Requiring Outside School Auditions Done Right

By: Tim Brokopp, January 8, 2024
Requiring Outside School Auditions Done Right

Band, choir, orchestra directors: do you require students to audition for something outside of school each year (all city, solo & ensemble, etc)? It's a great way to improve individual skills and motivate students. On the other hand, you might be frustrated by the students who tend to forget the audition is even happening. Oh, and the fuming parent emails: "This is happening tomorrow!". Here are four tips that might help.

1. Explain the Expectations at the Start of the School Year

If you know you are going to need an audition every year, could you let me know this at the beginning of the school year? Ideally, you would like to have a list of all the school-year events with this included. The earlier they know about it, the more they can practice. Plus, early communication is crucial for parents and lesson teachers.

2. Make Preparation a Graded Assignment

Give the students a grade for having their material ready 2-3 weeks before the audition. Since you probably don't have time to listen to each student live, have them record or play for a small group (section) in class. Requiring them to be ready weeks in advance will drastically increase their chances on audition day.

3. Parent Communication is Key

Let's face it: parent involvement is not equal, but don't let that dissuade you from communicating with them. Parents need to know far in advance about the audition, especially if they need to arrange transportation and or their signature is required. They also need to know what the student is expected to prepare. Remember, many parents have no personal experience preparing for auditions.

4. Explain Why & Acknowledge Progress

Unlike sports, the arts are not inherently about competition. Some students want to be in your class/group at school and play/sing. They might want to get better but don't want to compete.

This is why you must explain the benefit of auditioning beyond "winning." Explain that you want them to get better and how the audition can help. Help them develop a desire to improve, not simply win.

After the audition, commend the "winners" and those who exhibited effort. Maybe give out some "most improved" award. Whatever you do, be intentional about explaining why you require them to audition and how their effort has made a difference.