The application process to a performing arts degree like music, drama, or dance deviates from that to other courses. The first round will be based on what you submit, like your application, essays, and other supporting documents & recordings. Most performing arts schools hold live auditions for all candidates who clear the initial screening. It might feel daunting to perform in front of a panel of experts whose impression of you steers the track of your life. You need to present your best self in a limited amount of time. But once you get past your nerves and bring out your inner star, you’re one step closer to your dream! Even if you don’t clear your audition, it can be a valuable learning experience and can give you an additional push towards your creative pursuits. Here are some tips that could help you do your best at your audition.

1. Organize Your Repertoire

For any performing arts audition, choosing the right setlist is a make or break. The material that you are performing should play to your strengths. Some institutions will ask you for more pieces, so it’s important to have a stacked repertoire that shows your full potential. Double-check whether there are any time limits or specific genres mention beforehand. Talk about your choices to your mentors and other people who have had similar experiences. Organize and get your repertoire ready way before the month of the audition. 

Andrew Byrne is a voice teacher, composer, performer, music director, and backstage expert. He has won awards and is the creator of The Singing Athlete, a training program that applies functional neuroscience and athletic training to the voice studio. 

He has proposed a list of components to check off when deciding on your repertoire for your audition with the acronym A.C.C.E.P.T.E.D

Appropriate – Choose age and persona appropriate material

Clear – Make it clear for your accompanist 

Contrasting – Have distinction between your pieces to show your full potential

Engaging – Have a dramatic arc in your pieces

Passionate – Choose material that makes you excited

Tailored – Get the piece tailored to suit you perfectly

Easy – Choose well within your capabilities

Different – Deviate from the songs and shows that are extremely popular at the time

Read more about it in Elements of a Perfect College Audition Song by Backstage

2. Practice! Practice! Practice!

The best way to have strong confidence is to know your material inside out. If you’ve worked on your piece to your full capabilities, there is nothing to be worried about. Being nervous is human and is part of the journey, but your self-esteem and self-confidence depend on how prepared you are. Just like a sportsperson spends months of training for an event, you need to put in the hours. Once you’re past a certain stage of practice, rehearse with other people, preferably those who have experience in the field. Plan mock auditions, record and listen/watch yourself and get constructive advice from trusted connections. If you’re posting your videos on social media, beware of pointless negative comments that can affect your mindset. 

When we do a certain task, a set of coordinated signals are activated in various parts of the brain. If that task is something that we are doing for the first time, the process can feel constrained, because that specific combination of activations has never happened before. The more we repeatedly do it, the more oiled our brain becomes. This process is called ‘myelination’. So there you have it – Myelination, the scientific evidence for practice makes perfect!

3. Build Your Network 

The people you surround yourself with and the people you know certainly have an impact on your life. Make optimal use of social media and your connections to build relationships with other artists who have already gone through the same process. Talk to them, learn from their experiences, and get inspired! Even though it might vary based on the institution and the panel, try to understand the general structure of the audition and the type of scenarios you need to be prepared for. If possible ask their advice for selecting the right pieces and listen to their suggestions. Being part of online communities on social media platforms can help you find mentors and peers for your artistic journey. 

Check out our previous article on Building Online Communities [attach link]

4. On the day of your Audition 

  1. Prepare Your Mindset

    An audition is tricky because you need to present yourself and your potential in a short amount of time. So it is necessary to do all that you can to make sure that you are in your best mindset and not having a bad day. Try not to overthink or practice intensely during the day before your audition and strain your vocal cords. Involve yourself in relaxing activities like meditation, yoga, or go for a walk and mentally prepare yourself. Do a good vocal warm-up before you go in.
    Avoid activities like watching movies or scrolling through social media as that could distort your mental peace and give you an adrenaline rush. Make sure you get enough sleep for the whole week because sleep debt can be dangerous!
  2. Bear the Imposter Syndrome

    ‘Maybe they made a mistake in the application process’
    ‘They are going to realize that I’m a fluke and not actually good at this

    If you have these kinds of thoughts, remember that it’s very common and is called imposter syndrome. You are afraid that the panel will find out that you are an imposter and not exactly cut out for the field.
    But guess what? You are not an imposter! The institute called you for an audition because they are impressed by your application. They chose you.

    Check out this article by InterviewCake that talks about the cognitive bias that causes Imposter Syndrome and is relevant to anything from coding interviews to performing arts auditions: Recognizing and Fixing Coding Imposter Syndrome

  3. Dress Your Very Best – Hype Yourself Up!

    The clothes that you wear can affect your mindset and confidence. Dressing up in professional yet comfortable apparel will tell your mind to stay alert for your audition. Decide on your entire outfit beforehand and get them ready the day before. The process of dressing up will get your mind and body hyped up for the audition. Remember an audition is similar to a performance. You’re just going to go out there looking your very best and do the thing you love the most!
  4. Show Up Early

    Arrive at the venue for the audition very early. You need to have enough time to do a warm-up after you get there and shake off all the distractions from the commute. Give yourself ample time to get settled there. Try not to discuss anything with other candidates right before your audition as that can get you overwhelmed.

5. Embrace Failure

Failures and rejection. It’s part of the journey. As Kelly Clarkson sings, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’. It’s okay to take some time for yourself after a rejection but come back stronger with a zest. Each audition that you attend is giving you valuable experience that you could not get from anywhere else. So take it as a resource to help you understand yourself better and learn which aspect you need to work more on.

When you have a strong network of people in the industry, you get the opportunity to learn from their failures. Ask them what they would have done differently and include that in your preparation. Don’t forget to share your experiences and help them in their journey!

Check out How to Ace An Audition: ‘Throw yourself into it and be brave’ by The Guardian, where performing arts students share their mistakes and tips for getting through auditions.

Don’t forget that you are performing what you love and are passionate about. Remember to have fun and give it your 100%. All the best wishes for your auditions!


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