tips from the audition/screened workshop

The Screened/Audition workshop for public high school choice at Brooklyn Tech this week was pretty short and sweet considering the weather and the wealth of subject matter. You can find the great, detailed audition advice as a pdf file under the July event date.

Here is the take away and some answers to interesting questions that I stayed to the bitter end to record:

The interview/audition panel is not trying to trick you. They are truly interested in you and what you have to present and they want to see your best and understand your interest or passion.

This is not American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance. You are auditioning for a conservatory not a production. They want to see technique or potential in anything you do. That means a pretty traditional approach.

  • no costumes, props, feather boas, spangles, bare midriffs, ruffles or florals. Anything that distracts from you and your real talent is a turn off. Be modest and simple in your attire, and age appropriate in your prepared piece (no King Lear).
  • no R&B, rock or pop tunes when you sing. If you are trying for musical theatre sing only classic Broadway (look to Rogers and Hammerstein, or Lerner and Lowe, etc., not the rock musicals)
    If you are trying for a vocal program, the same advice stands. If you can sing a song in a foreign language convincingly it is great. They are looking for long melodic lines to really hear your voice (rock and popular songs are more about the rhythm and that is not what they want).
  • you can audition for different talents (instrumental, dance, art) and if you play more than one instrument you need to check with the school to see if you can audition on more than one.
    If you play a large instrument, bring your mouth piece, sticks, etc., they should have one that you can use (I would double check with the school though)
  • instrumentalists: it is important for you to be able to read music. The sight reading will be important. It is not as crucial for a singer, but a plus.
  • visual artists: if you do cartoons or graffiti or anime, you may include one example but they want to see how you handle formal elements, not style. Can you draw? handle color? experiment with materials? understand something about composition? If you don't have anything that shows that - start working on some pieces particularly for your portfolio.
  • if you have 3D pieces you may include some photographs of them in your portfolio, but they should be clear and it helps if you put in something for scale (a ruler, a hand) and if you have large canvases and they can be rolled it is better to bring the originals than photos of them. 
  • your portfolio doesn't need to be expensive, but it needs to protect your work and show that you respect it enough to keep it safe, neat and clean
  • they are interested in an artist's process, bring your sketchbook or notebook if you keep one regularly
  • take time to experience and talk about your art form. Practice talking about your artwork with someone. Think about the artists in your discipline that you admire and talk about why. Do you go to museums or galleries as an artist? Do you go to dance, or concerts or plays? Practice talking about how you feel about what you see and how it influences you.
  • dancers: you may have real proficiency in salsa, African, tap, hip hop or other forms but ultimately you need to have some grounding in ballet and modern. If you don't have experience in the classical forms, you better start now.
  • often the auditions overlap. Don't worry - let your guidance counselor know as soon as possible and the schools will accommodate with an alternate date. Do not try and audition at two schools on one day.
  • it may be a long day. Bring water and a snack. Get a good night's sleep. Be professional and polite the minute you walk in the door (you never know when an auditioner is taking a break to go to the bathroom or walk around)
  • Are the arts schools good academically? These programs all have AP and honors classes. These are not "easy" schools. Students are expected to go the extra mile and excel academically as they would in a regular program.
  • take time at the High School Fair to ask how each school weighs the audition (at some schools they give more weight to academics than to the audition). Do they want you to show creativity or traditional technique? First, read each school's detailed audition instructions in the directory and then come with your specific questions to the fair.