“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Alan Lakein
The one thing I know for sure about holding auditions is this; you have to plan. If you are the one auditioning, it’s not always necessary for you to plan; you just show up on time and do what is asked of you. If you need to prepare something, have it ready. If you have questions, have them ready. And then, follow along with the requests of those who are holding the auditions. The people who should be doing the planning are the ones holding the auditions.
Plan the material you want to hear. Plan the time frame of auditions and how you would like to schedule them. Decide about Call-Backs. Decide if it will be a private, one-on-one audition. And be organized enough to tell the person auditioning for you when, and in what manner, they will learn if they have made it or not. These seemingly simple things are the very things which cause no end of trouble and accusations of being “unfair” from those auditioning for you.
Tish* is an old hand at planning auditions now. But when she began her current position ten years ago, she was a mess. It wasn’t her fault, at least, not at the beginning. She was replacing a much beloved, long time choral director at a private high school. The students weren’t pleased he was asked to leave. Trish didn’t know why he left, other than there were accusations of some sort of misconduct. She still doesn’t know what happened; just that he left a mess for her.
The choral program had one large non-auditioned mixed chorus, a smaller select chamber choir, a swing chorus, a “Barbershop” octet and a “Beautyshop” octet. Other than the large mixed chorus, all the other groups were auditioned. Tish came in mid-year so all of these groups were in place when she began. No one told her anything about auditions or tradition or precedent about how these groups were organized but they certainly told her how she had messed up when school began in the fall!
That fall, there were a few students in the chamber group, swing choir and the two Barbershop/Beautyshop groups, but only a few. The rest of the singers had graduated. Tish takes full blame for not asking but her department chair (the Band Director) had not been forthcoming about anything other preparing the students for their Spring concert. The Music Parents were in a Kerfuffle about the old director leaving and resented her. The principal wanted the choral program to carry on but wasn’t very clear about anything other than that. Evenso, Tish knows she should have figured it out.
That fall, she took out the Music Parents’ president for coffee, asking for help, or at least some insight. Mrs. Johnston* was helpful and FINALLY Tish had an idea of what she could do right then to save the year. She held auditions the first two weeks of school and told anyone who auditioned, they made it. Tish felt it was a way to make up for messing up, but surprisingly she believed they should have made it anyway. After auditions, she went about the usual business of school and rehearsals and preparing for concerts. Tish vowed this would never happen again and began to plan.
Using information from Mrs. Johnston, Tish planned auditions. Those who would be upperclassmen in the coming year would have their auditions right after the Spring concert. New ensemble lists would be posted outside of the chorus room three days after. Those who would be sophomores were invited to audition the following week. There was an understanding there would be several sophomores for each group who would be on a waiting list in the event someone moved or was no longer able to sing in the ensemble when school began again. That first year, it was a huge success.
With tweaking here and there, this is how Tish has held auditions for the last ten years. It has worked for the most part because she keeps refining and asks her students and their parents for suggestions. She has had some “moments” but has averted other problems by simply planning far in advance.
During the month of August, Choral Ethics will repeat some of our favorite blogs from the past four years. Hope you enjoy them. Happy summer!