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God I Hope I Get It: College Auditions

Updated on November 14, 2014
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God I Hope I Get It: College Audition Tips

Tips for a great college (or any) audition from someone who attended Westminster College of the Arts for Musical Theatre

Tips for College Auditions: The Song

You’ve been training your whole life for this. You’ve taken voice lessons, dance lessons, acting lessons. You’ve played the lead in your high school’s musicals. You’ve been a part of community theatre. You’ve watched every musical-made-movie in existence. You own more OBC albums than pairs of socks you’ve lost to the dryer. You are ready.

At least, you think you’re ready. You’re not really sure. The audition information for the college’s musical theatre program is as follows:

  • 32 Bars of a Classic Music Theatre Song
  • 32 Bars of a Contemporary Music Theatre Song
  • 1 Minute Comedic Monologue
  • 1 Minute Dramatic Monologue
  • Dance Audition

Let’s break it down:

Classic Music Theatre Song:

Classic musicals, also known as musicals from the golden age, are musicals that opened between the 1940s and the 1960s. Some examples would be Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate, Brigadoon, Flower Drum Song, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and Gypsy. For a longer list of classic musicals, visit http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/classic.htm.

Tip: Don’t do “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady, "I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song or "Much More" from The Fantasticks. Basically, if your grandmother knows the song, don’t do it (unless your grandmother is a musical theatre aficionado). It is most likely overdone. Songs from shows like Brigadoon, Kismet, Bells Are Ringing, Boys From Syracuse, The Most Happy Fella, Paint Your Wagon, and The Threepenny Opera are not done nearly as often. The auditioners will be sitting for hours, watching a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds, good and not-so-good, sing for hours. They don’t want to hear 12 people sing Many a New Day.

Although it’s important to pick a song that is not overdone, it is also important to pick a song that you feel confident with, that you enjoy, that’s written for your voice part (alto, mezzo, soprano, tenor, baritone), and that’s written for your age range. If you’re really good, they’re not going to hold singing an overused song against you, but in general it’s better to pick a song that they haven’t heard 15 times already. Odds are, at least one of those times was better than you.

Contemporary Music Theatre Songs:

You might think that it would be easier to find a contemporary song that isn’t overdone, but that is far from the truth. Generally, contemporary musical theatre spans from the early 2000s to today (the later the better, though).

Tip: Don’t do “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Mille, please. I’ve heard from more than one casting agent say that they’re sick of that song and they hear it all the time. Also, “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde. That’s an exciting song because of the build, but if you decide to do the last 32 bars of it, it’s just going to sound like you’re yelling. Also, every single song from The Last Five Years has been done to death.

A great website to refer to when looking for current musical theatre songs, is http://contemporarymusicaltheatre.com/. You’re not going to find In the Heights and Once on here, though. These are contemporary composers that haven’t had their work on Broadway. You’ll notice a lot of their work has been performed places like Joe’s Pub. Don’t let the non-Broadway aspect discourage you from visiting the website, though. There are some really beautiful and some really hilarious songs. Be warned: it is still possible to pick an overdone song from this directory (re: “Blue Hair”), but it’s much easier to find something unique.

You’ll have to subscribe to the website to get sheet music, but there are a lot of other perks to being a member as well. There is a free option, but you won’t have access to everything on the site. For $49.95 a year, you have access to everything on the site and can search for music based on your age range, voice type, and whether you’re looking for an uptempo or ballad. For those of you not willing to pay 50 dollars for a site that you only plan to use once (for your college audition – although I do suggest becoming a member if you’re going to school for musical theatre, because you’ll need more contemporary songs throughout school and your career), there is a three-day option, known as the Quick Pass. It’s $19.95 and you get full access to the site for three days. You can get sheet music for your audition without having to pay the full fee.

Both Songs:

One of your songs should be an uptempo and one should be a ballad. You can always come in with four songs, one contemporary ballad and uptempo, one classic ballad and uptempo, but it’s really unnecessary. When you go into a professional audition, it’s important to have a lot of options in case they ask for something different, but in a college audition all they want is what they asked for. They don’t have the time or patience to ask for more, and there are no specific parts they’re considering you for, so they’re not going to ask you for something “a little more optimistic” or “something that a child would sing.” (I’ve heard both things requested during mock auditions in school.)


Seth Rudetsky Audition Tips

What do you think is the most overdone audition song?

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Tips for College Auditions: Dance Audition


Dance Audition:

Bring a change of clothes for the dance audition. Leotard and tights are the most important thing. If you have a little crop top or sweater you can bring that too. And I would just bring all of the dance shoes that you own. Most likely, you’ll use character shoes or jazz sneakers (the jazz sneakers are a little more reliable and easier to dance in than the boot), but they might surprise you and ask if anyone can tap or do ballet. If you’re prepared, they might let you show them something and score you some extra points.

The most important thing about your audition is to remember that they know you’re students. You’re auditioning to be a part of the school. They don’t expect you to be a professional. You can break one of these rules and it won’t necessarily mean you won’t get into the program. But you should do all you can to come off as a dedicated, passionate, hardworking student – one that they’d like in their school.


Sutton Foster in an Audition scene in Bunheads

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Tips for College Auditions: Monologues

Monologues:

Your monologue should be no longer than one minute. Act it out exactly how you want and then time it. If it’s even a few seconds over one minute, cut something out. Most people speed up when they’re nervous, but it’s very possible that you’ll slow down, stutter, or “dramatically” pause because you forgot a line. There may be someone sitting with the auditioners with a stopwatch, who’s ready to cut you off as soon as you reach the one minute mark.

Tip: Don’t do the Luisa monologue from The Fantasticks. Everybody and their mother has done that monologue, and you have no business doing it unless you’re in the actual show. This musical has been Off-Broadway since the sixties, and people have been auditioning with that monologue for just as long.

Once again, one of your monologues should be from a classical play and one from a contemporary. Every piece of advice I’ve ever gotten about monologues is that you should read the whole play so you’re well-informed. Do not pick a monologue from a book. Chances are, 50% of the other auditionees are using monologues from a book. You might think you’ve found the greatest monologue ever, but if it’s in a book then most likely someone else thinks it’s the greatest monologue ever too.


Lindsay Mendez and Laura Osnes Instructing a Masterclass

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College Audition Tips: Headshots

The school isn't expecting that you have the perfect headshot for your audition - you actually shouldn't invest in a really expensive headshot until your junior or senior year of college (so when you go out into the real world, you can use it for a few years and it will still be current). They are expecting more than a printout of you standing in front of the blinds at your house. If you can get a photographer that's not too expensive who will edit your photos for you, you definitely should. If all of the photographers you're finding are too expensive, though, you can try to find a student photographer who will do your headshots for you for a reasonable price, and they'll still look pretty professional. A lot of theatre or musical theatre majors who are in college also take headshots, so you can always look to a student at a nearby musical theatre program to take your picture (and then get some tips from them about auditions as well). Otherwise, out of all of the people in your high school class there should be at least one shutterbug who's looking for experience.

The good thing is what's currently popular are outdoor headshots, so you don't need a studio or anything. You just need a clear day and a brick wall, or something to that effect. And don't go crazy with the editing - simple retouching will do. I actually heard a casting agent tell someone their eyes looked TOO blue in their photograph. They looked fake, but she said she didn't have the color of her eyes touched up. He actually suggested that she touch up the photograph so that her eyes looked LESS piercing.


Trailer for "Every Little Step" - Documentary about auditions for "A Chorus Line" Revival

College Audition Tips: Resume

Resume:

Your resume should include basic information at top: Name, Address, Email, Phone Number (not necessary but you can include it if you want to), Voice Type, Height. I've heard different things about weight and age range. Some people want those things there, and some people would rather not be influenced by what you say your age range is or by what number the scale reads when you step onto it.

After your basic information you should clearly list the most recent shows, concerts, commercials, etc. that you've been in. There should be separate categories - shows (non-professional), shows (professional), concerts/cabarets, television, movies. Don't be worried if all you have are shows (non-professional) - that's really all their expecting. If your resume is just a list of high school shows, that doesn't mean you won't get in. Once again, they're not looking for Broadway stars; they're looking for people to be their students.

List all of the shows you've been in and the roles you've played. At the bottom you can include "special skills," but don't put something down unless you can really do it. And don't put something down if it's not at all relevant to theatre. Cooking, for example, might be a special skill of yours but there's no way that's going to help you out on the stage. If you can do different dialects, juggle, ballroom dance, play an instrument, or even burp the alphabet (yes that counts, and it might wind up breaking the ice for your audition), put it down. But like I said, don't put it down unless you can REALLY do it. If you put "juggling" down, be prepared for them to toss you some knives and ask you to show them.

Bob Avian and John Breglio from the audition documentary "Every Little Step"

Source

List of Colleges with Music, Theatre, and Musical Theatre Programs


Not sure where you want to go to college? Here's a list of schools with Musical Theatre programs.

American University MT

University of Arizona MT

Baldwin-Wallace College MT

Ball State University MT

Boston Conservatory MT

University of California - Irvine MT

University of California - Los Angeles MT

California State University, Fullerton MT

Carnegie Mellon University MT

Catholic University MT

University of Central Florida MT

Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music MT

Coastal Carolina University

Elon University MT

Emerson College MT

Florida State University MT

University of Hartford - Hartt School MT

Illinois Wesleyan - MT

Indiana University Bloomington MT

Ithaca College MT

James Madison University MT

Marymount Manhattan College MT

University of Miami - Florida MT

University of Michigan MT

Millikin University MT

Montclair State University MT

Muhlenberg College MT

Northern Colorado University MT

Northwestern University MT

NYU/Steinhardt MT

NYU/Tisch MT

Ohio Northern University MT

University of Oklahoma MT

Oklahoma City University MT

Otterbein University MT

Pace University MT

Pennsylvania State University MT

Point Park University MT

Roosevelt University MT

Sam Houston State University MT

Santa Fe University of Art and Design MT

Shenandoah Conservatory MT

University of Southern California MT

SUNY at Fredonia MT

SUNY at Buffalo MT

Syracuse University MT

Temple University MT T

exas Christian University MT

Texas State - San Marcos MT

University of the Arts MT

Viterbo University MT

Wagner College MT

Webster University MT

Western Michigan University MT

Westminster College of the Arts - Rider - MT

Wright State - MT

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