Audition Information

For more specific audition information please visit the Faculty of Music website. (Click the information icon in the upper right corner for links.)

For questions relating to undergrad auditions: EMAIL THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE.

For questions relating to grad auditions: EMAIL THE GRADUATE OFFICE.

U of T Jazz is a small, elite program with an impressive faculty roster and exceptional students. Because of the numbers, the admission process is competitive; there are many more applicants in a given year than we can accept. But don’t despair! We are not only looking for talented musicians, but students who want to learn. If you have a passion for jazz, and show evidence of hard work so far, your chances are good.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend the one-day audition workshop offered in January.
CLICK HERE for information on U of T Jazz Workshops.

All undergrad applicants to the U of T Jazz Performance Program must submit a pre-screen application.

Successful pre-screen applicants will be invited to audition live at the school. If you live more than 400km (250 miles) from Toronto you may opt to send a taped audition, however all invited applicants are strongly advised to come for the audition if at all possible. Not only does this present you in the best light, it gives you a chance to see the school and the city that you are considering calling home.

Each audition lasts approx. 20 minutes. In that short time we strive to get an idea not only of how the student plays, but also a broader understanding of the individual. We are not only looking for good musicians, but for students who will benefit from what the program has to offer and who will offer something in return. In a small program such as ours, everybody knows everybody else, and the ability to fit in and work well with others is crucial to the success of the student and the program. During the course of the audition we hear three songs, do a little ear training and conduct an informal interview.

Students prepare three selections from a list of approved tunes. These pieces should exhibit diversity of style and show you off to strong advantage. In the interest of time, you will play the melody and an improvised solo, and then we will stop and move on to the next piece. Memorization is strongly encouraged, however please bring three copies of the music with you to the audition.

We have student rhythm sections on hand to accompany live auditions. While you may feel nervous about playing with unfamiliar musicians, you’ll find them very friendly and sensitive; that’s why they were chosen for the auditions. Chances are they will be stronger players than the musicians you are used to, and that will only make you sound better. They are empathetic, as they stood in your shoes not that long ago, and will be relaxed. That in turn helps you to relax. Getting a chance to play and interact with students currently in the program gives you the most accurate view of the U of T Jazz scene. Please note: A $60 cash fee must be brought to the audition, payable directly to the rhythm section.


  • Bass players should be prepared to play the melody as well as improvise bass lines and solos. While bass players may audition on electric bass if that is their primary instrument, acoustic bass playing is an important component in the jazz program. All bassists must be able to perform on both electric and acoustic bass in order to graduate.
  • Drummers should be prepared to demonstrate various styles (eg. Swing, shuffle, afro-cuban, funk, bossa nova & samba) at various tempos, using brushes as well as sticks. Solo trading (fours/eights) should be included in the performance.
  • Pianists and guitarists must play one of the three pieces unaccompanied, and demonstrate ability to comp chords.
  • Saxophonists may elect to perform one or more of the pieces on a doubling instrument. (flute, clarinet etc)


As you play your tunes, try to listen and respond to what you hear, rather than trying to impress. One of the worst things you can do is come in with a preconceived notion of what you are going to play, hot licks or high notes or whatever. Improvising jazz is about being ‘in the moment’ and carrying on a conversation with the other musicians, wherever that conversation may lead.

Whether you have a ‘good day’ or a ‘bad day’ will not make a big difference in our assessment. We can easily hear where you are in your development. Some of the things we are listening for include sound, time, conception, phrasing, jazz vocabulary, instrumental or vocal ability, and overall musicality.

We may ask you to sight-read, so spend some time every day working on your reading, particularly in the jazz idiom. Dance Band Reading and Interpretation, by Alan Raph, is an excellent resource for familiarizing yourself with typical jazz rhythms. When practicing sight-reading, try to get through the whole piece once without stopping, then go back and work on the parts you missed. Make sure you keep steady time and sub-divide the bar correctly. Practice with a metronome to develop your internal pulse.

You’ll be asked to identify various intervals and chords played on the piano. We start with simple diatonic intervals and progress until you are stumped. Try to go with your instinct and don’t second-guess. The secret to identifying chords is to recognize the sound, or ‘color’ of the chord. The ‘big three’ chords are major 7, minor 7 and dominant 7, particularly as arranged in the II-V-I progression. The more time spent at the piano, playing and listening to chords, the better. There are several recordings available to help you train your ears.

The best way to prepare for the interview is simply to immerse yourself in the world of jazz. Listen to recordings, read biographies, watch jazz videos and find a good teacher. We ask questions that probe the depths of experience and knowledge of jazz specifically, but also music and life in general. Who are your favorite players and why do you admire them? What do you hope to get out of your university education? Do you know who is on the faculty? (It is amazing how many students apply for a school with no knowledge of who will teach them.) Do you understand the economic realities of the music business? Where do you see yourself in ten years? If you are considering what many would term a very risky career choice, you should have a passion for the music and a realistic vision of the future. This is the kind of insight we are looking for in the interview.

During the interview, just relax and be yourself; we want an honest picture of who you are and what you are interested in. We don’t expect you to know everything, but we assume that you have done some studying already, and are very keen to learn more. If you have questions about the program, this is your opportunity to ask them.


  • Relax! We are serious about music at U of T, but rather informal about everything else. We know you are nervous, and we’ll do our best to make you feel at ease and create a situation where you can play your best. We want you to do well.
  • Prepare your material thoroughly, and memorize it. Know the correct melodies for the tunes you play. Knowing the lyrics is a huge help in establishing natural phrasing.
  • Concentrate on making music, rather than trying to impress.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable, but dress in a manner that suggests maturity and self-respect.
  • Don’t warm-up too much! Concentrate on tone, airflow, response etc.
  • Listen to your favourite music prior to your audition. The more music you have in your head, the more likely it is that music will come out of your horn.
  • Bring a bottle of water.
  • While waiting, you’ll be seated in the lobby, probably in the midst of currently-enrolled students. Don’t be shy about asking them what life is like at U of T; they will be forthcoming with their answers. They were in your shoes only a short time ago, and empathize with the sense of insecurity that you feel. Talking with them beforehand will lessen your nervousness when you enter the audition room.
  • Many of our students and faculty accept private students. Consider booking a lesson prior to the audition; that will give you a real boost in confidence come the day.

Because of the numbers, not every qualified applicant can be accepted. Your chances depend on your ability and who is competing against you, just like the real world. If you are not accepted, that does not necessarily mean you are not acceptable, simply that someone else was more suited this time around. Do some studying in the year to come, either at another institution or with private teachers, and audition again next year. University is just a few years out of a lifetime of study; the more knowledge and experience you bring with you, the more you’ll get out of it. In life, those with determination and staying power are the ones who will succeed. As Winston Churchill said: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”