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help with strategy for VP audition schedule

SoundMomSoundMom Registered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
edited December 2010 in Music Major
This is my first time posting on the music forum thread though I've been reading all your helpful comments for some time. My S is applying to schools as a VP major (bass). He has already applied to 7 schools and has passed the prescreen at 3 of the 4 he has heard back from so far. One school did not require a prescreen because he will do a regional audition. Of the 2 remaining schools, I'm guessing he will be invited to audition at one of the schools, but not the other.

S is also applying to 4-5 other schools with later application deadlines. They are all in the East or Midwest. Most of these schools will accept a recorded audition from applicants who live more than 500 miles away. Given how challenging it will be to travel from the Pacific Northwest for all these auditions, it is tempting to just send audition CD's. However, a couple of these schools would be a good fit for S, and I know he can't count on getting accepted at one of the conservatories. I don't want to lessen his chances.

Will these schools consider a recorded CD as a lack of interest on his part? We actually visited one of the schools last year over spring break, if that helps show interest.

My other concern with recorded CD's is that I think my S makes a much better impression in person than on paper. He has a gradually improving GPA after a difficult freshman and sophomore year. (He's a bit ADD.) However, he takes challenging AP classes, is very bright, articulate and interesting, and has some strong EC's and letters of recommendation. He is also a very good sight reader.

Any advice is appreciated. I don't want to list all the schools right now, but am happy to PM them if that helps with advice.

Thanks to all you regular posters for your comments and help. I'm one of those non-musicians parents and would have been lost without this forum.
Post edited by SoundMom on

Replies to: help with strategy for VP audition schedule

  • sopranomom92sopranomom92 Registered User Posts: 1,339 Senior Member
    Judging from the fact that your S has passed pre-screen in all the places he's heard back from--I don't see why he needs to apply to so many places. As you can see, it's very challenging to get it all done. Does he have any schools on his list that are "easier" admits? If he has one of these, it seems that 7 or 8 schools will be plenty.

    I think voice applicants do better in person--the performance includes facial expression, body carriage, and communication with the audience, not just the voice. The competition is definitely less for male applicants, but still, I can't see the value in a taped audition over live. Many schools will accept DVD's, and that might show a more accurate representation of his performance. I'd cut back the number of applications to something that will yield no more that 5 or 6 auditions if possible. Has he visited these programs or had lessons anywhere? He can get great feedback from potential teachers that way--maybe gauge his chances, and see if a program offers what he'd like.
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    Good point, sopranomom92. While we had one young lady on CC who was accepted at no fewer than fourteen schools last year, more than about five or six live auditions can be quite tiring. All the travel, stress, missed classes and delayed homework start to pile up and make it increasingly harder to get ready for that next audition.

    One strategy is to apply to ten or so schools and then pare down the list based on the results of the first audition or two. My daughter applied to ten, had live auditions scheduled at nine and wound up actually auditioning at five. She withdrew applications from four schools that were lower on her list after being accepted in December by one of her top choices. Had she been rejected by that first school, she may well have tried to audition at all of the remaining eight. I am glad it did not come to that.
  • stradmomstradmom Registered User Posts: 4,977 Senior Member
    Of course, if he sends CDs/DVDs, then he doesn't have to worry about the stress of doing the live auditions at those schools and might be given scholarships (if that is a concern).
  • violindadviolindad Registered User Posts: 933 Member
    Yes, doing more than about 7 live auditions is too much for almost any student, especially when there is extensive travel involved (and some would limit the number of live auditions to 5 or 6). Vocalists need to especially watch their health and voice; too many auditions can tire them out and render them more susceptible to illness and throat issues.

    There is no harm in applying to many schools, and then, withdrawing applications as you get feedback as to your son's chances (and a clearer sense of what an ideal school would be which often comes after two or three auditions). You have some positive feedback already, having passed three of the four prescreens that you have heard from.

    The conventional wisdom is that auditioning in person is preferable to a recorded audition. Given your remote location, schools are less likely to interpret the failure to do a live audition as a lack of interest, whereas if they received a recorded audition from someone 600 or 700 miles away, they would be more likely to conclude that the interest was lacking.

    I would try to audition live at your son's top choices and try to schedule the auditions so as to minimize the flights east. It would be well worth calling the schools to explain the situation; some schools will do their best to accommodate you, while others just can't or won't.
  • sagitersagiter Registered User Posts: 358 Member
    DD is a flutist and we have 6 auditions to do, one is down so 5 left. Like DS did two years ago, my DD auditioned last week at her first choice. If she gets in we will cancel the rest.
  • Singersmom07Singersmom07 Registered User Posts: 4,168 Senior Member
    One of the 4 students in DD's class was a CD only audition. She is from out of country and TX was just too far away and timing too tight to do in person. Maybe an exception, but does happen. She has a good scholarship. too.

    DD did 7 auditions, gave up the last one (would have been 8) . Too much without anymore interest in the last one.
  • SoundMomSoundMom Registered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments and advice.

    I've been hanging out on the theatre forum for too long, where many students audition at 8-12 schools and sometimes come away with no acceptances.

    I'm still feeling very uncertain about this process. I took S to visit quite a few schools last year when he was a junior. My S's private voice teacher at the time said S had a lot of bad habits, technical problems, etc .and should pursue jazz studies instead of classical voice. When we went to visit schools, I did not suggest scheduling lessons because I did not want S to make a "bad" impression on potential teachers. S switched voice teachers, participated in a summer intensive program and feels he has made so much progress recently. His current private voice teacher and his long-time choir director both have confidence in him. However, we don't have any input from voice teachers at conservatories where he applied and I don't know what I should read into the prescreen results. Everything I've read on this forum says that the percentage of applicants who pass prescreens varies depending on school, voice/instrument and number of applicants that year. Would it be safe to assume, if he passed the prescreens , that he would have a pretty good chance at a less competitive program? I'd like to follow the advice to limit him to 6-7 auditions, (4-5 based on prescreen results, 1-2 that don't require a prescreen) but want to make sure that he has a realistic chance to get into a good program that is also a good fit for him.

    (BTW, my son never finished the paperwork at the one school where he was not invited to audition. It was a last minute addition to his list , and life got complicated by a snow/ice storm that closed schools and shut down our city. S did not have a complete application at the time the prescreen results were sent, so we don't know if the rejection was based on lack of talent or lack of paperwork.)

    Again, thanks for your help.
  • violindadviolindad Registered User Posts: 933 Member
    I think that it would be relatively rare for a musician to audition at 8 to 12 schools and get no acceptances (unless they received very bad advice from their teachers as to what schools to apply to); while it probably happens occasionally, I have never heard of it (but, of course, people are less likely to broadcast their failures).

    Given that your child is a male vocalist, his chances are probably several times as good as a soprano's. There are several sopranos applying for every bass that applies for music.

    Generally only the more competitive programs have prescreens, so if your son makes it through most or all of his prescreens, that makes it likely that he will get some acceptances from less competitive programs. The key, of course, is to make sure that he has applied to at least a couple of less competitive programs which would be a good fit for him and that he would be happy attending.

    My son sent in a recorded audition to one less competitive school. He was accepted, received the acceptance almost three months before he heard from the April 1 schools, and was awarded about thirty thousand per year in merit money. This along with another early acceptance helped take the pressure and anxiety out of the months leading up to April 1. So if your son has schools on his list that do rolling acceptances or make early decisions, that will be helpful.

    You may want to try to schedule trial lessons for when your son is at the schools auditioning. I had assumed that teachers would be too busy with auditions to fit these in, but tried anyways and found that even at the most competitive schools (Juilliard etc.), teachers were willing to fit in a lesson during the couple of days that we were around for the audition.

    At the trial lesson, your son should pose the question directly to the teacher: "What are my reasonable chances of acceptance?" While teachers can't make any promises, most will be able to give a response that gives you a fairly good idea as to where your son stands. If most of the response is about how a huge number of people apply, that there are many talented applicants, that the decision-making is difficult, then you know that the chances are slim. Such a question is probably best posed right near the end of the lesson when the parent is around, assuming that the parent comes a few minutes before the lessson's end; adults are better at reading between the lines of what is said.

    Teachers understand that part of the reason for the trial lesson, beyond: a) learning how to become a better musician; and b) learning about teacher fit, is often to get a sense of how competitive the musician is for acceptance purposes.

    I would try particularly hard to get a trial lesson or two at the first couple of live auditions. Getting early feedback will allow you to either reduce or augment the number of auditions.
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    First of all, I think you need to decompress a little bit. Have some confidence in your son and all of the professionals who have evaluated him so far. The prescreens are a necessary first step, which he is passing with one exception that may have occurred because his recording was never heard. His current teacher and long-time choral director think well of him. He is a bass, which makes him several times more likely to be accepted than a soprano would be.

    Next, consider what might happen should he not be accepted anywhere. He could continue to work for another year with his current voice teacher (with whom he has made rapid progress), sign up for language courses and some non-music electives at a local community college, take basic piano lessons if he does not already play and maybe get a part-time job to help pay for college. Alternatively, he could attend a four-year college as a non-music major for the first year, take private voice lessons and hold open the option of trying to transfer into a BM program after a semester or two.

    Neither of those scenarios would end his hopes for a career in music. Consider that lower voices tend to mature later than higher ones. At this point, it is hard to say what his voice may become by the time he will be 25 or 35. Not all singers, particularly males, go through a conservatory program as an undergraduate. You and your son have to decide if that is the best path for him, but it is certainly not the only one.

    That said, if he is passing prescreens at some of the better-known conservatories there is a decent chance of his being accepted by at least one of them and a very good chance of his being accepted by a less competitive program. I know a young soprano who had a phenomenal recording that did not pass the prescreen at any of her top choices. She eventually squeaked (pun intended) into St. Olaf (which is itself a very competitive admit, particularly for singers interested in choral music rather than opera) after being waitlisted and she thrived there.

    Hang in there. You are both in for a wild ride these next few months, but these things have a way of working out in the end.

    Note: crossposted with violindad, whose advice about trial lessons is excellent.
  • SoundMomSoundMom Registered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
    Thank you, all.

    I have a much better idea of how to advise S on the rest of the application process. There are two less competitive schools that could be a very good fit for him and I'll suggest he limit further applications to those two. (He'll be thrilled with the idea of fewer applications.)

    I've always had faith in my S (would not have spent last spring break back east in the flood if I didn't!), but my confidence was a bit shaken by the discouraging words of his former voice teacher. It's nice to be in a more positive atmosphere again.

    On a different topic, S sings his last Lessons and Carols performance of his school career tonight. He has sung 8-9 performances each holiday season since middle school, as did his older brother. We usually go to 5-6 performances each season, so this has been a big part of our Christmas for years. It's always a beautiful program, but this year it is exceptionally good. They sing Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium, which reduces all the seniors' moms to tears. (We're feeling very sentimental right now.) Director says he can't always do that piece because he doesn't have the low voices he needs. This year S and two other guys can sing the low bass part and it is it is just incredible. So lots of emotions in our family right now. Just wanted to share as I sure all of you who have gone through the high school to college experience have felt the same feelings at these transition times.

    Thanks and Happy Holidays!
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    I have sung the low part of the Lauridsen O Magnum myself and know where that director is coming from. (My screen name is partly because my daughter plays bass and partly because I sing it.) If your son is comfortable singing in that range and can do so with accurate pitch and some control over dynamics, then there is an excellent chance that there will be programs out there that want him. Schools, particularly the ones that put on operas, look for a variety of voice types for their productions and good low basses are harder to come by than baritones at that age. If he can also demonstrate a balanced upper range to about an E above middle C, I think his chances will be very good.

    The other side of that coin is that low and large voices tend to develop their full potential later than higher, lighter voices. Your son's voice could easily take until his mid thirties or even early forties before being all there. There are very likely operatic basso roles out there that will not be right for him for a good long time, even if he already has the range to sing them. A good voice teacher should be looking out for him and not allowing him to sing such roles prematurely.
  • SoundMomSoundMom Registered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
    Ah, the good news/bad news routine. "Your son has a good chance of getting into (an expensive) music school, but might not have a job for 20 or so years..." Thanks (I think), bassdad!

    S says on a good day he can hit a B-flat, but is not consistent. I think he can hit a D easily with control and good tone. I don't know what his upper range is. I've heard voices can change a lot in the 20's (even go up). It will be interesting to see where his goes.

    I'm starting to feel much better about this process - except, of course, for the employment prospects.
  • Singersmom07Singersmom07 Registered User Posts: 4,168 Senior Member
    A lot will change when he gets into a good music school with a good teacher during this development stage. We could not believe the difference in DD in just one semester, even though she had had a top notch private teacher in HS. It's the age and development stages. So what he can do now won't match what he will be able to do even next year.

    As to work, DD has a low voice too and they just take time. So when she graduates she plans to cobble together as many paid singing positions as possible in choruses, churches, and performing ensembles and see if she can live on those until she applies for grad schools. She has leads on a number of them and people who are helping her locate and refer her to them. If she is successful I will joyfully report back :)
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    I did not mean to imply that he will be unemployable until his thirties, just that his voice will be different by then. There may well be pieces that sit well in his voice now that will not later, and vice versa. That just means that he has to be aware of the changes and adjust his repertoire accordingly.
  • SoundMomSoundMom Registered User Posts: 97 Junior Member
    Understood, BassDad. Just teasing you a bit. Aside from the voice needing to develop, he is very youthful looking, and will not even look the part of many roles for some years to come. I've read that there is some interesting repertoire for very low basses and I'm looking forward to learning more about it.
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