Classical Singer Seminar – Improving Audition Skills



Sponsored by the American Institute of Musical Studies, Graz, Austria, the longest running European summer program for singers and pianists wanting to acquire the necessary skills for the professional music world.  Dr. Thomas King, Artistic Director

We all desire attention and appreciation and compliments and reinforcement of our self-worth. In an audition situation these desires are heightened by the fact that we want a job, we want a singing position, we want to make money doing what we love most, SINGING!  How can we acquire those skills and feel confident when we are staring at unfamiliar faces, who seem to us to be “disinterested” “gruff” “demanding” “all-knowing” “curt” “unfair”

Preparation is the key and having the right mind set coupled with that preparation is vital to keeping our self-worth and presenting our talents confidently. The audition situation is one I have analyzed for the last 25 years and I hope to bring you my insight and expertise in these few minutes as you watch some typical auditions and insert yourself in these scenarios.  You can improve these skills and you can show yourself at your best if you will practice these skills the same way you practice your music, with intelligence, with diligence and with energy and drive.  Follow these steps with us as we take a singer through the entire audition, from entering the room to giving a confident and strong goodbye.

1)   Check all of the materials you need to carry in.  Enter the room with confidence, head held high, looking straight into the eyes of the auditioner(s). Shake hands and state your name clearly and strongly. Show that you have a sense of purpose and direction and that YOU believe in yourself and this translates into “The auditioners should believe in you, too.”   Realize that auditioners WANT you to be great.  Why would they wish to sit around all day and hear mediocre singers? Their only purpose in being at the audition is to discover the next best singer.  That is where you come in. You ARE the next best singer and that attitude must exude from you. Show it. Believe it.  A positive attitude can be practiced and used to YOUR advantage. NEGATIVE  Enter, eyes down at the floor, stooped shoulders, mumbling your name and shaking hands weakly. Would YOU hire you if you noticed this as a first impression?  I doubt it.

2) Have all of your “stuff” ready to offer the auditioner. You need a resume, a picture, and a list of your repertoire for TODAY. The resume should state truthful and interesting facts that allow the auditioner to learn about you as you sing. Include current contact information, cell phone, e mail address, web site, home address, etc. One page is sufficient. More than that makes you too OLD.  If you have very little to include that makes you YOUNG and a FRESH voice. How nice!  Include information that is pertinent for today. Don’t list religious pieces if the audition is for an opera company. Don’t list dance experience if the audition is for a church soloist job. Have several resumes in your computer and print out the one needed for each situation. Your photo should be current and representative of you. The list of pieces for today is helpful for suggesting an order in which to sing, an overall impression of your voice type, and just a practical way to remember what you plan to sing. What else might you bring in?  Keep this simple if you can. — notebook of music for accompanist, water bottle, apple, calendar, pen, comfortable shoes, etc.  These things can get in the way and make you look very disorganized. You must have the music notebook. Can you leave your water and apple outside? Can you change shoes before you enter? Can you have calendar and pen neatly tucked away in your music notebook?  Plan the entire process. Know what works for you and what is absolutely necessary for you to feel comfortable.  NEGATIVE Bringing in too much and shaking hands and greeting can be messy and fumbly. Enter dropping the apple and watch it roll to the feet of the auditioner (an apple is great for instant energy and moisture, so it is not a bad thing, perhaps just a clumsy thing!) Offer the auditioner your purse and your water. Offer the auditioner your photo and resume upside down.  Shake hands with wet hands from holding the water bottle. Set all of these things down just inside the door, while turning your back to the auditioner. What first view do they get of you? Backside?  Ugh!

3) Talk with the auditioner. How are you? Be personable. A bit of small talk is needed, and then get to the important stuff.  Be businesslike and decisive. Don’t use this time to act like your opera characters. You can do that while singing. Help the auditioner decide on the pieces and the order of singing them. Have a list of four contrasting pieces, different languages, tempi, styles, moods, BUT stay within your comfort zone for pieces. You must be able to sing these pieces easily and show that you do not tire. Remember if you tire after one or two arias, how can you possibly sing an entire opera?  Don¹t show what you want to sing in five years. Show what you sing NOW. NEGATIVE  Offer lots of pieces in no particular order. Definitely sing your biggest piece first and hope you can reach the high note. Act “cute” because your opera characters are cute. Argue with the auditioner about appropriate repertoire for yourself. Refuse to sing the piece they want first.

4) Talk with accompanist as needed, decide on tempo, special places in the music that need coordination. Be decisive, professional, but not bossy.  The accompanist can make or break you.  AND the accompanist talks with the auditioner after you leave the room. What will be said about you?  Easy to work with, good musician, leads well  OR  argumentative, can’t keep the beat, is unorganized with the music notebook, had a missing page of one aria, doesn’t breathe where marked,    I know I am being very particular, but you must not leave anything to chance, IF you can help it.

5) (can have an entire talk on picking pieces that show you off in the best way, that are easy to accompany, that have no odd little spots that can go awry, etc.

6) between first and second piece,  more talk with auditioner about what? About  how you sang, is the piece “right” for you and your voice? What other piece do you have in that language, that style? Have you performed this with orchestra, where, when, etc.

7)  second piece    – might change depending on how you sang the first piece. Do they want more of the same?  Do they want a contrast?

8) after pieces, come back close in to talk again, NO MATTER WHAT. Let the auditioner get a “feeling” of your height, your being, your strength in speaking and doing business. Say goodby with confidence and strength, knowing you GOT the job, even if you didn’t. It is all about impressions in the moment. Practice these traits, these strengths often.

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