Should I Re-audition singers regularly?
Thank you so much for the wonderful responces to my audtion inquiry. Several
of you asked for the results...so here you are! Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Director of Choirs
Virginia High School
Audition Policies Compilation
There are pros and cons both directions, of course, but the good part of a
re-audition is that it allows you to assess progress, to re-acquaint
yourself with each student's personal gifts, to check voice range at an age
when many are undergoing physical changes, to hear more specifically the
timbre of each voice for blend and balance purposes, and so on. Too many
youngsters feel like they're owed a silver spoon anyway, and the re-audition
helps keep them from seeing their spot in choir as a birthright. I'm a fan
of re-auditions, as you can tell (!), but I always give preference to a
known quantity (returning student) over an unknown factor, all other things
Jeffrey Richard Carter, D.M.A.
Associate Director of Choral Activities
Ball State University
Although I teach at a college now, I strongly recommend annual auditions in
the high school, in fact especially there. The kids' voices change from
year to year as they develop; they strengthen their reading, aural and
ensemble skills, and it gives you a good opportunity to evaluate their
progress. I think, too, it's very important for kids not to "rest on their
laurels," and you will find, as I do in my job, that sometimes kids who
make the top group are outmatched by upcoming students or new ones moving
into the district. It's a humbling lesson to learn if they are moved "back"
to a lesser group, but on the other hand, it sends the message that
We always re-audition instrumentalists for seating positions. I think
singers need to have the same experience and realize that they must be
responsible individually for maintaining a high level of productivity. My
experience has been that if people know they really have to earn their
spot, year after year, they will take pride in it and the group's
reputation is enhanced because membership is based on ongoing
As a first-year teacher in that new situation, however, you might decide
to start the year with the kids who are already signed up for the various
groups, but hear them anyway, so you know what you have to work with. In
other words, you come in without turning things upside down but still have
the benefit of knowing the kids' voices, etc. By your second year there,
you will be able to move things in the direction you want and can set up
auditions in the spring for next fall. By year three, it will be "old hat"
Director of Choral Activities
The Ohio State University
I too took over a new group recently, with a once you're in, you're in policy.
I didn't change it, and just stepped in. In retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't
reaudition---not because there are people who wouldn't have made it back in
necessarily, but because I would've benefitted getting to hear each person's
voice. (And that's a way to approach it so it's less threatening to the people,
I believe.) Knowing where to seat people, knowing strengths and weaknesses---
all these things would've been a boon to know ahead of time.
The other advantages are 1) it shows you care about who's singing in the choir
2) a little fear and trepidation keeps 'em on their toes 3) it instills pride
to know that they've "made it back in" based on their merit. 4) if you have
someone who really has problems vocally, and you think they might impede the
whole, you can talk to them, tell them to seek vocal help and then reaudtion.
I'd be interested to hear the other reponses you get, if you get a chance to
Cynthia Powell, Music Director
Christ Episcopal Church
105 Cottage Place
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Casey, this may be a bit off the point, since I'm not a conductor or
director, and WAY past being a high school student. What I can offer you is
a chorister's viewpoint. FWIW, I think that if your ensemble is auditioned
in the first place, you absolutely should continue the annual audition
policy. Doing so does not mean that you have to reject anyone who has
already auditioned in (unless, of course, some disaster has befallen the
person that renders him or her unsuitable), but it allows you the
opportunity to find out whose voice is maturing into a different
color/range, who has become weaker or stronger and in what area (so you can
seat singers accordingly), and generally to become familiar with each
individual voice in the group. For the same reasons, I think you should
continue the reaudition policy even if membership is not auditioned
Just my two cents ... and good luck, whatever you decide! Sue Noble
The reason why a conductor would re-audition each member of a middle
school or high school choir is this: over time, voices change,
(especially during the teen years) and this is one way to monitor the
changes in the voices.
I have never been in any ensemble worth a darn where one was in forever,
once admitted. Re-auditioning, even if it is simply an exercise because the
musicianship, work ethic and voice was there, seems a proper thing to do in
my opinion. I always re-auditioned singers for every ensemble, including the
general school chorus. I have had semi-professional ensembles and college
and high school groups. Re-auditioning kept more drive on the part of the
singer and let them know that being part of the ensemble is a privilege, not
a right. It also helped me to chart the progress of each individual........
By the way, I am 56.
It has been my policy that once your in your in, but the downside
of that policy is that some years you have "slim pickins" in talent
so you may lower the bar in order to get a decent sized ensemble.
You then have these students as long as they want to be in choir or
until they graduate. The following year you may have a "bumper crop" of
new talented students and then you are faced with a choice: do you
not accept some of the new students, who may clearly be better singers
than some of the present choir members, in order to maintain the size
of the group or do you let the choir skyrocket in size? This last scenario
is what I am faced with this year.
I am not aware of many high school choirs that have students reaudition
each year but I have never really enquired about this. I do know that many
college choirs use this policy of reauditioning all students each year.
Marshall High School
When I was in school, singing in choirs or playing in orchestra was part of the
class work, so there was no audition - if you were in the class, you were in 1
or more performance groups. Mostly placement was according to what grade you
were in, but sometimes students in lower grades were invited to join senior
groups or the chamber orchestra, and as long as we did the work & kept up with
the older kids, we were allowed to stay.
In church & community choirs, most of them have been one audition at the
beginning, although one had a new director who changed the policy to require
annual auditions. I go along with it, because I am a long-time member & don't
want to look for another choir, but I don't like the new policy at all.
I re-audition every year for several reasons:
1. It allows me to monitor students' vocal progress and make
sure I hear them individually in a non-stressful, more relaxed
environment, when I can really assess any troubles. I do hear
them individually quite a bit during rehearsals, but there are
a lot of other things going on at that point; this allows me
2. If a student has a work ethic problem, it allows me to talk
one-on-one with them to let them know my expectations. Also,
if they have previously had difficulties and things are not
working out, this allows me to move them to another place if
needed. There may be a new student coming into the program who
deserves a place in a limited-size group, if a veteran who has
had the chance hasn't been productive (poor attendance, not
working, bad attitude, etc.).
3. It allows me to more quickly make vocal assignments for
various pieces we're working on; I know which basses have a
beautiful high "d", for example, or which sopranos have a light
floaty top as opposed to a bigger, fuller sound. This gives
me the range of possibilities to consider as I develop my
working plans for the music.
4. I can assess each students' reading abilities, and make any
adjustments to my daily rehearsal plans that are needed.
Many students and administrators do not realize the benefits
of auditioning the singers individually each year, but from an
educational point of view, there are a lot of things you can
accomplish through the audition process that will make the
rest of your year much smoother. Good luck! M.Hulley-Frazier,
Loyola University New Orleans (and yes, I did audition my high
school choirs each year too!)
Re your question:
I have three choir groups I am in charge of:
I offer a credit course choir class at the University of Toronto at
Scarborough - there I feel it necessary to audition every potential candidate
each session to ensure the best candidates are accepted. It also gives me the
opportunity to evaluate the progress and development of each candidate.
I am also incharge of a community chamber choir which has a very challenging
program each year - I feel totally justified with the reaudition process. It
is also a relatively new choir and most participants come from a long line of
choral experience and only want the best for the group.
However, I am in charge of a volunteer church choir - here I am of the oppinion
that every member has his or her right to express themselves - the audition
process would be much more difficult to justify - I pass on the evaluation to a
much greater judge - I figure in this case I am sent the candidates and it is
my evaluation to make the best of what I am given.
Hope this helps.
I reaudtion my choirs every year, not so much because I expect people who
were in the group last year not to make it (experience is important), but
because it is an easy way to keep track of progress and to get updated info.
on my singers. I think it is also good to get them used to the audition
process because if they want to sing in a college choir they will have to
audition every year.
On the other hand, if you have a huge program, it might not be practical to
audition every person for every choir. I can certainly see that point of
view as well.
If I were new, I would certainly want to audition everyone to make sure I
thought they were singing the correct part and that they were not having
any vocal difficulties. If I had been there, I would probably consider
their end-of-the-year evaluation as their audition for the next year. In
any case, I would want to hear every student once or twice a year.
My policy is that once you are in a group, if you are in good standing in that
group you don't have to reaudition. If, however, the student is having
problems or isn't towing the line, then I want that kid to be re-evaluated.
Choral Musi Director
Goddard High School
Every ensemble I have sung in and all that I conduct have auditions every
year. Generally, once accepted to a large ensemble, the reaudition is more of
a skills-growth assessment and assurance to the conductor that the singer is in
the right section than an actual audition. For more advanced or select
ensembles, especially at the collegiate level, it is to assure that the
membership really is your top readers/singers or whatever criteria you use.
The element of "spot security" is not as great as in a large ensemble, but it
is still there since it is assumed that once accepted to the group you will
work at the level of the group and grow. However, having such auditions every
year gives the conductor an opening to replace singers who haven't worked at
the appropriate level or who might be great singers but have horrible
attitudes, rehearsal attendance, poor ettiqute, etc. (The conductor usually
talks to the singer about it before posting audition results.) Also, as a
singer I have found auditions -- even in high school -- helped students realize
that they can also succeed and be in the top group even if they aren't the ones
chosen to sing the solos or leads in the musicals... and it helps keep
that "teacher's pet" attitude at bay if everyone has to meet a certain criteria.
Even community choruses that I have sung in have held auditions
or "interviews." It just assures the conductor that the singers can match
pitch, have a rudimentary understanding of how to get around a score (is the
melody going up or down?) and helps him/her decide if the singer is a S1 or 2,
T2 or baritone, etc.
Suzanne M. Hatcher
DMA Candidate & Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Miami
Director of Music, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ, Miami
I've experienced it all ways...
In 5 years of teaching, I used the "once you're in, you're in policy."
At Hartwick College Summer Music Festival, the kids have to reaudition, not
only every year, but every session, being that the personnel changes. Once in
a while, this does unfortunately mean that a previous member gets bumped
(though we try to avoid that and be flexible whenever possible)
In both high school and college, I experienced a "reaudition every year"
policy, but it was more of a formality. Frankly, I find this very useful, as
it is always helpful to hear how people have improved since their
last "audition" a year ago, and especially at that age, the changes from year
to year can be quite pronounced. I see nothing wrong with making kids audition
again, provided one is sensitive and tries to look ahead (for example, if I
know that a large crop of talented freshmen is coming up, I might make my group
smaller so that I don't run the risk of having to bump too many people or leave
out really talented ones the next year).
Maybe you could use the opportunity to listen to everyone's voices to see
who has grown and changed, pick out any problems so you can help anyone who
might need it. Change it from an audition to a "vocal check-in." Then
again, who has time for that? I'll bet that the last director thought 1.
It was beneficial for kids to audition in a fairly safe environment - good
experience for the future, or 2. Wanted to get rid of kids who were
attendance problems or something like that, or 3. Really was interested in
hearing who he had before the semester started - get a jump start on placing
voices in sections, figuring out who was not coming back, for whatever
reason, setting the blend.
But, regardless, you should absolutely do what works for you.
Treble by Nature
I used to follow the "once-you're-in" philosophy (at the college level) until I
experienced one of the worst years of my professional life dealing with a choir
that sat on their haunches and did little to improve themselves for the entire
year. At the end of the season I refused to register anyone into the course for
the following year and made everyone re-audition--and I cleaned house. Since
I have had minimal problems with motivation. Spending the time is a hassle,
protects you. And one other remark: it is not a bad thing for students to
how to handle auditions; it is a skill like any other, and those who do it more
than once will be in better shape once they leave your program.
Although it is time consuming, I have found the every year reaudition policy
to be very healthy and helpful. I have used it with community-based choirs
as well as a cathedral choir that was about half professional (paid) and
half very dedicated amateur.
>From a vocal standpoint, it gave me an opportunity to assess the current
state of each instrument, in some cases make recommendations for some
specific vocal work (including in a couple of cases, suggesting vocal rest
for a period of time), and in all cases reaffirm the progress being made or
note specific needs. From a musical standpoint it offered an opportunity to
assess whether musical skills were improving and evaluate new challenges or
retrenching in my choices of repertoire.
But most importantly, it was a "no-fault" opportunity to discuss how the
ensemble's goals and the individual's goals were aligned. The individual
had an opportunity to voice any concerns or suggestions, and if they wanted
a change for some reason, the scheduling of an annual audition gave them an
opportunity to speak their mind or withdraw gracefully for whatever reason.
Although the need to remove a singer for any serious reason would most
likely have happened already in the course of the season, if there were
musical or other issues that caused me to consider dropping a singer, the
audition was a chance to address any possible solutions, and if necessary,
drop the singer - but (almost) always with the door remaining open to future
So yes, I think the annual reaudition would be a value tradition to continue
-- much less difficult than dropping it and then starting it up again!
Charles Q. Sullivan
For my community chorus, we use the "once you're in, you're in" approach.
However, as new members are added to either fill vacancies when people leave
the chorus for whatever reason, or to "beef up" pr balance sections, the
quality of membership is gradually improving. The singers who have been around
for a long time and may be weak, soon find it difficult to keep up. They
gracefully leave, not wanting to hold the group back. It's nice because they
depart with our respect and affection and remain fans. Since current members
are part of the audition team, it is the singers themselves who have raised
their expectations. This team doesn't necessarily consist of the "best singers"
since the section leaders are chosen for their sense of responsibility,
organizational skills and willingness to perform the required tasks.
We have also found that voluntary sectionals have been a tremendous boon to
self-improvement. Our policy is that any number of folks can call a sectional
if they will attend and plan it themselves. If a majority of a section will be
present, I will attend and help them conduct it. I believe sectionals have
prevented the loss of some who have nice voices, but have problems reading
music or with choreography.
Hope this helps. I'd love to see your compilation of responses from this
super, responsive list!
Susan A. Zierman
Chesapeake Community Chorus
11738 Hilltop Road
Lusby MD 20657
Web Page: www.geocities.com/chesapeakecommunitychorus/
I direct a community-based youth chorus. The choristers must audition when
they are ready to move from one level to the next. If they are staying in the
same level, the director does an evaluation at the end of the year. Once they
get into the top ensemble, I do hear all first-year members if they are going
to return the following year. I will also re-audition any members who I
think are not working to their best ability. It lets them know that they must
forth their best work, and not just rely on those around them. Hope this
New Jersey Youth Chorus
I have always had the policy of "once you're in, you're in." However, I am
reconsidering. Last year (02-03), I had an incredibly talented group of
freshman. The previous year the freshman were very weak. This meant that when
I did auditions last year, there were some singers that did not make the top
choir that had higher skills than some of the sophomores who were in by
One option I am considering is re-auditioning the top choir's sophomores. That
way I don't have to spend as much time auditioning, and the students that will
be seniors do not have to face not being in the top choir when they have been
Another consideration is size. This is my third year at Sartell, and I have
continued the tradition of a large top choir (70+). However, many students
were not able to go on tour this year, which made a choir of around 40. I
LOVED it. The discipline was great, and the intonation was incredible. I am
considering cutting the choir size down considerably, probably to around 50.
This will mean that some members will not be returning. I can only do this
through re-auditioning at least part of the choir.
Sartell High School
As a former high school teacher, I'd say you might want to stick to the "old
policy" for the first year, because changing everything at once tends to make
the kids turn against you. On the UP side, an audition will make sure you know
everyone's individual voice...an absolute necessity.
Dr. David Means
Los Angeles Chamber Choir
Casey: Annual auditions for everyone is a good idea. Voices, esp. the
younger ones, will frequently change over the period of a few months.
Perhaps you need not call it an "audition" but a "voice check" or a
voice-placement check" or whatever you choose.
Charles E. Ruzicka, D.M.A.
Choral Music Department
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Moorhead, MN 56563
I state in my chorus handbook that nobody is permanently placed. Yes, I
audition all of them the week after spring break--to voice my new ensembles,
and check their sight singing skills. I do not call it an audition, but rather
a vocal evaluation/placement session. It also gives me a chance to have a one-
on-one conversation, asking the students their reasons for wanting to be a part
of certain organizations.
Landstown High School
Virginia BEach, VA
Hi , I have always used the policy that once you are in a select group you
continue to be in that group unless there is some change that I feel warrants
another audition. Many times I use "auditions" as a time to individually set
down the law or privately talk to one of my students. My high school mixed
chorus which is non auditioned still has a mandatory "voice class" twice a year
so I can keep tabs of sound and blend for the whole group. I hope this helps,
good luck and let me know if there are any exciting thoughts from other
directors. Thank you. Cynthia Howell, cmchowell(a)yahoo.com
I agree with both policies---- to an extent. Having the audition every year
sets a tone for the members of the ensemble that no one is indispensible and
also that no one can rest on their own laurels to ensure their spot for the
next year. However, when I do reaudition, I can give some favor to those who
have proven themselves over the course of the year, while weeding out those who
may not have given their all.
One more thing to think about: If you're going to change tradiditon, do it
now. Next year I think is too late. Just my opinion.
Scott A. Houchins
Atlantic Community High School
Delray Beach, FL
I think it's a good policy to reaudition people. Our "Choir of the
North" conductor at University of Alaska Fairbanks used to have
everyone audition along with any potential new people, because people
voices may have changed over the school year or over the summer.
Also, it refreshed his memory as to the timbre of the various voices
and how they fit into the section for seating. You don't need to put
"performance pressure" on anyone; just let them know WHY you're
reauditioning people. It makes sense to me, anyway.
Ann Kapp Andersen
While part of it was listening for and seeing growth in a singer's voice, re-
auditioning every year for choral members also allows students to become
familiar with audition policies, procedures, etc. for when they are audition
for shows, all-state, colleges, etc. Good luck!
Director, Kennedale High School Choirs
I am a second year teacher. I have 8 choirs, the main choirs which are the
concert choir, men's choir and women's choir are non auditioned, everyone who
joins choir is in those groups. The other 5 choirs are by audition only and
students are required to audition for those every year. Auditioning is a good
way to get to know your singers, and you will find out one on one what they can
do with their voices.
I always re-audition singers for every ensemble. It keeps them fresh!
However, discipline and motivation are the only real reasons I would remove a
Santa Monica High School
Santa Monica, CA
All my various ensembles have always been "dead man's shoes"
ensembles. In other words, once you're in, you're in, given good
behavior, and the only openings are when someone leaves. In a school
situation that works well, because someone is always leaving. It
also works well in a professional situation like Chanticleer, because
there is real musical value in retaining members who know what is
expected and have the ability to produce it.
But what we are comfortable with shouldn't really affect what you do.
You are new, you may make any changes in policy that you are
comfortable with, and that's the way it will be. So, what are you
John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
I taught high school choral music for a number of years before moving to
the college level. I reauditioned every year. Here are a few reasons:
1. You get to know your students better.
2. You get to see how they are progressing. Sometimes a student would
exhibit remarkable progress, and I had the chance in the audition to
compliment and encourage the student. Sometimes you don't even know how
much a student has progressed until you hear him/her alone.
3. It is a sign of fairness from you as the director. If you have a set
number of positions, are you picking the best ones for those spots, or are
you only filling in the holes of those who have graduated? I had a madrigal
group when I taught high school. The size needed to remain relatively
small, otherwise it would no longer be a madrigal group. I may have had
only 20 to 24 spots. I owed it to the students to pick the best 24 or the
most promising 24 from the auditions. Most often, singers who had been in
made it back in the next year, but everyone knew there was no guarantee.
There were times when someone simply got beat out. I knew that, even though
a student might get upset by not getting back in, I had tried hard to be
fair. I also videotaped every audition, so I would ask students if they
wanted to see the audition tape. Inevitably, they declined the offer.
4. It keeps everyone accountable. I will take an excited sophomore over a
senior who may be lazy.
5. If gives you the chance to make necessary changes. Sometimes a change
is needed for attitude, lack of work, etc. This is your opportunity.
5. Auditions can be (and should be) educational . An audition is another
chance to connect directly with your students. It is a time when you can
let them know they are important to you. It is a chance to fix a vocal
problem. It is a time to suggest things a student can do in the upcoming
year. It is a time to get students excited about the future. It is a time
to let students know you are on their side.
6. I was directing a program in which an ensemble was performing for a
major convention every year. My expectations for the groups were high, and
I wanted students to know of my expectations. They knew that membership in
the ensembles was a privilege, and that each year membership would be
reevaluated. I never used that as a threat - but they knew that their level
of participation was important to the good of the ensemble.
I was never trying to audition students out of the ensembles. My large
concert choir had over 100 students. I also had six other choirs, some of
them quite elite and others for those with less training or experience.
There was a place for anyone.
These are a few random thoughts in no particular order. Please don't copy
all of this to the list. I took auditioning very seriously, and my students
did as well. Now that I am at the college level, I still take it very
seriously. When a student blows off an audition, it tells me something
about their attitude and/or work ethic.
Director of Choral Activities
University of Louisville
I tell my students that every day is an audition. Their
attitude, work ethic etc... Because you are the new kid
on the block, I would suggest you use the former
"audition" tradition to meet your new students. The less
you change at first the better. Then dismiss the
tradition for next year.
I always re-audition.
It keeps a sense of professionalism and value to being in the group. If they
are good they will have no issues, it keeps the mediocre either trying harder
or leaving, and helps you get rid of bad eggs, though I haven't had one yet.
I don't believe in tenured choral positions!
just my 2 cents.
I hear everyone in all my ensembles every year. (School, semi-pro ensembles,
and community chorus) I call them "vocal evaluations." I reformat them each
year to "test" for different things. In reality, it's a reaudition for me, the
conductor, to see how I'm doing and make certain that what I think I'm teaching
is being learned. It also allows me to track the progress of each singer as
they mature and catch potential vocal issues early on. Often, I record these
(audio and/or video), and have the singers come back and listen to their
evaluation while reading my comments. It's very time consuming, but it has
What this tells me is that the group was highly competitive, and
extremely difficult to be admitted. Consequently, the conductor could
insist on this practice and have sufficient cache to be successful. In
the long term, you will be better served, in my view, to continue this
practice, and you'll have a better choir. This gives you an opportunity
at every audition period to sift out those who for one reason or
another, you do not wish to continue.
If nothing else...
It prepares them for the real world. There are few choirs that will accept
anyone and everyone (possibly church choirs and other volunteer) without an
audition. It is good for them to "practice" auditioning as well. It truly is
a skill in itself, whether it be for a chorus, solo, or musical theatre
Also in the real world is the possibility that they may not be asked to return
at some point. As a choir grows and evolves, the weaker ones will become
dispensible. That's life.
I'm glad you're asking as I would like to see what others have to say about
this. I teach in a middle school and have auditions every year. However,
until this year, it's pretty much been "once you're in you're in." This year I
did not readmit some members because their auditions did not measure up. In
some cases there were attendance or attitude problems that accompanied the poor
auditions. Even though I've done it, I feel a little heartless to do this in
I do not admit everyone who auditions. I know some middle school teachers do
find a place for everyone, just as elementary teachers do. I would like to
know what others think about this. Please be sure I get on the response list.
Take Note Show Choir
Kettering Middle School
3000 Glengarry Drive
Kettering, OH 45420
I have always re-auditioned my choirs every year.
First, it's a chance to hear each student individually
and see how they have progressed (if at all). It also
gives you a chance to see if any problems are
Second, it lets the students/singers know that they
still have to work hard to be a member...and that they
can't slack off once they've gotten into the group.
Last, it gives you an opportunity to get rid of
students if they begin to become a problem.
In reality, it may be that "once the students are in,
they're in", but I wouldn't ever let them know that!
Director of Choirs
Brookline (MA) High School
Director, Saengerfest Men's Chorus, Boston
Asst. Director, Masterworks Chorale, Boston
In that case, the only possible purpose I can see in re-auditioning would be
to keep them on their toes, aware that they need to keep up a certain
standard in order to remain in the choir. - i.e., you could exclude someone
on the basis of an audition, and it would be seen to be fair. But I'm sure
there are other, less time-consuming ways of chekcing on people's abilities
and excluding those who don't pull their weitght.
Director, Macquarie University Singers
2109 NSW Australia