To Audition or Not?
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 1995 12:08:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Non-auditioned choir survey results
Thanks to all who responded to my survey about non-auditioned college
choirs. The results are as follows:
32 responses from schools ranging in size from 950 to 29,000 (median
size was 3000). The total number of choral participants ranged from 25 to 330
(median size 100 participants). The percentage of student body involved in
choral activities ranged from 0.3% of student body to 10.8% (median about
Of the 32 schools, 23 have a choir for which no audition is required.
Of the 9 schools which require auditions for all their choirs, three say they
only occasionally turn away those who cannot match pitch. For the other six,
the percentage of auditionees accepted ranges from 85% to a low of 25-30%, with
the number of students turned away annually ranging from 5 to over 90.
Some of the responders who didn't have non-auditioned choirs said they
wish they had, and a couple of those who did wished they didn't!
Let me give you some background about our situation at Miami that
prompted the survey. Until this year, we had four choirs, all auditioned, with
a total of about 220 participants at a school of 16,000. We were turning away
as many as 50 students a year. This situation, combined with community
interest, led us to start a town/gown Choral Union this past fall, sponsored by
Continuing Education but cross-listed as a university course. First semester
we had about 75 singers, half of whom were community people. This semester the
enrollment is about 105, with the balance now about 75% students. Our decision
about whether to continue the group depends, of course, on funding, and how
valuable the University feels a group like this is. The fact that most schools
have a group like this will have an impact on our decision.
A couple of possible threads which come up from the respondents to the
survey could be:
1) How important is it to offer a choral experience at the college
level to anyone who wants it? If we don't, is it just because of
availability, or are there other reasons?
2) Does the very existence of an audition scare off singers who might
otherwise make a valuable contribution to a college choral program? Some
respondents think so. The data from the survey doesn't really support this
contention, since there doesn't seem to be any discernable correlation between
total choral participation as a percent of the student body and whether or not
auditions are required. In fact, the school in the survey with the highest
student body participation requires auditions and turns away a significant
number of people. (The director of this choral program indicated he'd like to
be able to offer a non-auditioned women's group.)
For our situation at Miami, after a year's experience, IMHO the other
auditioned choral groups will be strengthened by the presence of the Choral
Union as a feeder group, and as a place to sing for those with scheduling
conflicts for the other groups.
3) A question for anyone on the list: If you have a non-auditioned
college group, what do you do about someone in the group who can't match pitch?
My first semester with the Choral Union at Miami, I didn't have anyone in that
category, but this semester, I have some fairly audible folks who are having
Thanks again to all respondents --- if you would like more information about
the survey results, let me know. If you responded to the survey and would like
particulars of your response kept private, let me know that also.
Dept of Music - Miami University, Oxford OH
Voice (513)529-3075, fax (513)529-3027
Date: Sun, 23 Apr 1995 06:53:32 -0600 (MDT)
From: "James D. Feiszli"
Subject: Re: Non-auditioned choir survey results
"PARRC(a)miavx1.acs.muohio.edu" at Apr 22, 95 12:08:09 pm
> 1) How important is it to offer a choral experience at the college
> level to anyone who wants it? If we don't, is it just because of
> availability, or are there other reasons?
To reiterate my earlier note to you, it would seem in the best interests
of the music profession in general to always have that opportunity available
because it is precisely the "great unwashed" that we as music educators
need to reach. They're the ones who end up in the legislatures and on
the school boards and in corporate board rooms.
If the music profession only wants to train those who will become carbon
copies of ourselves, where is our future?
> 2) Does the very existence of an audition scare off singers who might
> otherwise make a valuable contribution to a college choral program? Some
> respondents think so. The data from the survey doesn't really support this
> contention, since there doesn't seem to be any discernable correlation between
> total choral participation as a percent of the student body and whether or not
> auditions are required. In fact, the school in the survey with the highest
That's an interesting question. It might be fodder for some real
research. The gut reaction is to assume that: 1) if the choral
program is already established and flourishing, and 2) the audition
is seen as a progressive step from one type of choral ensemble to
another (in our case, from the large mixed chorus - 80 voices - to
the small ensemble - 12 voices); then it wouldn't scare off many folks.
On the other hand, with a community-based group, it is more likely to
keep people away. Even some of my best singers get jittery auditioning
for the small ensemble. The community folks are much less secure unless
they have lived (or are living) in a large metropolitan area and have
had experience with symphony choruses, fine community choruses, or
> 3) A question for anyone on the list: If you have a non-auditioned
> college group, what do you do about someone in the group who can't match
Now we're into methodology. I have that challenge *every single semester*
with my un-auditioned Concert Choir. Add to that the fact that this ensemble
is actually two sections of the same course - one offered at 8:00 MWF
and the other at 12:00 MWF. No attempt is made to balance the sections.
Students sign up for whichever best suits their schedule. This semester
the 8:00 section has six sopranos, six altos, six tenors, and 13 basses.
The 12:00 section has 13 sopranos, 11 altos, 10 tenors, and 15 basses.
What is required is:
1) A philosophy that it is more important to educate the individual
singer than to have the finest choral ensemble in the world.
2) A class methodology based on vocal training and music reading
3) Some type of cooperative learning concept, wherein the ensemble
is sold on the idea of the better singers assisting the less
experienced singers for the good of the ensemble.
4) A tiered system of instruction that allows the best singers
to remain challenged while not losing the less-trained ones.
It might be instructive for as many of us who can spare the time
to send in our syllabi for choral ensembles and put them on the
CRS. We can pick up ideas on evaluation policies and perhaps
get a sense of how different ensembles are paced throughout the
While we're on that subject, how about sending in copies of your
concert programs? A good source of literature ideas. Not very
many of you have done this. It's a great way to pick up
information such as composers' dates, translations of texts,
and background information of specific pieces.
* James D. Feiszli, D.M.A. | jfeiszli(a)silver.sdsmt.edu *
* Chair, Department of Humanities | *
* South Dakota School of Mines | Listowner, CHORALIST *
* and Technology | Internet group for choral music *
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 1995 15:35:51 -0800
From: desta(a)ychs.ycusd.k12.ca.us (Dean Estabrook)
Subject: Choral Elitism
The whole issue of whom should be allowed membership in a given choral
ensemble, whether collegiate or otherwise, is indeed a thorny one with
which we all spar our entire professional lives. If one advances the theory
that there should be a place in any *educational* institution for entry
level singers to begin to learn the trade, than college level curricula
could hardly be exempt from providing such an opportunity. A person who has
graduated from high school is no less in need of the remarkable wonders
associated with inclusion in a choral family than a fifth or sixth grader.
On the other hand, by far and away, the most common complaint I receive
from my singers is, "Can you *please* move me next to someone else?" I can
certainly appreciate the difficulty of singing next to another team member
who can't seem to approximate pitches. Yes, I work with those having
trouble, and in time seem to be able to bring most of them to a place where
they match pitches pretty well.... But, in the interim, it's pretty
discouraging to some of those around them. I never have found a good
solution for this, except to preach patience and move the slower learners
around a lot.
I always sit amazed when I listen to the annual St. Olaf Christmas program
on public television. They obviously have a tiered system of choral
offerings there, but I'll be darned if I can hear anything but great
section unisons from even the "lower" level groups. Do they have a choir
for those who can't match pitches in their scheme of offerings? And if so,
do they not perform publicly?
There is so much to learn about this business, and so little time in one's
professional life! I really appreciate the dialog present on the Choralist.
Dean M. Estabrook