Written by: April Vargo
We are getting to the busy season of auditioning! Many of my students have been prepping for competitions, pageants, musical auditions, and performances in general. This is a super busy time of year and will only get worse as we get closer to spring.
In order to get ahead of all of the chaos it's super important to make sure to be prepared as you move into busy season with multiple performances, auditions, and such.
The worst thing you can do is wait until the last minute and try to throw something together. This is unfortunately a practice that many people adhere to and only causes undue stress, a higher likelihood that you will not be prepared, and greater chance for failure when the big day arrives. Depending on one's experience level, throwing something together last minute may not be feasible as they don't have the skill level to rise to the occasion.
I'm not going to say that I don't get the student who comes to me last minute begging for help. I do my best to help them, but I give them the cold, hard facts, and what needs to be completed in the future so that they don't find themselves in the same situation. I have some students who will prepare for a year for a big performance or audition and others who are constantly building their portfolios so when the perfect gig comes along they have a multitude of pieces to pull from.
I've outlined the advice I give my students and how I work with them to help get ready for the big day:
1. Constant communication with students about their goals, upcoming events, and what we need to put on the calendar
Working with a student should never become stagnant. People that chose to pursue performance are always getting ready for something. It's super important to make sure to constantly be in communication about what's coming up, what they would like to work towards, and any deadlines that need to be put on the calendar.
I have all of my students' events noted so I keep myself on target to make sure my students are progressing at the rate they should be for the date they need to be ready. If I'm not prepared or on top of my game, they aren't getting the best training. The last thing you want is a student panicking because they realize that they need to be ready for something in a week or two. Stay organized, give your students deadlines, keep them accountable, and they can walk into a gig feeling relaxed and prepared.
2. How serious are they, and how hard do they want to be pushed
It's important to understand what a student wants / needs from their coach. Are they looking for some feedback but would like to go about the process more laid back or are they looking for more intense training?
I have some students who are in very heavy competition, I work with them very differently than how I work with someone who is pursuing a little more relaxed environment. Not all performance is high pressure, so you need to understand what type of gig you / they are pursuing.
Someone who is competing in pageants for money and titles is going to be working very differently than someone who is prepping for their school show. The last thing you want to do is burn someone out, but you also can't be too laid back where they don't get the intensity they need. Again, honesty, open communication, and understanding what you're pursuing is incredibly important.
3. Understanding all of the criteria for the gig you are pursuing
If an organization is asking for an individual to prepare a certain song, amount of measures, dance, readings, combination of all of the above, it's incredibly important that you understand what is being asked of you. I can't tell you how many times I have sat on the other side of the table and had auditionees come in and tell me that they don't have the material, or that they read it but would rather do this instead. It's not impressive, doesn't show off their talent, is very difficult to gauge their talent and ability level, and shows a hint of what they might be like to work with.
I tell my students all of the time to treat an audition as a job interview, the judges / directors are looking for much more than just what you can and cannot do. If you cannot follow simple directions, that plants a seed of doubt from the very beginning. Why ruin your chances by not following simple directions and being prepared?
It's super refreshing to be able to see people who come with all of the necessary material, they are confident, prepared, and own it. Those are the people I select every time.
4. Always be building a portfolio
When you're not in the midst of crazy auditions / performances, it's super important to be working on other material, preferably from a variety of genres. This gives you a greater range of ability, what you can do, and opens you up to more performance opportunities. People who stick to just one type of song, tend to limit what they can do and where they can go. I have some of my more advanced students who have several songs ready to go at all times. This way any audition that comes their way, they can pull a piece, brush it up and be ready.
Throughout lessons you should always be working on technique as well. Strong technique and foundation will help you to be able to sing / perform any material at your best. Be very careful not just to work on songs and forget the technique behind it.
In addition, make sure to keep your lessons / training consistent. You should not be dropping and coming back to lessons after every gig. You won't be making progress and will constantly be starting back at ground zero. Steady training and practice will keep you at your best performance and audition capabilities.
5. The job of parents during auditions
If under the age of 18, parents do have a part of the audition process. If a child can't drive the parent will most likely be at auditions, practices, rehearsals, performances. Parents can be a huge asset, but they can also be a huge hindrance.
The stage mom can be a child's biggest hindrance. A mom that's constantly interfering in lessons / training, or the one who insists on sitting in during auditions and then giving feedback or offering to show other performances where they feel that their child sounded better. The child gets stifled, they usually shut down, and it's difficult to get a read on who they are and what they can do. It also becomes very apparent that the parent will be difficult to work with. If I have a choice between a supportive and positive parent versus a stage mom, the supportive / positive parent wins out every time. I understand I will have to work with them as well, and I'm not going to be negotiating with someone the entire process.
I personally don't get many stage moms in my private study, they tend not to last. I am very fortunate that the parents of the students I work with on a regular basis are fantastic! They are incredibly supportive of their children, wanting to know how to help them, and genuinely want to see them succeed. We definitely work more as a team, and their child feels like a part of the process. They are the nicest people, and it's passed on to their children. They are confident, outgoing, talented, and fearless young people.
When prepping for an audition remember to give yourself time to prepare, understand the type of performance you are pursuing, follow the criteria given to you, continue to build a portfolio, and be a positive support system for your auditionee.