If you’re looking to join a choir that auditions its members, find out exactly what they expect of you for the audition and do it. It’s that simple, and that difficult. Aside from having a nice voice with a reasonable amount of musical skill, choir singers need to show that they can follow directions. Do that, and you won’t have to review a list of Don’ts.
But it never hurts to have such for reference. Here are some “Don’ts” I’ve pulled together from sitting in on countless auditions for college and community choirs through the years:
1. Don’t say you have to warm up first. If you ask to warm up in the audition room, that tells the director right away that you are either not prepared or you think you have the mojo to dictate how things are gonna go, which is not your place. Directors don’t have patience for this. You need to be warmed up and ready to go the moment you enter the room.
2. Don’t show up without a solo to sing. Most often, the people that do this are probably singers that know the director personally or else have sung for her before, and so they think the director already knows their voice and automatically wants them in the choir. This is a dangerous assumption, and it stinks of that “I know the right people to get in” vibe, which looks especially bad and unfair to singers that put the time in to learn a song. Respect the director as a director and show up with a prepared solo.
3. Don’t show up without enough copies of your solo. If you haven’t memorized your piece, singing it while looking over the accompanist’s shoulder doesn’t look good.
4. Don’t sing an inappropriate piece. You obviously want the style, genre and presentation of your piece to work for the type of choir you’re auditioning for, and you also want to sing something that shows off the best parts of your voice. But some singers try to do things that are outside of established norms, like:
- Bring in a choral piece and sing one or more of the voice parts from it. This says you couldn’t prepare an actual solo or are uncomfortable singing by yourself.
- Sing something completely a cappella. This has two possible interpretations: 1) you don’t need accompaniment to sound this good, or 2) you’re not really prepared and just came up with this on the fly because you have no music.
- Sing an original composition. It’s another way of saying, “I’m better than this.”
- Sing a common church hymn. I’ve seen some singers pluck a hymnal out of a nearby pew and pass it to the accompanist as their solo! This says you’re not prepared and didn’t take the time to consider music beyond a beginner’s skill level.
5. Don’t ask if you passed the audition right then and there. Sometimes a director will tell you right away if you’re in or not, but don’t beg for an immediate decision if they haven’t come to one. Sometimes directors have to consult with their section leaders or a committee, depending on the choir’s needs. Let the process take its course. If two weeks go by and you haven’t heard a peep from anyone, then you’re well within your rights to ask for a result.
6. Don’t flatter yourself to death. The director doesn’t want to hear your whole resume while you’re standing there. Sometimes a choir will have you fill out a form or questionnaire beforehand so that the director doesn’t have to spend audition time getting to know you. If they ask you questions about your singing, answer honestly. Don’t be a diva. Be aware that a director may reject your audition based on your attitude alone.
7. Don’t flog yourself to death. This takes many forms:
- “Sorry I didn’t (warm up, hit that note, remember those words, etc.).”
- “I’m no good at sight reading.”
- “I’ve had a rough day.”
- “I haven’t done this in a LONG time.”
Just go in there and do your best! You don’t have to explain anything unless the director asks. A good director will know if you have certain skills or not just by listening to you sing; that’s why auditions exist in the first place. Auditions are not viewed as torture-chambers by directors; they’re more like fact-finding missions. If you approach your audition with this attitude and allow the director to hear you as you are, as prepared as you can be, in that moment, you’ll have no reason to apologize for anything. (Be an ass, and then you might have to beg forgiveness.)