November starts audition season for many students hoping to get into the college music program of their choice. In past years, this meant both time and money spent traveling on weekends to the conservatories of choice.
It should come as no surprise that this year is different. The Covid-19 pandemic has all but eliminated in-person auditions for aspiring vocalists, instrumentalists and music theatre students. Matthew Miller, Associate Director of Admissions, Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music explains, “Most conservatories are holding auditions in one of three ways – fully recorded, completely live over a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, or a combination of the two. The only exception might be for percussion where a student might not have access to the instruments, so may be invited to audition live in a safe environment.”
The advantage of all this? Students can broaden their net, and audition with more conservatories at a fraction of the financial and time commitment. This naturally would enhance a student’s chance of being admitted into the conservatory of their choice and find a perfect fit.
Many programs will ask for a recorded audition piece and then hold a live video interview to get to know the student better. Submitting a prerecorded audition has the advantage of getting it right, however, it may lack a chance to connect if overworked. Students should not be tempted to alter or enhance recordings in any way. “Have accompaniment,” Miller says. “This can be prerecorded, as live accompaniment could be tricky due to space and sound, but make sure it is audible.”
Dr. Marc Weagraff, Associate Professor of Voice at BW Conservatory of Music, agrees. “It is important for students to relax and be themselves. Aspiring artists should bring a piece they are performing well right now. We want to hear repertoire that is appropriate for their level of study, and not something too advanced. In a virtual setting, students will need to create energy as if it were performed live.”
Additionally, the environment must be one where you are comfortable. Sound in a home setting is generally good, but make sure the room you are in has ample space to set up. “Generally, a space where you would welcome company is best,” Weagraff explains. “Have your main lighting source in front of you and not behind. Do not stand in front of a window, for example.” Framing should show body posture and facial expression. If using a smartphone, record in landscape orientation.
“Clothing should be whatever you would wear to an in-person audition,” Weagraff adds. “Students need to look nice. They’re making a first impression and should be careful not to come across as too casual even though they are in their home.”
Before any live portion of a virtual audition, run through all the logistics so the student can be relaxed about the technical details. Both Miller and Weagraff agree there might be background noises, but it is understood these are occurrences beyond a student’s control. It is important to relax through the awkwardness and be yourself.
What else makes a student stand out? Conservatories are obviously looking for talent, but also a student who will fit with the culture and whom faculty believe can develop and be successful in the program. Miller recommends students have a clear reason for choosing their intended major and why that school is on their list of college options. If a student has any related experience in the field, that should also be conveyed.
Auditioning is unnerving regardless of experience level. Planning ahead of time, bringing your authentic self, and highlighting your best work should help smooth the path to success.