I recently had a student audition for the highly regarded musical theater program at Manhattan-Marymount. Based on her retelling, the audition experience at MM was unconventional, to say the least. It left me thinking that other college-bound musical theater students should have this information going into their auditions.
Singers were brought into the audition room for 3 hours. There was no place to warm up, and all that was done was a group vocal warm-up. Then they were asked to dance. And FINALLY sing. This was hours after that original group warm-up in the morning! My student was towards the end, and had been sitting “cold” for 3 hours when she then had to get up and start her audition. Imagine the nerves building as the clock was ticking!
Another challenging aspect to this audition process was that singers were asked to audition in front of each other. Some were told that they were finished after their first song. Others were asked to present their second song and their monologue. Many of the singers were “worked with” master-class style. Taking direction in front of the audition panel can be difficult enough, but add to that the fact that the eyes of your competition are right there upon you, and you've got one heck of a challenging audition scenario.
How to prepare for a rigorous audition like this? Call each school in advance and ask detailed questions about the process. Are there practice rooms to warm up in? Will I have a chance to warm up with the accompanist or not? Will I sing, dance or act first? Mentally going through each stage of the day helps nerves. Even if you are expected to present 2 pieces, always have a third “in your back pocket” just in case the panel wants something contrasting or different from what you have.
Be ready to receive “notes” (feedback) and to be worked with on the spot - even in front of your peers. This means repeated practice runs at a program or in a master class where you get to perform your audition, get critiqued, and then do it again. High school students generally don’t acquire this skill anywhere and it’s an important one to have. If you do not understand the direction that you are being given, be sure to ask for clarification. If the professor says, "do it again, this time from the ground up" and you don’t know what that means -- ask! Our profession is all about having tons of conviction in a performance, but also being able to drop what you think is the right way and try what a director or conductor might ask of you- that is how we work in the professional world.
Vocal Audition Advantage (VAA)
Helping young classical and musical theater singers develop their talent and polish their craft.