College audition season is now in full swing. If you are a high school senior (or the parent or teacher of one), you are surely in the thick of it! We send you love and wishes for a calm and successful time.
The college audition process has changed drastically in the last few years. The shear number of students auditioning for musical theatre programs, in particular, has skyrocketed, forcing schools to find new ways to sort through the ever-larger pool of applicants. Because of the tight competition, it’s not unusual for students to be auditioning for 15-25 schools! (by comparison, when we were auditioning for college, the average was 3-5.)
If you are just at the beginning of your college audition journey, here are a few of the things that have changed and how they may effect your college audition process:
PrescreensMany colleges, conservatories, and universities now require you to submit a prescreen audition to decide whether you will be offered an in-person audition. A prescreen is simply a recorded version of your audition. Prescreen auditions are now requested as early as August which means choosing and preparing audition material as early as Spring of your Junior year. Chances are you will have to shoot several different prescreens based on each program’s requirements, so read each school’s video submission guidelines carefully.
In June 2019, Paper Mill Playhouse and the online arts platform Acceptd announced a partnership for a Musical Theatre Common Prescreen. This means you can use the same prescreen material for multiple schools, which is great news. These institutions settled on given guidelines to initiate a streamlined process for both applicants and schools as well as to promote inclusivity in the admittance process. As of today, 49 top tier university musical theatre programs have signed on and more will most certainly be joining in the coming months. Visit Papermill’s Common Musical Theater Common Pre-screen Criteria website for a list of schools participating and the most up-to-date information.
It’s important to note that prescreens are not only being used to help secure a live audition slot, but also as a reminder for faculty of a student’s skill as final acceptance decisions are being made. For this reason, it’s very important prescreens be polished and represent you to the best of your abilities.
One of the positive changes to the college audition process has been the amount of schools adding musical theatre programs. There are currently over 130 college level musical theatre programs in the US offering Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Arts degrees. More programs mean more options. Do your homework. When you go on tours, ask questions about the performance opportunities (can freshman perform?), look at the facilities (are there adequate practice rooms? Are the theatre seats old and torn), watch a show. The elite “bumper sticker” schools may only accept 12-30 for their incoming freshman class, but by researching some of the newer schools, you may find a growing program that’s a good fit for you.
More Ways to Audition
Auditioning for college used to mean you had to travel to the school. Now some schools let you submit video auditions, there are regional auditions, and there are Unifieds.
Unifieds (officially National Unified Auditions) are a musical theatre audition held every year in several cities around the country where multiple colleges, universities, theatre programs, and conservatories hold auditions over two to three days for their incoming classes. Most schools require students to apply for slots ahead of time, or to submit prescreens, while others leave room for walk-in slots (Check out our article on BroadwayWorld.com, “Everything You Need to Know About Unified Auditions“).
There are definitely pros and cons to attending Unifieds and only you can decide if the environment is one where you feel you can present your best self. On the plus side: The adjudicators at Unifieds are all current faculty. They are eager to talk about their programs and what sets their school apart. A downside: Unifieds are a mad house. There are lines, it’s hot, and there are people EVERYWHERE! It is definitely not the kind of environment where all young performers can thrive.
Diversity / Inclusion
The makeup of college and university musical theatre programs are finally changing. Diversity, in all the ways we are made diverse, is finally being recognized and recruited. This is, of course, a good thing. But do your research and check “under the hood” to make sure that the school’s diversity initiative continues once the student is enrolled. What courses is the program offering to deal with the different cultures and experiences of the student body? Are all students being given the same performance opportunities? Does the faculty reflect the student body in terms of diversity?
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There’s a lot of information to collect and balance when choosing schools and preparing your auditions. But it is worth the time to make sure your time and energy land you in a school and a program where you will get the training you need. The updated edition of our book, “Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent” walks you through the whole college audition process. It’s available now on Amazon.
Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 600+ songs by 180+ writers, all searchable by voice and song type. Annual, Monthly, 3-Day and institutional memberships are available.
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