Rising Stars Auditions: A How-to Guide

Get excited, everyone – Rising Stars audition season is here!  Whether you’re auditioning this weekend for our Beverly program, or next month for our Gardner or North Reading programs, you can rest assured that this post will tell you everything you need to know about our unique, thorough Rising Stars audition process!

Auditions of any kind can be nerve-wracking, even for the most experienced singers.  So, our goal is to make your audition experience as enjoyable for you as it is for us.  What’s a Rising Stars audition all about?  Read on to find out!

The Format

First of all, it is important to remember that your Rising Stars audition is non-competitive.  Meaning, you don’t have to worry about “getting in.”  We take everyone.  The auditions are simply a chance for us to meet and hear you.  Since our camp program is a musical revue instead of a single show with a fixed cast, we choose the musical selections based on the talent we see in the auditions.  So, you get to participate in a program that is tailored specifically to your strengths, and the strengths of your peers – how cool is that?!

The auditions are one-on-one appointments.  You will not be singing in front of your peers (you’re welcome).  You will be singing for me and Kim Lamoureux, our artistic director.  Do not bring a karaoke/backing track – a pianist will play your song at your audition.

What to Prepare

For your Rising Stars audition, you must prepare some kind of solo selection.  It does not have to be long – one verse and chorus is enough – but it does have to be memorized.  Let me repeat that.  THE SONG MUST BE MEMORIZED.  

Acceptable genres for an audition song include musical theater, Disney, church songs, folk songs, or classical art songs.  You should choose a song that will highlight what you believe are the strongest parts of your voice.  The song should show us your comfortable range, and have a character that is suitable to your age and acting abilities.

Please please please, for the love of Pete, do not sing a pop or rock song.  We have very good reasons for this stipulation:

1. Pop songs usually have a very small, low range.  A song with a five-note range that sits in your vocal basement is not going to tell us very much about your voice.

2. Young singers usually just end up imitating the artist who sings the song, even if they are trying not to.  We want to hear YOU, not an imitation of Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.

3. Singing a pop or rock song with good technique is much harder than you think, and can put quite a strain on a young, inexperienced voice.

4. Our camp is musical theater, and while the lines these days between pop and musical theater styles are becoming increasingly blurred, we’d ideally like you to choose something squarely in the musical theater category to give us an accurate baseline of how you sing in that style.

You should come to the audition with the sheet music for your song three-hole-punched into a hardcover binder.  This is for the pianist who will be playing for your audition.

During the Audition

First, we will do some simple stretching and breathing exercises with you.  This warms your body up for singing, and also helps you to relax a bit.

Next, we will do some vocal exercises with you, which will give us an idea of your vocal range and comfort zone.  If you’ve never done vocal warm ups before, you might feel very ridiculous at first, but don’t worry.  We singers do these weird warm ups every day, so we will not think you are ridiculous.

After the exercises, we’ll have you sing the song that you’ve prepared.  After you’re done, we may ask you to sing all or part of it again and change something about the way you sang it before.  Don’t worry – it will be something simple, like stand up straighter, or smile more, or stop wiggling your fingers.

We may also ask you questions based on the info you provided on your audition form.  Usually we’ll ask about your dance experience, or ask you to tell us about your experience playing other instruments if you’ve listed them.

What Are We Looking/Listening For?

1. Your voice.  This means overall range, tone quality, and where you are most comfortable singing (high or low).

2. How well you respond to direction.  For example, if we ask you to adjust your posture, or sing something slightly differently, are you able to adapt quickly?

3. If you adhered to the audition requirements.  Was your song memorized?  Did you pick the right kind of song?  Did you three-hole-punch your sheet music?  We’re more apt to bestow responsibility on you at camp (read: assign you a solo) if we see that you followed directions for the auditions.

4. Your personality!  We want to get to know you!  Believe it or not, aside from vocal quality, this is probably the biggest deciding factor for us as directors when we are choosing the camp repertoire.  We want to choose pieces that you will have fun singing!

So there you have it.  Haven’t scheduled your audition time yet?  Be sure to get your registration in ASAP!  Our registration deadlines are Wednesday, May 9 (tomorrow!) for Beverly; Friday, June 1 for Gardner; and Friday, June 15 for North Reading.

See you all at camp!

audition tips

The Last-Minute Audition

 

Consider the following scenario: you decide to try out for your school musical.  They announce that the auditions are just days away.  They either give you a few excerpts from the show that they’d like everyone to prepare, or they tell you you can sing whatever you want.

You’ve never had a voice lesson before, or been in a show, and you feel you need some help preparing for this audition.  So you go online, Google “voice lessons in [town x],” and contact the first teacher who comes up.  You set up a lesson with him or her, and are hoping the teacher can work some magic to help you land the role you want.

Or, consider this alternate scenario:

You auditioned for last year’s school musical, and didn’t get in.  This year, you’ve begun working with a voice teacher ahead of time in order to prepare.  You schedule extra lessons and coachings leading up to the audition, work your behind off, and… you still don’t get in.  Your teacher tells you that you should be proud regardless of the outcome, because you’ve made tons of great progress in the past weeks/months, but you’re still frustrated, and feel that you spent a lot of time and money on lessons for nothing.  You decide to “take a break” from lessons.

If you can relate to either or both of these situations, you’re not alone.  They are incredibly common.

Voice teachers are usually happy to help their students with upcoming audition materials, even if it is somewhat last-minute.  They understand that schools don’t always allow students a lot of time to prepare, and also understand how much it means to their students to land a role in their school’s show.

The Problem, However…

In scenario #1, the student is at an immediate disadvantage because of the school’s short notice.  I applaud the student’s instinct to seek the help of a voice teacher; however, the student must realize that working with a voice teacher is not a guarantee that you will land the role you want – especially if it is just a single lesson, right before the audition.  Many students come to these one-time lessons or coachings thinking that the teacher can work some magic, or give the student a “silver bullet” solution to landing the desired role.  And they are disappointed when the audition results come out.

In scenario #2, the student has made the decision to work consistently with a voice teacher toward a concrete goal – a decision which I also applaud.  It’s likely that, in addition to working toward the audition, the teacher has also helped the student to progress in other ways.  However, upon receiving the disappointing audition results, it’s clear that the student has fallen into two common traps: the first is that she became so goal-centered as to be blind to the other benefits – and the real purpose – of voice lessons; and the second is that she expected her work with a voice teacher to guarantee her a role in the musical.

The student in scenario #1 doesn’t realize that developing technique takes time and consistent lessons with a good teacher in order to take hold; the student in scenario #2 doesn’t understand what the purpose of voice lessons and a voice teacher actually are.  Both students also need to realize that there’s a heck of a lot more that goes into casting decisions than just how well you sing – you need have the voice type, body type, acting abilities, and/or dance/movement skills the directors are looking for.  There are also issues of personality dynamics, reputation, work ethic, and – sadly – school/organizational politics.

Our Advice: Remember…

  1. Your teacher is not a magician.  Even a highly experienced, qualified voice teacher cannot work miracles.
  2. You need to practice.  That means practice now, last week, last month, tomorrow, next week, and in the weeks and months to come.  Building technique takes time, and giving a strong audition is a skill that does not come overnight.

Additional Advice:

  • If you are interested in music/theater and know you will want to take auditions, consider finding a voice teacher now, rather than waiting until an audition opportunity presents itself.
  • If you find yourself in a last-minute audition situation, go for it, if you wish, and do the best you can.  Schedule a lesson beforehand, if possible, and synthesize as much of your teacher’s advice as you can.  Practice, practice, practice in the little time you have.
  • Remember that neither working with a teacher nor hours of practicing guarantees or entitles you to anything.  Casting is a highly multi-faceted process.  If you don’t get cast, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were terrible – it just means that you weren’t the right fit for this particular opportunity.
  • If the audition results do not come out in your favor, use the whole thing as a learning experience.  Assess what went well, what could have gone better, and what you can improve upon for the next time.  Having a positive attitude makes a world of difference.

If you want to find a qualified teacher but don’t know where to start other than Google, you can search the teacher databases at nats.org or learningmusician.com.  Or, contact Kim or Ellen here at Rising Stars to get your lessons started!