First impressions matter: How to stand out in a crowd

I was singing a solo audition one time where one man on the panel literally closed his notebook and started pacing around the room and proceeded to eat a granola bar after 10 seconds of hearing me sing. I had obviously not made a good first impression on this dude.

First impressions matter in life, and especially in All State auditions!

Think about it…when meeting somebody for the first time, most people know in the first 30 seconds if they click with them and if they wish to see a particular person again. The same thing applies when you are trying to impress a judge…they are more likely to give you a higher score if you make a positive first impression!

Based on my past experience and advice from colleagues I have worked with… the first 5 seconds of your audition is the most critical time to sound your best. As a judge, I simply do not have time to second guess myself or change my mind about a singer if they wait until the end of the audition to show their best sound and musicality.

Here are some ideas of ways to stand out from the pack in All State auditions:

  • Make an exact and confident entrance. Missing your entrance is extremely difficult to recover from and it will be hard to convince the judge that you are deserving of making the choir.
  • Start singing before your entrance but only if it helps. Know yourself and study the cuts carefully. Is it going to help or hurt you to try to enter early? While it is not required nor illegal, you are allowed to sing before the specified “entrance”. The judges will not judge you on this material, but you are more likely to be successful in making a precise and strong entrance if you can start a bit earlier and get some wind in your sails.
  • Don’t sing too soft on your first entrance! Even with a soft dynamic in the score I suggest singing the first sound of your audition mezzo-forte. Sometimes judges literally sit there wondering if someone entered the room at all, they are singing so quietly. Especially at a big cattle-call type audition like District or Region, they sit there all day trying to parse out one mediocre audition from another, excited by the few stellar ones. But they also sit up and notice if a clear and definitive sound comes at them from the start. Singing at a louder dynamic also helps showcase the beauty of your tone and establish your presence in the room. It may even help your nerves! Of course, don’t scream the whole time, get back to those appropriate dynamics soon. Just make our job easy and let us know exactly what you’ve got from the start!
  • Show your musicianship… immediately! If word stress or crescendos are one of your goals, show that at the beginning and exaggerate whatever you have plan to show to the judges. I love it when a cut starts with a big consonant like “K” and I can almost feel the spit through the screen!
  • Don’t forget to breathe! The first thing that most of my students forget when they are nervous is to breathe. Remembering to breathe (and taking your breaths in the same spot every time) is the most important thing you can do to start with your best tone. Plus, judges can hear you gasping a millisecond before your entrance and it makes us nervous that you’re about to miss it. *Mark your breaths several beats before your entrance.
  • Perform! My favorite thing as a judge is to feel invited into a person’s performance. Most of the time, I feel like I am an unwilling torturer, not an audience member. Remember, you have an audience, so it’s not just an audition, it’s a performance. Make me enjoy it so much that I put my pencil down, sit back, close my eyes, and revel in it.

Last, try to clear your mind before your audition and focus on one single goal. Something that will set you apart, that you already do well. Don’t focus on fixing something that you always mess up, instead be the BEST [whatever] the judges have heard that day.

Happy Auditioning!


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