Preparing for a Scholarship Audition

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You are a high school junior or senior.  You love singing in the chorus at school, and you're thinking about a music scholarship to help pay for college.  Maybe you're thinking about becoming a music major, maybe even a voice major.  How do you get ready for a scholarship audition?

As you would for any other selection process, you start by finding out what the requirements are for each college you think you'll audition  for, and yes, every one can be different.  Most will require at least two contrasting songs, some will require sight-reading or pitch matching, maybe even a theory test.  The songs you choose will tell the faculty who listen to you a lot about what your level of musical expertise is. 

Perhaps you will ask your choir teacher or the music director at church to help you prepare.  Sometimes choral  directors are former voice majors who will be able to help you navigate the choice and preparation of repertoire, and sometimes they were piano majors who used to accompany in voice studios.  Maybe they will be really good help, and their musicianship could be your strongest selling point to your audition committee.  You may want to see a voice teacher, but plan ahead.  Whoever helps you should have about three to six months to help you get ready and get comfortable performing your scholarship auditions

Your audition committee wants to hear these things:

  • The quality of your voice, whether or not it is a nice sound, how large it is, what potential for development it seems to have, does it already have physical damage from bad technique, bad speech habits, or screaming
  • How well you sing in tune and whether the voice faculty think any intonation problems are musicianship issues or technique issues
  • How strong your musicianship is:  do you have to have the piano playing along with your part, or can you sing independently while the piano plays a complementary accompaniment; do you do the rhythms and pitches accurately (yes, they will know the song unless it's one you just wrote)
  • How much you know about the songs you sing:  do you know the composer's name and who wrote the words; are you singing the song in the style that is appropriate for that song?
  • How clear your diction is in English and how authentic and accurate in other languages:  if you sing in a foreign language, is it clear that you understand what the words mean and what you are singing about

They will also want to know how comfortable you are on stage.  Is stage fright destroying your audition?  As you are singing, do you look like you should for the song that you're singing?  Does your visual presentation support your vocal presentation?

All of these things are what you will need to address as you prepare for auditions.  Give yourself enough time to do a thorough preparation.  When you schedule your audition, try to go on a scholarship day when other students are also auditioning.  You will feel better if you're not the only one, and the campus and department tours will be more fun.  Some of the music majors will probably be around for you to meet .  Talk to the students about how their lessons are progressing.  They will tell you what you want to know about the people who may be your teachers, too.

The September 2011 issue of Classical Singer magazine had an excellent article on choosing repertoire for college auditions.

In January, 2015, the Cleveland Institute of Music prepared a checklist of things to remember and be prepared for when auditioning for a music school.  It can be downloaded here  Everything they have to say is both true and useful.

The May 2018 issue of Classical Singer magazine had an excellent article on what to wear when you audition or when you take a headshot photo.  Find it at