College Advice Blog

Oct 13, 2012

Nail the Audition: Tips for Impressing Performing Arts Admissions Committees

Anyone applying to college spends a great deal of time preparing their application packages. Most admissions committees want to see essays, examples of coursework, and recommendations in addition to test scores and transcripts – and everything needs to be presented in the right format and without errors.

For those applying to performing arts colleges, however, there’s another step that may be the most nerve-wracking of all: the audition. As talented as you might appear on paper, or on a recording, the admissions committee is most likely going to want to witness your talent firsthand, and gauge how well you perform under pressure.

That’s why it’s so important that you nail the audition – and doing that requires a great deal of preparation, as well as some good decisions before you even walk into the audition room. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these tips to be sure that you impress the admissions reps and receive the coveted acceptance letter.

Pay attention to the requirements

If the audition description asks you to prepare a two minute monologue from Shakespeare and you arrive with a five minute scene from Tennessee Williams, you might have just taken yourself out of the running altogether. Carefully study the requirements and guidelines, and develop an audition that gives the committee what it’s looking for.

Choose the right piece

Not only do you want to make sure your audition piece meets the expectations of the reviewer, you want to make sure it’s something that best showcases your talent. You might think that choosing a difficult song or monologue will impress the reviewers, but if you aren’t 100 percent confident during your performance, or the piece isn’t suited to your abilities, you’ll lose favor with the judges. Select an audition piece that best showcases your talent and that you can perform perfectly.

One area that tends to present challenges is choosing the right monologue. While certain monologues are well-known, you may want to avoid them in favor of something less common. However, the reviewers are generally more interested in how you perform the monologue and reveal the character’s innermost feelings through your delivery – not the fact that three other applicants have performed the same piece. When choosing your piece, be sure to read the whole play, so you understand the character and how the piece you’re performing fits into the larger whole


And then practice again and again. Practice while wearing the clothing you intend to wear to the audition, to get a feeling for how the clothes move and any limitations they present.

Speaking of clothes, dress appropriately

The audition instructions might specify what you should wear, but more often than not, you’ll be able to choose your own clothing. Consider the type of performance you plan to study. For a drama program, you may choose to come in costume, but a simple, neutral and attractive outfit will probably do. For musicians, the type of music often dictates the clothing you should wear; classical musicians tend to wear formal clothing, while jazz or contemporary musicians are a bit more casual.

Keep it simple

Not only should you choose to perform a piece that you’re comfortable with, you need to prepare ahead to limit the amount of time it takes to get you on stage and doing your thing. You also don’t want a false start to distract the reviewers. For this reason, if you’re using recorded backup music, be sure to have the music cued before you take the stage. If you are using live accompaniment, prepare sheet music in the right key and provide a clean copy free of notes or other markings; if possible, have music printed in such a way that the need for page turning is limited.

Auditioning for a performing arts program is undoubtedly stressful. How you perform in those few minutes could determine your path for the next few years and the opportunities you have for honing your craft and building a career. If you follow these tips, though, and successfully prepare for your audition, you’ll wow the admissions committee –and get that coveted spot in the program.

About the Author
Jamie Lynn Booth is a recent graduate of a New York-based performing arts school. A professional jazz singer, she also coaches high school students on audition techniques and preparation.

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