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College audition process


Hi choral friends,

A goal of our church music program is to prepare our high school seniors to
confidently and successfully sing an audition in the fall when they get to
campus their freshman year. Just after Easter we're offering some brief
classes just before youth choir on Sunday afternoons to help these singers
gain confidence for auditions. I'd be grateful if some of you college
conductors would send a description of a typical audition for entering
freshman. I'll post a compilation.


Ken Wilson
Knollwood Baptist Church
Winston-Salem, NC


Hello Ken,

At Meredith College, I ask singers to sing a piece of their song, aria, patriotic song, folk song, hymn.
They also do some vocalise to demonstrate their range and tessitura, one
or two selections for sight singing, and tonal memory exercises.
For me, sight reading is important as well as vocal quality. If the
person is not a fine sight singer, then the tonal memory exercises show
me if they have a good ear for following pitch patterns.

Lisa Fredenburgh

Lisa M. Fredenburgh, D.M.A.
Director of Choral Activities
Meredith College, Raleigh, NC 27607
National Chair, ACDA Women's Choirs Repertoire and Standards

(919) 760-8577 o
(919) 760-2359 f


From: John Howell
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 13:40:30 -0500
To: Ken Wilson
Subject: Re: [CHORALIST-L] College level choral auditions for entering

All this is pretty much common sense, but maybe it won't hurt to say
it anyway. We're interested in judging several different things:

1. Voice quality, and voice suitability for specific ensembles. If
an auditionee has a naturally good voice or has had good voice
training, it should show. Some auditioners will be concerned about
vibratowhether it's natural sounding, whether it's wide and wobbly,
whether it's a fast flutter, or whether there isn't any. Best
advice: be who you are and let them worry about placing you where
you'll best fit in. Most ensembles need voices that blend together
rather than a collection of competing soloists, but it depends on the
conductor and the situation.

2. Musicianship. Are you consistently right on pitch? Is your
rhythm consistently accurate? Do you know what a phrase is and how
to shape it? Do you recognize that a singer is a story teller and
tell your story well? Can you control your volumn? Can you match
pitch with others? Best advice: pick audition songs that lie well
in your voice and let you relax and just sing your best.

3. Personality and attitude. Oh, really? You bet. We'll have to
live with you, and a pleasant, relaxed attitude and approach to life
make you a pleasure to live with, not a pain. Awfully hard to judge
in an audition situation, though. Again, best advice: be yourself,
but be yourself at your best.

4. For some conductors, your familiarity with singing in other
languages might be important. For others, not. Same thing with
being familiar with and comfortable in different styles. Again, be

5. Some auditions will allow you to pick the song(s) you will sing.
If so, pick song(s) you know really well and can get into performing.
Remember, an audition is a performance, so approach it like one.
Pick songs that are in your key, that show off the good points in
your voice and musicianship, and that don't show off your
limitations. Auditions are held because the people holding them need
singers. Convince them that they need YOU! It's generally a bad
idea to pick songs that are associated with a major entertainer,
because then you're competing with them. And it's a bad idea to pick
a song that's so stylized the auditioner can't tell what YOU sound
like. If you're allowed to pick your songs, have one up-tempo and
one ballad ready. Ask ahead of time whether you need to provide
music or a recording for accompaniment. People have very different
ideas about this. And NEVER sing along with a CD that has someone
else singing on it!

6. Some auditions will include sightreading. This is something that
you can practice ahead of time. Borrow a hymn book and read through
5-10 hymns every day, first the melodies, then the harmony parts.
You may not think you can read music, but if you're an active singer
you probably can read much better than you think you can.

7. Some auditioners will vocalize you, as a quick and easy way to
check your range and your register crossings. When I warm up a
choir, I use vocalises that are easy on the voice. when I audition
singers I deliberately use vocalises that will show up problems.
Just be aware of that going in, and don't worry about it.

8. While traditional choirs don't need a lot of additional
requirements, those that use choreography and do show music do.
You'll be checked to see whether you move well and gracefully, and
perhaps taught a dance step combination to see how quickly you catch
on and whether you actually have dance ability. Your physical
condition may be a factor in such an ensemble, and your stage
presence. Probably, if you do audition for such an ensemble, you
already have some experience and already have an idea of how well you
would fit in. Again, relax, be yourself, and have fun.

9. Somemanyconductors have callbacks, trying out singers in
various combinations to see how the voices actually work together.
If you make it that far, you'll be under serious consideration, so
pay attention and do what you're asked to do. And as always, be
yourself and have fun doing it.

10. Everybody has nerves. We know that. What counts is what you do
about it. The very best way to get rid of them is to approach your
audition as a full-out performance. Or drain the nerves away from
your voice by clenching your toes, or your butt. The way to learn to
audition is to do it, lots, over and over, until it becomes second
nature and just another kind of performance. For 14 years I directed
a very fine and very high powered college show ensemble. I made all
the cast members audition for every large or small solo that came
along that fit their voice range or gender. Rookies usually worried
about messing up. It usually took them a semester of watching
veterans audition to get rid of that hangup and go for an audition
not caring whether they messed up. And that's when they started NOT
messing up, and getting solos.

11. If you have some credits that show what you've done, by all
means put together a one-page resume. It's a low-key, professional
way to bring those credits to the auditioners' attention. If you
don't, it's no big deal. And letters of recommendation don't really
mean a lot, because we can't judge what the standards of comparison
are. Like it or not, you're in a new situation and you have to start
building your reputation all over again, and that can be a very
positive situation. Just compare it with athletics. At every new
level there are higher standards and expectations, but there are also
greater opportunities. Enjoy!

12. Always remember, you have at least 3 different voices: the one
you have today, the one your voice teacher knows you could have if
you worked at it, and the one your choir director needs! I've taken
singersespecially mid-year replacementson the "wrong" voice part
for them, because that's what I needed, but only when I could judge
that it would not hurt their voices, and always with the intention of
moving them into the "right" section when it became possible. I've
also taken high school 2nd sopranos or altos and made them 1st
sopranos, and vice versa, because for whatever reason they were
singing the wrong voice part in high school. It happens. Go with
the flow, and give your choir directors what they need from you.
It'll all work out in the end.

Just a few of the basics.


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034


An audition for my select university choir here at Emporia State
University includes:

1. sing a song of your choice (like you would sing for contest or for
churchbut not country or pop) *[listen to tone quality, pitch,
expressiveness in singing]
2. sight read a short rather simple melodyin 3/4 or 4/4, when given
the first pitch of the melody on the piano. I don't help the singers at
all. (reading ability)
3. sing back (echo) seven patterns, five- to six-note patterns, I play
on the piano in a key that is comfortable for the singer (ears/hearing
ability). I start with a major triadarpeggiated. Next I play a minor
triad. With each new pattern the difficulty levels increases until the
final pattern is a whole-tone scale (which very few entering freshmen
can sing). I'll repeat the pattern if the student asks me to. I've
used these same seven patterns for 20+ years. This is my chief tool in
choosing singers who will learn quicklyeven if they don't "read" music
very much. Accurate ears means lots to me for this choir which sings
in many languages, difficult harmonies in certain styles, etc.



Here is what I have prospective
students do in their audition:

1) Sing a prepared piece (2 pieces of contrasting styles and periods if they
plan to be a vocal music major).

2) Vocalize to check for range and for sectional placement.

3) Sight read the melody line (soprano) of an unfamiliar hymn.

4) Sing back short melodic configurations played on the piano. (These go
from easy to hard, ending up with an exercise that outlines the whole-tone

5) Match the pitch of either the top, middle or bottom notes in various

That's it. I'll look forward to seeing the compilation. It should prove
interesting, and may give me some new ideas!

All the Best,

Chuck Livesay

Dr. Charles Livesay
Director of Choirs
Spring Arbor University
Spring Arbor, MI 49283
(517) 750-6498


Some of my personal comments, being from a smaller university, would be:
Appropriate dress
Be on time, if not early
Have all appropriate forms completed and with you, if requested
Contact the schools and know exactly what they want in the way of
audition material
Most of us are looking for classical music for auditions. Though
different programs may require different music, a general audition would be
music appropriate for solo/ensemble festival, etc. If you have had help in
preparing a language piece, then fine. If not, don't' try on your own!
Have your music (vocal) memorized!
Though I am a singer, we find the instrumental students are often
not strong on their scales. Very important!
Try to appear as confidant as you can. Show your personality! We
prefer to "spend" our funds with students who show ambition and direction.
Have questions for your panel. Don't be afraid to ask.

Auditions very from school to school and requirements vary, but some basic
things apply. But again, thanks for doing this. I'm sure most of us will
request you put this up on Choralist for all to see. It is a very important

Pat Lacey (Mrs.)
Missouri Baptist University
Department of Music
One College Park Drive
St. Louis, MO 63141-8698


Brief vocalization, especially to evaluate accuracy of intonation and
control of dynamics.

Sight-reading and ear evaluation are the emphasis. A fair voice that can
read well is worth ten times as much as a great voice that can't,

William Weinert
Eastman School of Music


My first suggestion would be to begin earlier. By Easter most scholarship
auditions for colleges and universities have already passed and those
institutions are notifying those who have received a scholarship. I would
begin in the fall getting them ready. At Hardin-Simmons University, we ask
that each person sing or play two to three pieces (depending on length) of
varying styles, preferably in the art music tradition. This gives us an
idea of their level of musicianship and their musical skill. Then we ask
them to sight read a short passage. We give them about a minute to look it
over and then we ask them to play. Afterwards, they can ask questions of us
if they wish to find out more about our school of music. We also have a
representative from financial aid available to answer questions.

Clell E. Wright D.M.A.
Head, Church Music Department
Hardin-Simmons University


Typical 5' audition at Bradley University:

Complete a form asking questions about singing experience.

Answer a few questions about major, high school experience, etc. (an attempt
calm the student's nerves)

Sing, with piano accompaniment, several 5-tone descending scales on "mah,"
demonstrating quality and range of voice.

Perform a short, fairly simple diatonic sight-reading piece handed to the
student(different every year)

Listen to and sing back six 4- or 5-tone fragments played on the piano
(beginning with tonic triad, possibly including an augemented triad or a
with a major 7th)

Sing the phrase "From ev'ry mountainside, let freedom ring" in several given
keys (alternatives such as "O Canada" if the student is not from the US!)

Dr. John Jost
Director of Choral Activities
Music Department
Bradley University
Peoria, IL 61625
FAX: 309-677-3871



Mine is quite simple:

1. vocalization to determine range and pitch-matching capacity
a. breath and repeated vocal onsets, usually /a/
b. same, and add a 1-3-5 arpeggio
c. repeat ascending
d. 5-4-3-2-1 descending to find low limit

2. Pattern repetition
a. starting simple, 1-2-3-2-1, 1-7-6-5-6-7-1
b. arpeggio patterns
c. triads w. steps included
d. the tritone somewhere

3. Reading a simple 4-part piece in context



Thanks to all who responded!