Auditions – Part One

by vernsanders on February 10, 2010

Ah…the “A” word. Even in this era of American Idol media saturation, when auditions have become more visible, and less mysterious, it is still a word that strikes fear in the hearts of almost every musician. Singers, in particular, worry about auditions, because they are their instrument, and, psychologically, it can be devastating to be told that you are “not good enough” when there is no instrument to blame (or at least interpose between you and the decision someone else makes about your capabilities). For the amateur player or singer, auditions can lead to days or weeks of emotional trauma, and, in extreme cases, dropping out of an ensemble rather than facing the possibility of being “cut.”

So let’s talk about auditions a little bit. I’ve been on one end or the other of hundreds (now that I think about it, probably thousands) of auditions. In most cases, I’ve been the person listening, and I’ve learned some things that might be helpful. Let’s start with the categories of auditions.

Professional Auditions

If the audition is for a professional ensemble (that is, the “winners” will be getting paid to be a part of the group), the ground rules are really very simple:

  • the leader is looking for some combination of a particular sound, “look,” and intangibles (like the ability to move/dance, or play multiple instruments): unless the group is being formed from scratch, the professional audition is about filling a need, and unless the person trying out fits the criteria, they will be passed over
  • the leader is choosing from a large pool of applicants, and is looking for a person that will provide the best value: quick learner, technically advanced, willing to work for less money, has a personality that meshes well with the existing members, fits the existing costume, etc.
  • the winner only stays with the group as long as they continue to be worth the money they are being paid, and hopefully, they add value beyond that: if the members are being paid, it is because the leader(s) are making money, and the more money the leader can put in their pocket, the more valuable the group, and their members are to the leader

Either you are good enough to be involved in a professional audition or you are not, so I’m not going to spend any more time talking about that here. But remember the criteria.

Semi-Professional Auditions

A semi-professional group audition is a “neither fish nor fowl” kind of situation. The group members may be paid at different levels, or some, not at all, depending upon the particular situation. The group’s leader is almost certainly going to try to have the group be as professional as possible, and yet is certainly going to have to make compromises at some level. Essentially the audition rules are the same as those for a fully professional group, but the combination of talent pool, pay scale, performance opportunity, professional leadership, and/or part-time rehearsal schedule prevents the group from being pro.

Amateur Auditions

An audition for an amateur group, as you might imagine, is quite different. I’ve had one colleague of mine describe his audition process as follows: I hold a mirror under their nose…if it fogs up, they’re in. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been associated with completely amateur groups that made music more professionally than professional groups in the same area.

In the first scenario above, it is a “y’all come” group. In the second, the only difference between the group and a professional one is the lack of pay…including the audition process.

We’ll talk more about the amateur audition process, including what it specifically should include, in part two. In the meantime, please tell me about your audition experiences by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear about them.

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Auditions - Part Two
February 11, 2010 at 8:18 am
Auditions - Part Three
February 16, 2010 at 10:39 am

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