Here’s my common sense approach to choral auditions that allow you to create a choir of humans, not voices.
This post may not be for you if you’re a glutton for punishment, enjoy being the victim, complain regularly about how much work you have to do, and take pride in the number of data points you’ll have to sift through in your choral auditions spreadsheet.
I’m looking to help people that hate doing unnecessary work as much as I do. I’d love to see you free up your time so you can get back to teaching.
This post is geared towards sharing with you a way to get the best result in the shortest amount of time. I’ve been doing this for the last seven years of my career with exceptional results. It may work in your situation or it may not. If nothing else, it’ll get you thinking. Keep an open mind.
The benefits of the traditional audition
In my experience I’ve found that auditioning choir members for your elite ensemble at the end of the year leaves you with very few surprises. I’d venture to say that auditions are about 95% unnecessary. If you’ve spent 8-9 months with a group of kids, you pretty much know your hard workers and your “lumps on a log”.
So yeah, have auditions to find those 5% who will leave you thinking “I had NO IDEA they had it in ’em”, which without fail, happens every year. Sometimes a student wants in the auditioned choir SO bad that they turn a new leaf. So that’s a plus!
Otherwise… Here are the FIVE questions you need to ask yourself.
1.”Would I enjoy spending additional class time with this student?”
Because that’s exactly what you’re committing yourself to. In my case I saw my elite middle school ensemble more than their math teachers. I had to know, for damn sure, that I wanted to spend that much time with a kid before I’d let him/her in to my choir.
Remember the Pareto Principle of 80/20? 80% of your problems come from 20% of your clientele. This is your chance to make sure that 20% doesn’t get in to your select ensemble.
2. “Can I handle mom for another year?”
This may sound incredibly unfair to you, but I not only audition students, but their parents as well. If mom was a pain in my ass this year, I’m certainly not giving her son/daughter additional reasons to piss me off. Why would I allow that kind of negativity into my life?
You know as well as I do that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
3. Is the student teachable?
You likely know this from your experience with the student throughout the year. If you don’t, there are some ways for you to find this out within your traditional audition.
4. Is this student naturally talented enough?
Obviously you need a some baseline talent to get a student from where they are to where you need them to be in order to be successful.
5. Is the student a hard worker?
This is where your traditional audition process comes into play. My suggestion is a quick and dirty vocal evaluation and a challenging prepared piece that you could listen to one-on-one or in quartets. Sight-singing was never that important to my audition process, probably because I hadn’t met Dale Duncan yet.
The TWO acceptable answers to the questions above
There are TWO potential answers, in my humble opinion (Thanks to Derek Sivers, my entrepreneurial muse):
- Hell, yeah.
If you answer can’t answer “Hell, yeah.” to all three questions, then the student isn’t ready to be in your choir
There you have it!
So you don’t get fired
You have to have some sort of paper trail so it doesn’t look like you’re just picking favorites, but in reality, you should just pick your favorites. So do #5 below. Have a traditional audition, but trust your gut on questions 1-4. If you value your intuition, it’ll never let you down.