8 Audition Tips for Prospective Music Majors

Well-tested survival advice, from lucky socks to flight scheduling

Students working in music room at college campus
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Would-be music and drama majors are easy to spot at this time of year. They’re the ones chewing their nails down to the quick and nervously consulting their phones to make sure they haven’t scheduled auditions in Nome and Miami on the same day. Although audition advice is handy at any time of year, college and conservatory auditions can reduce even the most confident young artist to bundles of nerves.


  1. Prepare a CD or DVD: Many schools, especially those that are more competitive, are now requesting a pre-screen audition CD or DVD from prospective applicants. According to Majoringinmusic.com: "Find out what is expected of the pre-screen recording in terms of audio quality, repertoire, and accompaniment. Doug Long, academic and college counselor at Interlochen Arts Academy, encourages students to take their pre-screens seriously. He suggests actively involving private lesson instructors and recording the pre-screen in a location with good acoustics and lighting, such as a local church. He also recommends that students dress professionally if sending DVDs."
  2. Pack It All: Have your child read the audition materials carefully before going, then bring them – along with copies of the music or script, the audition schedule letter and ALL of his or her equipment. Nothing would be worse than arriving with an empty violin case or a broken guitar string. Be prepared!
  1. Travel Smart and Sleep Well: Your college applicant needs to be in top form for a live audition, so play it safe and plan on arriving the day before to be sure he or she has time to prepare, relax and get plenty of rest. Make sure you both get a good night’s sleep.  Have your child drink lots of water. Yawn – it relaxes the jaw, neck and shoulders, releases tension and tells your body there’s no danger. Breathe. Smile. It will help both of you. 
  1. Engage the Audience: Performing involves more than just technique and musical interpretation. Faculty and judges will be impressed with personality, audience engagement and genuine excitement and passion for music. Dress neatly and professionally, keeping in mind that first impressions are long-lasting and some conservatories and schools are more traditional than others. 
  2. Wear the Lucky Socks: Whatever superstitious totem your child favors - whether it's lucky socks, green underwear or a troll doll tucked in a corner of the tuba case - indulge it. Many artists find eating a banana calming. Some swear by a meal of complex carbs several hours beforehand, while others find the very thought of food nauseating. Find what works for your child, then stick to it.
  3. Plan to Get Lost: Even with Google maps and Waze, it's easy to get lost in an unfamiliar city - and finding your way around campus can be even more challenging. Arrive an hour early so you have time to get lost, get found, locate parking, find the audition room and warm-up space, and allow some of the adrenaline to seep away.
  4. Exude Confidence: Tell your child to walk into the audition room with confidence and a positive attitude. He can expect to face three to 16 faculty members. One will act as coordinator of the audition, so he should take his cue from that person. They may start by asking him some questions - assure your child that these are not trick questions. They're meant to set him at ease. 
  1. Start Strong: Most schools let students start with a piece of their choosing. Have him select it carefully. First impressions are critical. It need not be the most difficult piece, but it should be something he really loves and that shows him off to his best, right from the very start. Sounding good on page two is much too late. Tell him to stay focused and play from the heart. And finally, it may feel like a lifetime in there, but it’s just 10 to 15 minutes. Good luck!


Edited by Sharon Greenthal