A musical audition has been defined as a short performance given by an actor, dancer, or musician so that a director or conductor can decide if they are good enough to be in a play, film, or orchestra (1). The audition provides a systematic process in which industry professionals select performers. In some ways it mimics the job interview.
Need for Auditions
There are many reasons for requiring an audition. They may be used to select performers for upcoming shows, for a single performance, or permanent employment with a performing organization such as an orchestra. Auditions for performing opportunities may be for amateur, school, or community organizations. These auditions are usually gratis performances. Auditions may also be employed to select or screen candidates for university programs.
Preparing for an Audition
Individuals preparing for an audition select music that will demonstrate their current level of technical ability, musical understanding, and expression. Candidates display their talent through a previously memorized and rehearsed solo piece or by performing a work or piece given to them at the audition or shortly before. Selections generally are from standard published repertoire and are well suited to the audition (2).
For actors in theater, film, and TV, the audition is a systematic process in which industry professionals make final casting decisions. Industry professionals may consist of casting directors, producers, directors or agency representatives (3). In film and television, the audition is called a screen test, and it is filmed so that the casting director or director can see how the actor appears on screen.
In some styles of music, such as jazz-oriented stage bands, instrumentalists may be asked to sight read printed music at various levels of difficulty. In jazz groups, auditionees may be asked to perform standard pieces (e.g., a jazz standard such as “Now’s the Time”) with an ensemble. Similarly, in a rock or blues band, auditionees may be asked to play a rock or blues standard
Auditions are used to screen candidates for positions as instrumentalists in chamber groups or orchestras or as soloists, and to screen singers for positions as members of a choir or as solo performers. Auditions are also used to screen candidates for entry to training programs, university or Conservatory programs or degrees, and training festival activities (e.g., classical summer camps). In comparison with some types of pop music auditions, classical auditions tend to be much more formal. The performer may, by tradition, wear a tuxedo or a formal dress, and the judges may sit behind a desk and write comments on clipboards.
In classical music, each instrument or vocal type has a standard repertoire of music which is commonly requested at auditions. Instrumentalists in an orchestral context are typically asked to perform excerpts from the orchestral literature, including both exposed solos and “tutti” parts which are particularly demanding. Orchestral auditions are typically held in front of a panel that includes the conductor, the Concertmaster, and a number of Principal players from the orchestra.
There is a standard repertoire of vocal literature for each voice type (e.g., soprano, alto) that is used at auditions for singers. Each sub-type of vocal activity has a separate standard audition repertoire (e.g., choirs, operas, etc.). A person auditioning for a role in a choir will be expected to be able to sight read choral parts. In auditions for opera, a singer will be expected to demonstrate the ability to act out the movements that are associated with the lyrics of the aria, which may include pretending to be dying from a stab wound, miming an activity (e.g., pouring wine), or doing a simple dance routine.
In some instances a short, five minute pre-screening video or audio clip that demonstrates performance ability in one or two musical selections chosen from the standard published classical repertoire, may be required.