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Advice for MM choral conducting audition

Hello, I'll be auditioning for MM in choral conducting in the next couple months. I need some advice on how to have a good audition and interview. What are some questions I may be asked in the interview? How can I make the best use of my 15 minutes at the podium? How can I connect with the choir? Any advice on what makes a successful candidate and experiences anyone can share would be a great help. Thanks!
on January 20, 2013 4:30pm
Jessica:  We don't have grad degrees, and for some reason I wasn't required to audition when I entered grad school (but I had worked with some of the professors already), but I can give you general advice.
 
Be well prepared, be well dressed but not overdressed, and be very professional.  Be friendly with the choir and treat them like young professionals who know what they're doing and not like children or high school students.  And connect with them through the music, directly and immediately.  (I'm assuming that it'll be music that they know and have sung, even though YOU may be learning it, so you shouldn't be expected to teach notes, but you SHOULD be expected to hear errors and know how to pinpoint and correct them.)
 
Ask if you should give warmups (if, for instance, you are first to go in front of them), but don't spend much time on it.  GET TO THE MUSIC.  Know exactly where the tricky spots are, don't worry about doing a complete "readthrough" in 15 minutes, and concentrate on a section that may need some work and that you know well enough to know exactly what you want, even if they have done it differently.
 
What the faculty wants to know is whether you already know it all or are prepared to learn from them, but they'll respond favorably to evidence that they won't have to teach you the basics, so don't sweat it on that score and just use the technique and experience and preparation that you DO have to best advantage.  And if they make any suggestions be prepared to act on them instantly.  They're evaluating whether they want to spend a couple of years working with you, so be easy to work with.
 
And of course make sure your resume or curriculum vitae is completely truthful, because someone just might ask some questions that you'll need to answer.  So just be yourself, but be yourself at your best--you know, like on a first date!!!
All the best,
John
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 21, 2013 7:44pm
Jessica Taber asks about preparing for MM auditions for choral conducting.
 
For the audition proper, remember that the committee doesn't expect to see a finished conductor -- otherwise, why would you be there? What they do want to see, however, is evidence of the compelling musicianship and irresistible personality -- the musical charisma or prepotenza (as Giulini put it) -- that provide the basis for a successful conductor. Also that you are able to hear and react to the actual sounds being made rather than those you imagined at your desk. Obviously, it helps to be able to cause the choir to begin and end together. Don't be concerned so much with technical details such as beat patterns as you are with the music's varying levels of momentum, its sweep: if you are a conductor you will convey these successfully no matter how confused your beating is; if you're not a conductor no amount of technical correctness will compensate for their lack.
 
You might expect questions in an interview such as "Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten?" Also requests to talk about some of your favorite music and why it is so, and what it is about choral music in particular that you find so fascinating. And, of course, if there are anomalies in your transcript, to explain them.
 
In both, have the confidence that comes from knowing, albeit humbly, that you will succeed, that you are the one who will be chosen.
 
Good luck!
 
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 25, 2013 7:38am
Thank you for the responses. They are very helpful. :)
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