requirements are. Auditions are quite similar from school to school, but there are things that make each school different—and you do not want to be unprepared for those. For example, schools A, B, and C all ask for three songs of contrasting styles preferably in two different languages, but school C also says they have a sight-singing component to their audition. That is something that requires some work and practice in order to be prepared.

The good news is that all this information can be found at each music department’s website. Colleges and universities work hard to make it easy for prospective students to find out all the pertinent information they need. If all else fails, do not be afraid to contact the chair or a voice faculty member with your questions. 


The Audition Day 

If you have not already started developing a performance day routine, now is the time to begin. This is a set of things you do to make sure you are ready mentally and physically for your performance or audition. This routine should include some simple but necessary items to make sure you have everything ready to go. These should consist of getting plenty of rest the night before, having your music ready for your accompanist, and making sure you are on track to arrive early

The last one is of special importance. When it comes to auditions, it is best to adopt the motto “Early is on time and on time is late.” The last thing you want is for the listeners to be waiting on you for your scheduled time. Remember, they are listening to many students, and you want to impress them. 

Also, you will want to make sure that you look nice for your audition. Do not wear anything torn or stained and nothing casual. Choose clothes that you might wear to a place of worship or a dressy occasion. 


The Audition 

Your audition begins when you enter the room. Enter with confidence and do not be afraid to smile and greet the others in the room. If you did not work with the pianist beforehand, take a moment to talk with them about anything unusual in your music or cuts that you take. No one likes surprises in an audition. 

Remember, the pianist is trying to make you sound as good as possible—the more you are both on the same page, the easier that will be. When you’re ready, clearly announce your first piece. Once your audition is over, do not forget to thank everyone, especially your pianist. 

You would be surprised at just how far simple manners will go in impressing faculty. Leave with the same confidence you had when you entered, even if you made a mistake. Do not sabotage your audition by being negative where others might hear you. Wait until you get far outside the audition building if you absolutely must express something negative. 

Advertisement (article continues below):

After the Audition 

After you get home, it is time to stay in touch. Sending the audition contact person a thank you for your audition is a nice gesture but not a requirement. Also, if you do not know when you should be hearing back from them, wait a couple of weeks and then follow up if you still have not heard anything. These little things go a long way in showing a prospective college or university how serious you are. 


You are now ready to begin preparing with confidence for your upcoming scholarship auditions. If you follow the steps above, there is no doubt that you will be putting your best foot forward. Happy auditioning! 





  1. Determine which colleges/universities interest you and apply to those institutions. 
  2. Go to your desired school’s music department website to contact the coordinator of the voice area, get more information about the program, and schedule an audition. 
  3. Pay close attention to the audition requirements. For example, the number of songs needed, appropriate styles and languages of music, accompanist information, the requested format for any recorded auditions, and any other information that should be included. 


The Audition Day 

  1. Get plenty of rest. 
  2. Have your scores ready. 
  3. Dress appropriately.
  4. Arrive early. 
  5. Be polite.

The Audition 

  1. Enter with confidence. 
  2. Smile (this cannot be overstated). 
  3. Take a minute to talk with the pianist if you haven’t worked with them yet. 
  4. Clearly announce your name and your first piece. 
  5. When finished, thank everyone and leave with confidence no matter how it went. 


After the Audition 

  1. If there was a contact person for the auditions, send a brief thank you to them. 
  2. If they didn’t tell you when you might hear something, follow up in two to three weeks.
Roberto Mancusi

Roberto Mancusi maintains a steady performing schedule around the country and abroad. When not performing, he is a professor of music at the University of Tennessee–Martin where he teaches: applied lessons, voice science & pedagogy, vocal literature, voice class, and co-directs the university’s Lyric Opera Theater.