Open Letter Regarding Auditions

This letter was first published 10 Sept 2011.

To anybody who is considering auditioning for any musical group:

Just as we’ve done most years since the group’s founding, LM A Cappella auditions are coming up later this year. In my time as a teacher I’ve talked to a lot of students about auditions, and after noticing some common themes, I thought I’d address them in an open forum.

Should I Audition?
This is a question that a lot of students ask themselves, and occasionally they’ll even ask me. My answer is simple. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be in this group?” If the answer is “yes”, then you should audition. It does not matter what your opinion of your own skill is. It does not matter how strong you think the competition is. It doesn’t even matter… The point here is that if you want something, you have to be willing to go out for it, even at the risk of not making it.

I should also say that while nobody can ever guarantee a spot in a group, if by some chance I notice that you’re a pretty good singer who might enjoy LMAC I won’t hesitate to recommend it to you.

What do you look for in an audition? / What song should I sing?
When you come in for your audition, I’m looking at a number of things. Of course, I need to hear what your voice sounds like. I’m looking for how high and low you can sing with good sound. I’m looking for how you use your voice in the context of the group’s style. So what song should you choose? I can get the information I need from literally anything, but it’s easiest if you’re singing the type of song that we tend to perform in LMAC groups. I’m also interested in knowing how well you sightread, how you would fit in with each group’s mix of personalities, and how comfortable you are performing. What’s most important in the audition is that you be yourself. If you’re nervous, that’s ok. If you’re confident, that’s fine too. It’s important that what I see is a true portrayal of yourself.

How many spots are open?
Every spot is auditioned every year. Nobody gets a free pass. Nobody. Statistically speaking, most people who were in the group previously are also selected in subsequent years. There’s a very good reason for that. If you’ve spent a year or more in LMAC, you’ve learned a lot about a cappella. That experience is valuable, and cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, there have been several instances in the past where LMAC veterans (and very good musicians!) either grew complacent or just had bad luck in their audition and lost their place to new singers. If anything, I hold LMAC veterans to a higher standard because of their experience.

Does LMAC conflict with sports or Players?
To be quite honest, yes. However, I am willing to work with coaches to create a compromise that allows you to participate in both and virtually every coach I have encountered is flexible as well.  This is doubly true for Players. Statistically speaking, about 80% of LMAC members participate in either a sport or Players, and there has only been one person who was unable to continue participation in both sports/Players because of the conflicts (<1%). Certain non-LM-affiliated organizations may be less flexible, but I am willing to be quite flexible (within reason) in order to allow students with conflicts to participate.

I didn’t get in last year.  Should I bother auditioning again?
Yes! In fact, you’d be crazy not to! You don’t know why you didn’t get in last year. It could be that you were well-qualified and I just didn’t have the space. It could be that I liked where you were headed but felt like you would benefit from another year of maturation before singing with the group. Maybe you just had a bad audition last year.

There are other reasons why you should audition again. I should point out that when I first auditioned for an a cappella group in college, I didn’t get in. Less than two years later I was actually directing that group. There are people I know (excellent singers!) who needed two, three, even four tries to get into a group. Can you imagine what a powerful statement it is to keep coming back again and again like that? That type of perseverance and dedication does not go unnoticed.

What if I don’t get in this year?
That’s a tough question to answer. The truth is that if you don’t get in, then nothing I can say will make you feel better about it. Remember it’s not a statement on your musicianship. There are a fixed number of places, and every year there are qualified singers who are left out.

As disappointing as it is for everybody who doesn’t get in, I truly believe that the people who are not selected for a group are integral to the success of LMAC. Knowing that there are people hungry for places in LMAC drives everybody to a higher level of performance in both auditions and in the groups. You may not have gotten into a group this year, but you fueled the competition that makes the group better. Before every performance both Ace Harmony and Ace’s Angels have a tradition that honors, among others, everybody who tried out and didn’t get in. Don’t believe me? Ask anybody who’s been in the groups.

Auditioning for anything takes a lot of nerve, and I have a lot of respect for anybody who steps in the room, no matter the result. Best of luck to everybody!


Joshua Hunnex