Across the world, collegiate a cappella groups are getting ready for a new group of eager singers to come in and impress in hopes of being selected to join an a cappella group. Is your group ready?!
Here are some tips and ideas to help you make your auditions run smoothly and successfully and get you ready for a great year!
Announce that you are hosting auditions!
Be sure to include where, when, and what the audition is!
Optional to post that you need specific voice parts (SATB, perc) - this can attract individuals of a specific talent/voice range.
Flyers, Social Media, Email, Involvement fairs, reaching out to individuals, perform around campus!
Have a meeting with your current groups to discuss the process of auditions
What does our group need?
Do we need specific voice parts? Soloists? Arrangers? Performers?
It can be healthy to discuss as a group the strengths and weaknesses of the current members. This can help a group recognize areas it can improve the most in so recognizing potential members can become more clear.
What does the group want?
An important part of performing as a group is a positive chemistry. While an individual may be a great performer the group needs to feel comfortable to work alongside with said individual to create the best possible sound.
Some groups spend lots of time in and out of rehearsals and socially interacting with a new member can be something to consider depending on the structure of a given group
Planning the audition
How long will the audition process be?
Depending on the number of individuals that audition, a group may have more or less time on their hands to listen to a potential new member.
Discuss as a group how much time might be too long for an auditionee to be in the room.
What will we ask of the auditionee to prepare?
Typically for an initial audition, an individual is asked to prepare 2 solos of contrasting genre that show off an individual's talent.
It is also wise to have an auditionee complete a form with general information (name, contact info, musical background, etc.) that way you have the basics on file.
Additional information that can be requested
Previous works to display to the group (arrangements, videos, accolades)
A piece of music to prepare (to be used/sang during the audition)
What will we test them with on the spot? - This area is likely to vary the most based upon a group’s history and what they may be looking for.
Typically completed by having an auditionee sing up and down scales on which ever vowel that is most comfortable
To test blend - perform an exercise in which an auditionee is given an opportunity to sing alongside the current group. This takes some of the individual spotlight off of the auditionee and allows member to interact and get to know them. Performing an exercise with changing vowels is best (oo-ee-oh-ah-mm).
Can simply ask the auditionee to sing back the pitch being played.
Ask auditionee to sing back a specific note in a chord
Can ask to sing full scales
Much of this is determined during solo and other tests. No single test to determine this.
Observe the auditionees physical appearance during a performance. Do they seem comfortable? Are they straining their body in some form of way that is affecting ability perform?
Think about the type of song and performance delivered during the solo. Does this individual seem to enjoy singing music of a specific genre? What type of vibe as a performer do they bring to the group? -- is this positive?
Ability to read music
Sight Reading - some groups will give a simple 8 measure bit of music to auditionee to sing back to them.
Teaching a part - some groups will take the time to teach a part to an auditionee and determine their ability to learn based off of an initial experience. While reading music may not be of great importance to a group. The ability to learn and be taught a part should be important.
It is suggested that the audition process, and every part of an evaluation, not be completed one after the other. If a group takes time to ask 1 to 2 questions in between segments of an audition, it allows the auditionee to de-stress and keep relaxed. It also gives the group a chance to get to know a person.
Ask fun questions (if you were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be, and WHY?)
It is important to ask if an auditionee has the time to commit to your group. No matter how great a person may be able to sing, they are of no use if they cannot be there.
Also, an individual may be auditioning for multiple groups. So it is wise to ask “Why our group?” It is the same question that a company or job interview may include that shows whether or not a person has taken time to prioritize an audition.
Be sure to have some scale to evaluate auditionees on various criteria (1-5)
A subjective portion for open ended responses should also be available to jot notes
It may be wise to record audio
Take a photo of auditionee
Taking a video - this can make an auditionee uncomfortable, having an audio sample and picture should be sufficient
Test the process
While it may seem silly. Put a member or a friend through the audition process. Giving a trial run will let you know of any hiccups that may occur and what should be focused on for an efficient and professional audition.
Having a second audition with a select group of potential new members is a great way to learn even more about potential new members.
Have all auditionees in the room at once to learn an excerpt from a common piece of rep. Have new members aid in the process of learning -- split into sectionals and sing with them.
Have everyone (all auditionees and current members) meet back together and sing the piece. Then slowly remove current members, eventually it’s only auditionees.
Then have them sing in quartets -- This can be very indicative of how an auditionee may perform in a group
Have auditionee prepare a new solo to sing for the group
This may seem an in-depth process but for some auditions groups can be choosing from a large pool of great candidates. While this extended callback process is great for getting to know auditionees better, it is also a very fair process to the auditionee to be given multiple opportunities to prove him/herself.
This can be a touchy subject, while some members want person X, the other members want person Y, and there’s only so much room. This process tends to work best with 1 individual (president, music director) leading the group.
BEFORE open discussion is to occur, give members time think for themselves. Have every member write down their top choices of candidates based off of who they saw and take an initial poll from everyone.
It is wise that if someone was rarely mentioned or “fought for” initially, then discuss the removal of the person from the list of potentials. Ultimately, as a group you want to remove anyone not being heavily considered and then deeply discuss who is being considered.
Have someone write all information being discussed on a chalkboard/display so everyone can see what is being discussed.
If you want to talk next…. Raise your hand! It may seem like common sense but some people can forget that in the heat of conversation.
If it gets down to a point where you can’t seem to choose one or the other, go back to the meeting the group had about what it needs/wants.
At the end of the meeting it should be noted that all discussion regarding deliberations should not leave the room..
Before informing any members of an offer of acceptance, all members that we’re not extended an offer should be informed of the group's decision in very professional manner.
Call the Newbs!
About the Author:
Kyle Howard is the former music director of The Pennharmonics at Penn State University, where he was also a member of The Statesmen. Kyle is an accomplished arranger, vocal percussionist and clinician.