College auditions put pressure on musicians

Charlie MacKenzie | Staff Writer

The fate of some students’ college dreams lies within a fifteen minute time interval.

Every year seniors are tasked with perfecting their college applications, spending countless hours working on essays, resumes, or the Common Application. On top of all of this, students looking to go to performing arts schools must prepare for one moment to sell themselves – the audition. Auditioning is a defining moment in the admissions process for seniors applying to performing arts schools.

Senior Jenna Montes plans on majoring in music performance for French Horn, and she has auditioned for Capital University, University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Baldwin Wallace University. She will be auditioning for Indiana University. In some instances, conservatories make students send in a pre-screening, a recording of their performance,  and then decide if the student is talented enough to be invited for a live audition. As well as the live audition, Montes said that she had to take a music theory and piano exam.

“They have a specific time for your audition,” Montes said. “You also have to do a theory exam. It’s a placement thing; if you go there, they (want to) know where to put you in a class.”

Senior Kayla Stroud has been acting since she was five years old. She has auditioned for the theater performance programs at Northern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, Wright State University, and Miami University. Similarly to auditioning for an instrument, Stroud said that the theater auditions required a lot of preparation.

“I’ve been preparing for these for about a year, working on songs and monologues,” Stroud said. “Each school had their own criteria for the audition, but most of it was two songs and one monologue. On top of that, I had to put together a collection of songs just in case I had to sing something else.”

Stroud said that having a good first impression is critical for a successful audition.

“They can tell whether they like you or not in a matter of five seconds,” Stroud said. “You just have to trust yourself that you’ve been preparing for this moment and that if you stress out, you’re going to mess up. It’s something that you can’t control. You do your thing, and it’s up to them after that. You can’t worry about it.”

Senior Mei Yuan, who plans on majoring in music performance in upright bass at the Ohio State University or the New England Conservatory of Music, said that students spend years preparing for a single audition that could define their future.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Yuan said. “It is very stressful. You prepare for years for one audition to see if you get in, and if you mess up a little bit, it could mean the difference between getting in and not. I feel like they should look at your overall improvement as a musician and how much you grow.”

Many symphonies hire performers based on a single audition. While students applying for other majors are usually given a holistic review, Montes said that the high-stakes environment of the audition process prepares musicians and actors for jobs in the future.

“I think it’s a lot of pressure, but I don’t think that it’s unfair,” Montes said. “I know what I’m going into and I know that my academics will matter, but when I’m looking for jobs in the future, it’s going to depend solely on how I play and me as a person, not my academics from high school.”