How does it all work?

Have you ever sat down to play a game you’ve never played before with a bunch of people who have? Inevitably, someone takes charge of explaining it. Then the other people will pipe in with details the first person missed or suggestions for how their family plays it. It normally turns into a big mess of people talking over each other and then finally throwing up their hands and saying: “Why don’t we just play a practice round and you can figure it out as you go!”

Growing up, my dad always insisted that when we sat down to play a board game as a family, we would read the rules of the game. Sometimes it was a new game and sometimes it was something we hadn’t played in a while. Nobody was allowed to tell their version of the rules. And if instructions weren’t available and a verbal explanation was warranted, dad insisted that you begin by telling the objective of the game before telling how to play. For instance: The objective of Poker is to end up with all the money. The objective of Scrabble is to have the highest score. The objective of SkipBo is to lay down your cards first.

So maybe you are new to the audition process, or maybe you have auditioned before but forgot or, let’s face it, blocked it all out from your memory. Let’s talk about the All State Choir audition process and how it works so that you can know what to expect from the start!

Depending on who you ask, there could be two objectives to the All State audition process. A teacher might say that your goal should be to learn and grow as a singer. Most teenagers will say that their goal is to make the All State Choir.

Because I know my audience, I’ll talk about the latter. Not the nitty gritty of singing pretty and doing all the consonants, but the process of it all.

Know this….each TMEA Region, and there are over 30 of them, has the authority to write and revise many of the rules regarding the entire audition process leading up to the final or “Area” audition.

A TMEA Region is a tiny local government within a larger system. The choir directors and TMEA members teaching in a region get together and hash out the needs of their own region, including the how, when, and where of the All-State auditions.

Click here to know what Region and Area you are in.

District/Region Auditions

Each geographical region will have a “Region” audition, and larger regions may also have a “District” or “Pre-Region” audition preceding that. Sometimes, the first round will only be for treble voices, since often the first round of audition has so few guys sign up that in some sections everyone makes it. This way, the herd is thinned a bit and it makes for a shorter day at Region auditions.

Region/District Auditions can be as early as late September but typically will be held before Halloween.

For these auditions, individual Regions have complete say over:

  • What repertoire will be auditioned
  • Whether or not there will be sight reading
  • How many students will be placed in the Region Choir(s) and how many will move on to the Pre-Area Audition.

Typically, the Region chair with the input of other directors, is in charge of selecting cuts and so these will differ from region to region.

I teach in the smallest Region in the state so we do not have a District round. The first round of audition is called “Region” and takes place in late October. We do not sight read. When, in the past, we have had a District audition, it took place in late September with Region near Halloween and different music for each audition. This meant that we were able to break up the repertoire and assign each audition a few pieces instead of several.

The Region Choir make up is also variable. For our teeny region, students who make the Region Choir all sing together in a Mixed choir. They also perform all of the Treble and Tenor-Bass music. In larger Regions, there are sometimes Tenor-Bass and Treble choirs, even 9th/10th grade honor choirs. Some regions have a two-day clinic.

Typically, only the top few students in the Region Choir will move on to Pre-Area. Sometimes it is all the members of the Region Mixed choir, if the region is big enough to have multiple choirs. In our small region, it is the top half of the Region chairs, so if the top 20 students make Region choir, the top 10 move on to Pre-Area.

Pre-Area Auditions

Pre-Area auditions are typically held the week directly before or after Thanksgiving. The repertoire will change from the Region audition, which means that you’ve got roughly a month between to polish up new music.

Once again, the Region chair is in charge of selecting cuts and also writing the sight singing. Regions themselves have say over how much the sight singing will count toward your score, but know that they want to send their best sight readers to the Area audition so that they can compete well. Our region counts sight singing as 20% of the audition score.

Regions will also have say over the format of the auditions. The repertoire can be the same as region, the same as area, or a combination thereof. Our Region chooses to audition the Area music at pre-Area. Some regions will have you audition your singing cuts and then immediately sight read. Others will have you sing in two different rounds.

It all boils down to this: The top five chairs advance to the Area audition and combine with the top five of other regions in their area to create a 20 or 25-person roster for each section.

Area Audition

Great care is taken to make sure that all students who make it to the Area audition have a standardized experience. Everyone gets the same cuts and sight singing selected by the TMEA Vocal Vice President. Area auditions are done on the same day across the state at the same time. There are 8 Areas in the state and so there are 8 Area auditions. Each Area produces their own first chair, second chair, etc.

No, you don’t ever know  if you are actually first chair in the state….there are 8 of you in the choir!

Recently, the math for how many students make the choir from each area has undergone a revision. Previously, there had been a standard number from each section in each area sent to the choir. Now that number depends on the size of the Area itself, meaning, how many students enter at the first round of the process. You can see the math for that here. Statistically, this should make it a completely fair game, but my opinions on that are for another post…

At Area you sight read in a separate round, typically after a lunch break. Sometimes you are even heard by different judges which doesn’t matter, since one audition shouldn’t have bearing on the other.

There is a lot of waiting around at Area, not only because the cuts tend to be longer, but because they have extra steps, such as allowing you to warm up right before your audition, and also having a waiting period between when results are finalized and when they are announced.

So that’s it… I hope now that you know the rules of the game you can get some ideas about how to win! Next time we will talk about what is happening on the other side of that screen from the judge’s perspective.

Good luck!


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