Tips For A Successful Audition
Posted by Chris Donnelly

Tips-and-Advice
More tips and advice from faculty member Chris Donnelly.

Having one or more auditions approaching means you’re opening yourself up to new opportunities and new possibilities.  That should be exciting!  But it also means you’re opening yourself up to rejection and ego bruising.  That can be stressful.

Stress can lead to horrible auditions; I’ve seen many of those.  I hope this post will alleviate some of that stress and shed light on what makes a good audition.

Before you get excited, I should mention that one thing I’ve learned about auditions is that it’s impossible to know for sure who will make the cut, and who won’t.  There’s no such thing as a shoo-in, even if he/she gets verbal assurances from members of the audition panel!

The only thing that gives 100% certainty is an official letter of acceptance.  Keep this in mind when you’re preparing for auditions and always aim to do your best.

That being said, here are three tips for increasing your chances:

1. Be the Best

When it comes to auditioning for music programs, your most valuable asset is your music.  If you sound good, it’s more likely that you’ll be accepted.

Strive to be the best and keep your skills in check.  How do your skills measure up to current and prospective students?  I was 17 when I auditioned for UofT’s jazz program.  By that time, I already had 13 years of piano instruction and 8 years of jazz instruction.  How does this compare with the student who picks up his/her first instrument in high school?

Again, this doesn’t mean I was a shoo-in, or that the inexperienced students had no shot at acceptance, but it’s safe to say that I had a strong advantage.

Considering this, before auditioning, you should be asking: “Am I ready?

There are a few ways to gauge this.  One of the most popular is to contact a faculty member, ask for a lesson, and get his/her honest opinion on how your skills compare with other students.  Faculty members can also be helpful in assisting you to prepare for an audition.  Generally, they know what the panel is listening for and can guide you accordingly.

In addition, I would highly recommend you attend student concerts. Check out the school’s event calendars.  Students are putting on recitals and ensemble concerts all the time.  How do they sound?  How do you compare?  This is also a good way to connect with current students; ask them about their experiences and get feedback on the program you hope to attend.

If you’re really keen, I would explore the possibility of sitting in on some music classes.  Before auditioning for UofT, I remember sitting in on a 1st year improv class.  This was a very informative experience for me.  Not all teachers will be open to this, but it’s worth asking.  Contact the head of the department.  For UofT’s jazz program, that would be Terry Promane or Chase Sanborn.

Getting this feedback will hopefully put your skills and your choice to attend a music program in perspective.  If you find you’re not ready, it may be worth postponing your audition rather than risk a bad first impression with the audition panel.  Practice hard and audition next year!

2. Be Prepared

The audition requirements for UofT’s jazz program are very clear and concise; know them intimately.  If you’re preparing for an audition and you feel that the requirements are not clear, ask questions and make them clear!

Audition requirements exist for three reasons.  The first is to establish benchmarks.  The second is because it makes comparative analysis between prospective students easier.  The last reason is to test how well you follow instructions.

If you hear yourself saying…

  • Oops, I forgot
  • Sorry I’m late
  • I didn’t know I had to do that

…then you’re severely limiting your chances of acceptance.  The more signs of professionalism you show, the better your chances.

3. Be Positive

In a way, auditions are very similar to job interviews.  In fact, music auditions often incorporate personal interviews into the process.

Experienced interviewers will know if you’re a fit after 90 seconds.  My dad claims to know after 15 seconds!  The point is to be very aware of how your personality comes across; you may be a great player, but you’ll lose points if you’re a jerk.

People skills are invaluable.  The audition panel will be asking themselves if you’ll mix with current students and faculty. They want to see how you communicate.  They want to see confidence, but also humility and a desire to learn.  Nobody likes a big ego!

Keep in mind that sometimes the stress of an audition causes people to act differently and create the illusion of an inflated ego.  All the more to be conscious of how others perceive you!

Some general advice: Dress respectfully, have a firm handshake, make eye contact and most importantly, SMILE!

- – -

A final tip: When you’re in the moment, don’t let audition-stress get to you; the audition panel knows that you’re nervous.  They can also tell the difference between nervous mistakes and inexperience.  You’re best to be honest with what you know and with what you do.  Don’t try to impress.

Funny enough, twenty years from now, whether you get accepted or not, you’ll look back and say: “That audition was no big deal.”

It’s true.  These auditions, in the grand scheme of things, are no big deal!

Relax, have fun, do your best, and enjoy the music!

(Chris Donnelly teaches at the University of Toronto and blogs regularly at www.chrisdonnellymusic.com).

Comments are closed.

Return to Blog