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Choosing Audition Repertoire

It’s Audition Season!

I just had the pleasure of hearing several days’ worth of eager and talented applicants to our graduate program. I was struck by the repertoire choices of the singers. I thought, “there’s a fine voice, but it’s hard to tell how good a singer they are because they chose a piece that was

much too difficult. Most of what I heard was their struggle to get through it.” As adjudicators, we want each student to do well. It’s satisfying for us to hear a successful audition. After all, we want you in our program! And it is good for us to be able to render a positive decision, as it for the singers, certainly! So here are some suggestions for singers who are auditioning for

schools, roles, summer programs, etc.

1. Choose music that shows your strengths in the current moment, that you can sing under pressure, with jetlag, in less than ideal conditions. We want to know what you CAN do, not what you are hoping to do when you are more advanced.

2. Choose music that is not excessively long, that will allow time for another piece, if appropriate. If you offer a da capo aria, be prepared to start with the B section followed by the A with ornamentation.

3. Bring a few copies of your audition repertoire list and resume for the panel so we can learn about you while you are singing.

I’ll return to number 1, because it is by far the most important issue. All singers have great days when their top notes are free, and their voice feels resonant and they are “on.” However, auditions are stressful, even for the best of performers. Singers often suffer from shortness of breath, tension and negative self-talk. These aspects of performance anxiety are worth discussing with your teacher and reading about. Knowing and recognizing the feelings associated with performance anxiety already gives you an advantage. If you can name it and understand it, it will not be as overwhelming. Dry mouth? That’s a natural fight/flight response. Shortness of breath? That’s your heart pumping faster, using up your oxygen at a faster rate. If your aria is the hardest thing you’ve ever sung, these symptoms will interfere with your success. However, if you choose a piece that you can sing well that doesn’t reveal the extremes of your technical ability, you are more likely to succeed!

You want to do well. We want to hear you sing well. So choose well!