Great expectations: The Area Audition

It’s January now and all of the sudden this 8-ish month marathon you’ve been running suddenly feels like a sprint.

Congrats to you for making it this far! Making it to Area means that you have hurdled over several auditions, learned tons of music, and probably made lots of sacrifices and personal strides in order to be here. This is a huge accomplishment.

How is this audition different?

We will talk about procedure in a moment, but first prepare yourself: this audition mentally, physically, and emotionally feels very different from your Region or Pre-Area audition.

First, the travel factor. You’re likely in a strange town. You may have stayed in a hotel the night before, sharing a bed with someone you may not know well and negotiating bedtimes, shower schedules, and TV channels. There is definitely a “home field advantage” element to this audition for those students who live close enough to sleep the night before in their own beds. You can’t do anything about that, so make the best of it. Lay ground rules for your roomies, let them know you intend to rest and not be social OR beg your parent to come and pay for for a hotel room of your own. You can be social and tired at TMEA once you’ve made the choir.

Second, the stakes are incredibly high. Every. Single. Person there has worked their butts off to make it this far. You will learn a lot about how you handle pressure from this audition.

Third, you don’t know your competition. At Region and Pre-Area you were competing against the same people. They may go to your school or you’ve been competing against them for four years. Maybe this year you got the first chair at every audition. But at Area you could be first chair among your region cohorts and still wind up 16th overall. It’s all about who shows up.

Audition Procedures

The Area audition is like the doctor’s office on steroids…it seems to be an endless maze of paperwork, boredom, waiting rooms, hushed nervousness, anticipation, and looking around wondering what everyone else has got… Now there are several different Areas and some elements might slightly differ, but here’s the jist.

Registration — Generally has two phases. The first will be a count of who is there and whether or not they need to call up alternates. Once they confirm that no alternates are called up, the alternates who are present are asked to please leave quickly so we can get on with it. The second phase will actually earn you your singing and sight-reading badges……and THE CUTS! They won’t hand those out until everyone has tucked away their electronics.

Warm Up — Don’t you dare expect this to be all you need. Your personal warm up should take place hours before in your home or hotel room. You never know if this group warm up will be high enough, long enough, or generally sufficient for what you personally need to accomplish. Once again, do not get distracted by all the pretty sounds around you, you’ll have four days for that at TMEA. Don’t waste a teaspoon more of your energy than you absolutely need to, no matter how badly you want to sing louder than that guy over there. Take this time for yourself!

Running the cuts — They may escort each section individually into a classroom to run the cuts since often each section has completely different cuts and this makes it quicker and more efficient. This is where many peoples’ nerves start to unravel. You are being stuck in a small room with your competition and you can hear every single amazing voice… Prepare yourself mentally for this situation and vow that you will not get distracted, intimidated, or be too scared to utilize this time to your benefit. Be the weird person in the corner singing to the wall, WHO CARES how you look?!

Another strategy I recommend is trying to surround yourself with people whose voices you already know so that they are what you mainly hear. Anyone you’ve never heard before sounds amazing and intimidating, but once you’ve heard them for a while (or known them for four years) you get used to their amazing-ness and you won’t be quite as rattled by it. Once again, this is not the competition yet, so don’t waste any energy: get out of it what you personally need.

More waiting….and then they call your number — Don’t think that you get to go to the audition yet, swallow those nerves. They will call up multiple singers at once, generally one from each section, and escort you as a group to a second warm up room where you will have five minutes to yourself (well, in a room with strangers, but to yourself.) Plan for this time. Do not look around and think that guy over there is doing it better than you. He may need to do endless vocalizes while you need to sit down and meditate. Know yourself and stick to your strategy.

Then, the audition — This should feel familiar…

Lunch/epic game of GO FISH — This is where you really get some down time…. especially if you audition early in the day. Take this time to make a fair assessment of your audition. I said FAIR not fatalistic! Tuck your music away knowing that you won’t see it for a month, until TMEA! Nothing left do to there, no reason to dwell or recount every moment. Eat a nutritious meal and for the love of everything holy, please don’t cram sight reading for the next several hours.

Sight Reading — They will again hold you down the hall before you audition until the person before you is gone and you can’t hear a thing. Your audition number will be different and you may audition in a different room (and for different judges) than before. Afterwards, you’ll proceed to another waiting room (by now you know the layout of this strange school like the back of your hand.) We recommend taking something to read, and your strategy note card…. you’ll be separated from the rest of your stuff for a while.

The Results — will take forever. Seriously, don’t plan anything until at least 6 PM….maybe later. The reason being, it takes a long time to tally scores, compile feedback, and get packets ready for the future All Staters….but they also have to “Certify” the scores, meaning an hour-long mandatory waiting period where directors can view and contest scores. They’re all sitting around back there waiting that out, too. And yes, they all already know if you’ve made it :). However, eventually they’ll announce the contest is over and you get electronics back so that’s fun.

Strategies for the week of…

The week of Area I preach a lot of mindfulness, because as we have stated before, we don’t believe that the week of an audition is a good time to change anything big with your singing but rather to rest and prepare your mind and body.

At this point, you’ve got 8-ish months worth of information running through your head, lots of which you don’t need to be reminded of because it’s become habit. Let’s talk about how to clear the clutter out of your mind and focus on the important stuff.

Find your rhythm: Start practicing early in the morning, especially if that’s hard for you! Your audition WILL be in the morning, so get used to it. Set your sleep schedule, too! Get your work done during lunch or study hall so you can sleep when you get home. Find ways to trim your schedule and for the love of…..get OFF YOUTUBE late at night! Cut out extra stuff from your life for just a few days… you can do it and it will pay back dividends.

Plan your day: Think through every element, as if you are packing your mental and physical bag. What food or activities will set you at ease? Who should you sit next to while you’re waiting or on the bus to keep you calm and not needlessly expend energy? Which warm-ups have you feeling the best? Where is that lucky sweatshirt or comfy shoes? Is your music binder in pristine condition? What will I do if I wake up feeling sick? What is my strategy if I get nervous?

The Note Card Method: Start with a running list of all of the things you want to accomplish in this audition. Spit it all out, maybe to a friend or teacher. It may go something like this: “My tone is airy in the middle, so I want to have resonance, but sometimes I forget when I’m trying to do dynamics. Also,  sometimes my vibrato is spinning and sometimes falls flat, I want to make sure it spins but I forget when I reach for high notes. Also, I have a hard time remembering to do dynamics after I’ve been singing for a while, so I need a reminder to pay attention and not go on auto-pilot.” Now, think about a theme or common denominator and condense that into a short, positively worded, actionable goal.

“I will sing with never – ending energy and remain engaged at all times.”

The same can apply to your sight reading. I’m sure we could all sit down and write the “10 Commandments of Sight Reading” right here right now.  Number 1, always use hand signs, Number 2, fill in the gap when you are trying to find an interval, etc. At some point in time you’ve been told each and every trick and tip there is. But everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, so again, let’s talk about yours. “I am really good at using my practice time but sometimes I forget where I want to return to if I have extra time. Then when I set my tempo I forget to have my eyes move ahead of my voice and so I miss an interval I’ve practiced perfectly because I am surprised when I see it.”

It’s not helpful to walk into the room with your mind cluttered with every commandment you’ve ever heard. Some of them are second nature at this point. So take your note card and condense these items into your top-two commandments to remember.

  1. Use left over practice time to return to difficult intervals.

  2. My voice moves slowly but my eyes move fast.

For both note cards the keys are:

  • Find a common thread, condense information to a concise statement
  • Make it realistic and simple, something you feel you’ve accomplished before.
  • ALWAYS phrase it in the positive.

If you find yourself getting anxious this week, whether in the middle of the night or in the middle of a practice session, stop yourself. Believe in the work that you have done this far. Have faith in your body  and mind and trust that you are ready. My hope for all of you is not that you make the choir, necessarily, but that you leave the audition feeling that you’ve done everything in your power to give a compelling performance in the audition room. There is nothing more disappointing than leaving the audition knowing that you didn’t give everything you had.

Even if I don’t know you, I’m proud of you and I believe in you! GET IT!!!!


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