Audition Machine

It’s that time again–auditions. We have two audition periods (three, if you count the time right after our spring concert and before our fall concert cycle auditions) and this is the audition period right before our spring concert. We began last Wednesday and will continue through our first rehearsal.

I announce auditions in a few ways–on this website, in various internet ways (email blasts, posting on a choral website, emails to our local papers) and a snail mailing. I still do a snail mailing because I’ve gotten several good singers from flyers posted in libraries and sent to local choir directors. That mailing went out yesterday and the email blast went out last week.

I’ve auditioned one person this week. Unfortunately, I had to reject him and not for the reasons you think. He has a lovely voice which would be a great addition to our group, but his attitude is awful. I have a very simple audition procedure and he wouldn’t go along with it.

I really believe a chamber choir is a different animal from the usual large choral group. It’s more like a string quartet or other chamber ensemble, especially in the ‘getting along’ aspect. And because I believe that, my auditions are designed with that in mind. I vocalize the person after talking a bit to relax them. I have them sing a patriotic song–I give them a choice of two–with and without vibrato and ask them to tell me which is which. I have them sight read a small portion of something we will be singing for that concert cycle and give them every chance to do well. Sometimes, I will sing a part with them–soprano, alto or tenor–if I have any doubts about them being able to hold their own. I interview them and they interview me. This part of the audition process is the most telling. And it’s more about what you CAN do in the future for me and not what you DID DO in the past for someone else.

With my auditioneer this week, it was a question of his not being willing to do what I asked. He insisted on singing a prepared solo and not the patriotic song. He didn’t feel he should have to sight read and didn’t want to be interviewed. Surprisingly, he had no problem with interviewing me! It was with real regret I decided he wouldn’t be a good addition because his voice certainly would be. I didn’t want to have to fight with him or have him fight with my other singers–I could tell he would make us all miserable.

I added the interview portion to my audition after our first concert cycle just because of a similar experience with a singer. Her husband taught music history at a local liberal arts college and she felt she shouldn’t have to sight read for little ol’ me. Because she was a good musician in other ways, I accepted her. She was a nightmare to work with and wasn’t reliable to boot. I decided there and then to interview everyone.

I’m sure the fellow I heard last week doesn’t understand why he didn’t make the MMS. But the very fact he probably doesn’t understand is the reason.

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