How Kids Can Prepare For Vocal Auditions

Is your child ready to step up from singing in the shower, or in private vocal lessons, to auditioning for choir, or a musical?

The audition process can be a nerve-wracking experience for even the most seasoned performers. Even if your child has performed in a recital before, an audition is a much different atmosphere. For children, it often feels overwhelming – after all, it takes a lot of courage to share your skills with a room full of people judging you. Before your child takes the stage, there are a lot of ways you can help your young star prepare – with everything from song choices, to outfits and a positive mindset.

Your child can follow these tips to set up for a smooth audition that will highlight his or her talent in the best way possible.

Choose the Right Song

Selecting the right song is one of the most important decisions for any audition. Check the audition notice for specific details about song requirements, or restrictions. In many cases, you will be asked to sing two songs – an up-tempo song, and a ballad – to display your vocal range, and personality. It’s important to select material that’s appropriate for your child’s age, and singing ability. Most directors agree to stay away from singing a song from the show you’re auditioning for, at least until callbacks; but it’s a good idea to choose a song in the same genre as that musical.

Avoid singing an original composition (it’s harder for directors to assess your vocal talent if they don’t recognize what you’re singing), a popular song that many other kids might choose, and the ubiquitous “Happy Birthday” song. Most importantly, choose a song you enjoy singing – you want to show off your best self, so don’t force a song that you don’t like.

Prepare Your Music

In most cases, auditioners will be asked to sing about 16 bars of a song, which is only around 30 seconds of singing. Be prepared to sing those 16 bars, but also prepare the entire song, in case you are asked to do so. It’s also wise to prepare a couple of “backup songs,” as sometimes a director will ask you to sing a second, or third song. Call ahead to ask if you will have an accompanist, or whether you should bring recorded music with you. If you will be singing with sheet music, make sure it’s in the right key for an accompanist. Clearly mark where your 16 bars begin and end.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You’ll have about 30 seconds to show what you can do, so in order to make most of those seconds, you need to practice until you shine. Research the song, the composer, and the time period to help you understand the way the piece should be delivered. Don’t be afraid to use your body language, and facial expressions, to convey the meaning of your song.

Learn the words and notes so well that you don’t even have to think about them while you sing. Try practicing in front of a mirror, and then in front of family and friends. Ask for their feedback, and listen carefully to their ideas and suggestions. The more you go through the motions of performing your piece, the better (and more comfortable) you’ll be. If necessary, consult a vocal coach for assistance with technical aspects of your performance.

Dress Appropriately

Wear clothing that you feel good in, and that allows you to move comfortably. You can show some of your personality with your clothing choices, but don’t go overboard. You want the directors to remember your voice; not your outfit.

Avoid wearing revealing styles (such as low-cut tops or very short skirts), baseball hats, ripped clothing, and distracting jewelry or accessories. Wash and comb you hair prior to the audition, and make sure it won’t cover your eyes or face while you perform. It’s very distracting if you’re playing with, or fixing, your hair constantly as you sing – it also doesn’t give a good impression of your abilities as a stage performer. When you practice in front of a mirror, or in front of your family, wear your hair in the same way you’ll wear it for the real audition. That way, you can take note if your hairdo is cramping your vocal performance, and adjust it accordingly.

Arrive Early

Plan to arrive early for your audition time. The extra time will allow you to stretch, warm up, and feel a bit more centered before you sing. Take into consideration potential traffic, and parking time, when you determine the best time to leave home for your audition. Being late for an audition could cost you the part. Remember, a choir or musical cast is a team – so it’s important to demonstrate that you can be good team player.

Bring a Headshot and Resume

While it may not be required for your audition, bringing along a headshot and a resume adds a professional touch. This can also go a long way towards helping directors remember you. A headshot should be a clear, recent photo of your face and shoulders. The photo should look like you, and be age appropriate – don’t use a headshot from five years ago. You can print the 8.5×11 headshot with your resume on the back, if you want to save on paper.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much experience to go on your resume. Summarize what experience you do have – including classes, camps, and school performances. Include contact information and personal details such as age, height, and weight. Research sample resumes, and tips for creating a solid audition resume.

Don’t Talk Too Much

Many of us fall into this trap – when we’re nervous, we have a tendency to talk too much, or too quickly. The folks running your audition will be seeing many kids in one day, and they’re on a tight schedule. They want to see what you can do. Don’t make things complicated, by discussing the trouble you had finding the right entrance, or the sniffles you woke up with that morning.

If you mess up, skip the excuses and don’t apologize; simply ask if you can start over. Again, the directors running your audition just want to hear you sing. Messing up a song doesn’t ruin your chances of getting the part, but spending precious time saying you’re sorry a few dozen times could.

Act Confident (Even If You Don’t Feel It)

Breathe slowly and deeply before you get on the stage; before you begin, pause to smile at the people at the casting table. Tell them your full name, as well as the title, composer, and artist associated with your song. Then, if your accompanist is ready, “take a beat” (a deep breath) before repositioning yourself, and beginning your song. These pauses are important – they help you to gear up, and keep your nerves calm, for your performance. They also help to increase self-esteem and give the appearance of confidence. Practice doing it this way at home, in front of your family. The pauses don’t feel as awkward for the audience as they do for you – we promise.

When you finish your song, listen carefully to what the directors ask you to do next – and do what they say. If you don’t understand, it’s perfectly fine to ask questions. Be sure to thank them when the audition is over.

Every Audition Counts

Keep in mind that there are many factors involved in casting decisions, and remind your child (and yourself) of this before and after audition day. If your child doesn’t get the part she wants, it doesn’t mean she’s not talented. Different children learn and progress at different paces, and as a parent, it’s important to keep realistic expectations for your child.

Even if your young star delivers a stellar performance, there are countless reasons a director may choose someone else for the part. Encourage your child to stay positive; you can learn something helpful from every audition experience. Instead of viewing a missed part as a failure, look at it as an opportunity – ask your child what he learned in this audition that he can bring to the next one. Help him get excited about the fact that with every audition, good or bad, he’s honing his skills for success. The more you audition, the less scary it becomes – and the closer you get to nailing your perfect part.

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