College Audition Preparation

College audition preparation programs assist prospective music majors in getting ready for game day. Many students bump up their performance skills, sight-reading and music theory knowledge at summer music camps, programs and festivals throughout the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Some seek specific support for the college audition process.

We spoke with three summer college audition preparation programs featured on’s 2018 Summer Music Camps & Programs to learn more.

At Carnegie Mellon University, the Summer Pre-College Music program for instrumentalists and vocalists includes “Mastering the Art of the Audition.” Seminars, lectures and mock auditions are offered to help students build confidence and prepare for future auditions. 

According to Daniel Curtis, who directs the orchestra at the Pre-College Program, questions such as the following are addressed:

• What is appropriate attire for an audition?  

• How fast should I walk out and how should I carry myself?  

• Should I smile or be serious?  

• Is it okay to speak or ask questions during my audition?  

• How do I choose my audition repertoire?  

• What happens if I make a big mistake?  Can I recover or do I need to start over? 

• How should I practice my excerpts?  

• How can I mentally prepare for an audition?

Tom Walsh, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, co-directs the school’s week-long summer College Audition Preparation Workshop. “I think students are most concerned with knowing how they are being evaluated in auditions and how they can best prepare for that,” he says. “The mock auditions give students the opportunity to perform their audition material in the same type of environment as a real audition and receive feedback. This helps them gauge how they will perform in an actual audition and come away with suggestions for improvement.”

The College Audition Preparation Seminar offered by the Philadelphia International Music Festival (PIMF) in conjunction with its summer youth Symphony Orchestra focuses on pre-screen recordings, arts supplements, performance anxiety, and résumé writing in addition to mock auditions. spoke with Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Gloria DePasquale, who facilitates the PIMF program. What’s your best tip for dealing with performance anxiety?

Gloria DePasquale:  The best antidote for performance anxiety is bullet-proof preparation, which includes a lengthy timeline leading to the “big performance” with smaller low profile performances and mock auditions from which to identify “chinks in your armor” and fine-tune and strategize your practice.

MM: Is it ok to ask for feedback from the audition panel? 

GDP:  I never have students ask for feedback during or at an audition. This is an inappropriate time for feedback. The time for feedback is BEFORE auditions when you are visiting schools and setting up trial lessons with studio teachers. Be sure to keep notes on what each teacher recommends and then emphasize in your audition that you have incorporated their feedback.

MM: What do you say to students who love music but aren’t sure of a career path?

GDP: The choice for a career in music is no longer the binary “perform or teach.” In today’s world, the entrepreneurial musician has a host of options for career paths, combining other passions and skills for satisfying and financially-rewarding careers. 

A few examples include engineering (music apps for learning, medical research, video games, etc.); medicine (research, especially in pediatrics, geriatrics; and neuroscience on the effects of music on the brain and in development and/or clues to mental deterioration); composition (in addition to traditional classical ensembles: scoring for movies, media advertising, video games, etc.); history; writing; library science (program notes, reviews in major online and print publications, archiving for performing and academic institutions). Also there’s arts management for not only musical institutions but for museums and dance companies as well. 

And every performing arts institution needs a CFO, a marketing director, a development director, and public relations. There are many more examples of career paths, and most high-level conservatories and other educational institutions have course offerings in these areas.

MM: Your suggestions regarding required arts supplements? 

GDP: The biggest mistake I have seen students make is to not thoroughly prepare an arts supplement (AS). The AS is intended to set your application apart from others with similar high-achieving academic profiles and high board scores. The AS should be of competitive nature to those students applying to conservatories or to other schools as a music major. Otherwise, your AS may work against you, defining you in the pool of students submitting the AS as being only average or even worse, sub par.

MM: A final tip for prospective music majors?

GDP: If you can visit a school before applying and make personal contact with the orchestra director and/or studio teacher, this is usually a plus. 

For music majors and/or conservatory applicants, studio teachers are allowed only a certain number of hours. In any given year, a studio teacher has only a few openings, depending on graduating students and/or transfers. Even if you play at a level to be admitted to a conservatory, you can be denied entrance if there are not spots in the studio teachers’ schedules. You can usually find out how many open spots there will likely be with a personal visit. And, you can better gauge your fit with a studio teacher.

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