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Prescreening media formats

N8MaN8Ma College Rep Posts: 205 Junior Member
edited May 2010 in Music Major
There was some conversation on an earlier prescreening thread re: the ideal format for applicants to present their skills: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/605461-pre-screening-results-2008-2009-a-14.html?highlight=n8ma#post1061656233

Now that we've concluded our prescreening round, I'd like to revisit this discussion. As everyone here well knows, the senior year of high school is so stressful for talented musicians. We want to increase access and make the process as easy as possible. For various reasons, we have opted to prescreen for every instrument. We prefer the DVD format but still allow CDs--and I know at least CIM (for violin) and Colburn (for everything) require DVD. This is only to see if someone's in the ballpark for a live audition, and so the equalizing that occurs with the HandyCam/Mini-DV format doesn't bother us too much, especially when weighed against the benefit from seeing how an individual is set up in terms of hands, posture, bow arm, etc. (Various instruments sound different seated than standing--it's nice to know which).

Right now we are happy to accept a prescreening recording in a variety of formats--DVD, CD, and even an MP3 upload. We also ended up advancing two applicants based on their YouTube channels. Should we go ahead and make the DVD required for next year, or is it better to grant applicants flexibility?

Also, what do you all feel about some kind of central website for all music school auditions? (Perhaps one exists that I'm unaware of.) I'm discussing this with our web services people...some kind of site like newyorkauditions.com or yaptracker but nationwide. Participating schools could all link to the page. Just a thought I wanted to put out there.
Post edited by N8Ma on

Replies to: Prescreening media formats

  • don9992don9992 Registered User Posts: 343 Member
    I really like that last idea. The applicant could simply add a link to their application. No need to ship CDs or DVDs and have to make sure they arrive.
  • bluepearlbluepearl Registered User Posts: 102 Junior Member
    I suspect that uploading audition material will become the norm at some point in the future. What I really wish is that the schools all required the same material for pre-screening--trying to keep track of each school's requirements was something of a nightmare!
  • SJTHSJTH Registered User Posts: 1,890 Senior Member
    LOVE the idea of some kind of uniformity--it is so hard for these kids to sort varying pre-screen criteria and produce each CD/DVD. And, though the Unified Application for Conservatory Admissions is a terrific idea, it isn't actually a standard, even for those schools that subscribe to it.
  • obsessivecollegeobsessivecollege Registered User Posts: 69 Junior Member
    Unfortunately, many colleges(non-audition) only accept the cd format.
  • N8MaN8Ma College Rep Posts: 205 Junior Member
    We're following the YouTube Symphony process to see what we can learn from it. While in the past we've allowed for an MP3 upload, we hope to have video uploads in the future. The technology is there, we just have to find a way to make it work. Each music school's admissions process has its own quirks, and so there's no way to arrive at a completely uniform process. But I do hope to hear from people here on this and other forums to find better solutions, and to share these ideas with my colleagues at peer institutions.
  • fiddlestixfiddlestix Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    I appreciate Bard's flexibility!!!!! Gives candidates the option of choosing which format they personally find easiest/cheapest/best to use. Would that all schools were able to accommodate "individual differences".....

    As a maybe-not-entirely academic exercise, it might be interesting to talk with the Kent/Blossom (college age summer orchestra/chamber festival) admission folks re their CD vs DVD experiences. Their application requirements have changed almost annually for the last several years - first CD only, then DVD only, now either CD or DVD with a CD also requiring teacher recommendation. I've wondered if they found too few applicants with DVD requirement - or perhaps I just read too much into the changes!

    Although I agree it's tough on kids and parents as they go through the process, I can't imagine too much uniformity in audition requirements - even at the prescreen level. Seems to me that each faculty at each auditioning school should have the right to determine what is important to them and what should be asked of candidates. If a candidate finds the requirement onerous, it may be a good indication that they should reconsider their interest in or suitability for the school.

    If your college-age student auditions for summer festivals, the same problem of CD vs. DVD vs. live audition continues.... Then when professional auditions begin, you can encounter the same sort of thing. Never-ending, but at least the young adult takes on more!

    Thanks for asking the question!
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    The key question seems to be whether or not to require video. The medium involved (DVD vs CD vs YouTube upload vs mp3 vs central web site) is largely irrelevant if you consider the audio quality from a typical camcorder sufficient for your purposes. There are a few things you need to consider when deciding:

    1) How do the people who make the prescreening decisions feel about comparing a mixed bag of submissions, some with video and some without? Requiring video from everyone would eliminate the need to make decisions based on two very different types of input. Changing prescreening requirements makes a lot more sense if the people making the decisions feel strongly about this issue than if they do not.

    2) How do they feel about the current volume of applications? The more restrictive you are on the requirements for applications, the fewer valid applications you will have. This can be good in that it eliminates more of those who are both unqualified and insufficiently motivated to produce a video, but it can be bad in that it eliminates some who might qualify for a live audition but do not have access to the technology required to produce a video recording. Depending on your institutional philosophy and your capacity to process applications vs the number you currently receive, you may want to come down on the side of keeping the number of applicantions down at the cost of losing some good students, or you may prefer to cast a wider net if it means you find another student or two that you really want.

    3) If you do require video, are you willing to follow through and reject audio-only submissions out of hand? Might you be tempted to listen to that audio if the rest of the package looked really good? If you did that and the audio itself was quite good, might you be willing to make an exception and grant that student a live audition despite not having sent in a video? If so, perhaps you should not require video.
  • ImperialZeppelinImperialZeppelin Registered User Posts: 377 Member
    Although I think this is a great idea and maximum flexibility would be of benefit to all, you have to consider my perspective on this. I'm one of those technically savvy people (read that Extreme Geek) who would make a high definition video with good external microphones. In this scenario, I'd have the source material that would allow me to provide video or audio in any format requested.

    However, as evidence by the sheer number of threads regarding prescreening CDs and DVDs, it's very apparent that most people are intimidated and fearful. Now if you layer YouTube, WAV, MP3, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVI, DIVX and other members of the technology alphabet soup, you may drive many potential applicants away in total panic!

    The best solution is requiring the simplest format that meets your needs and leave it at that. If you say you need "X" but will accept 25 different things, folks who don't speak "geek" will then be scared into asking for advice on which is best.

    Make the requirement your requirement, nothing more nor anything less...
  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Registered User Posts: 3,399 Senior Member
    Just thinking about the YouTube site- I would have to vote with a resounding "NO". While I find the site fun and also find some wonderful things, I really do not want my daughter posting clips of herself on there. I have no control over what other people she has performed with put there, I just won't let her do it herself at this age! Too many "strange" folks out there...
    OK, that's out of the way. There are definite good and bad parts to both audio and video materials and the rest of you have hit on many of them, so I just sat down and had a discussion of this with my D and this is what we came up with: we've already encountered the problem of a student submitting a CD that was remixed, and something like that could lead to another, more talented student being denied the chance to audition. But they are easier to make and easier to duplicate. The video option seems good on the surface but is the sound quality of the video equipment owned by most families good enough for this purpose? Remember, many, many students don't have access to studios and top-notch equipment which would leave them at a real disadvantage before they hit the first note. Some states, and I am thinking in particular of Texas,conduct their auditions for All-State Chorus in such a way that the judges can't see the student.The video format does give the panel a way to see if a student has good technique-or bad habits- but would it also open a door to visual discrimination (of many sorts, not just racial)?
    If one of you knows exactly how the pre-screening procedure works ( I know we have some profs and admissions reps on this board), could you please describe it for me? I think it would be good for our kids to know and I'd really enjoy having the "veil of mystery" lifted! Thanks!
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    The variations and selectivity of the various programs inherently preclude a standard prescreen rep.

    I've browsed through the YouTube auditions, and I find the extremely poor audio and video quality of a good number of these submissions appalling. Jumpy, scratchy, unsynched. Maybe it's just me, I doubt it's my computer. I just can't stand looking at low quality videos on a computer monitor. Maybe the musically professional admissions folks are qualified to hear the sound over the "noise". In the case of good audio and poor video, I'll just close my eyes and listen.

    The DVD format is probably the least susceptible to editing flawlessly, and I see that as a good thing; too many discussions on here about/from those willing to bend a few rules past the norm.

    Zep has good points, and while some are tech savvy, others like myself are honestly tech indifferent in so far as amassing the equipment and upgrading the technology. Face it, if you have a dog in the race for the long haul, either you or your kid is going spring for some (potentially big) bucks for recording tech.

    Now to my mind, the costs involved in getting your s or d to the point of conservatory level admissions are by no means cheap, a strain on many, us included. Our philosophy was to put the $ in professional level recordings in whatever media was required for the submission, be it audition, festival/program, or scholarship/competition rather than having to keep abreast of the tech advances and requirements. To us, it was money well spent.

    And there are some high schools, cc's and local universities and trade/tech schools that offer high quality student provided recording services at extremely reasonable rates. Granted, accessibility is not always an option, but they are well worth investigating if you're not into d-i-y.

    Drifting a bit off topic, once the student is actually in a quality program there are normally ample low cost resources through the institution (or peers/friends) with state of the art technology, recording facilities and acoustically proper venues.

    Maybe I'm a bit paranoid, but the idea of a central prescreen/audition site does not appeal to me at all. Security, privacy and potential piracy issues abound. You tell me that if Josh Bell's IU audition was available on the internet, it wouldn't appear on ebay as a remixed collection along with Hilary Hahn's, Sarah Chang's and a host of others. Until these types of issues are resolved and copyright violations easier to address, I would not wish to see it. Paid pros are still fighting for the rights and royalties for internet and alternative broadcasts and usage. Once this stuff is out in "the ether", it's almost impossible to eradicate.

    Choosing to broadcast yourself is one thing, and can be a valid and effective promotional and marketing tool. Being required to do it, particularly as a performance aspirant is another.

    Just my $.02.
  • fiddlestixfiddlestix Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    Thanks, Violadad. I couldn't agree more - no one needs an unsecured audition site!
  • N8MaN8Ma College Rep Posts: 205 Junior Member
    Thanks for the input everyone. Yes there are many issues to hammer out.

    Privacy is indeed an issue, but controls are already in place for text uploads (including SS#'s and other vital information) to the Common Application, Universal App, Uniform App, etc. (All sorts of crazies out there already trying to get their hands on Obama's college application essays--more even than would have interest in a Joshua Bell bootleg). Extending these kinds of internal controls to audio/video files should not take an enormous effort. FYI: YouTube videos have the option of being "private" (shared with up to 25 other YouTube users), or they can also be made public.

    We certainly don't want applicant information in any form--text, audio, video--made available to anyone and everyone. When I mentioned two applicants who passed prescreening via YouTube, it was because they'd already built a YouTube channel for themselves. Their channels were not established for conservatory auditions, but rather as a way to begin building a virtual audience and following. Our partnership with InstantEncore is based on this rethinking of the recording models used by classical musicians. More on these evolving issues (digital rights management, recording label business models, the future of classical recording) can be found at the InstantEncore CEO's blog: The Business of Classical Music

    I'm looking forward to a time when at least the preliminary auditions for music schools can be handled online. We're trying to find a way to drive and implement this as soon as is practical. For instance, we're working with Yamaha to run some piano auditions along the same format as the e-Competition.
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    Privacy is indeed an issue, but controls are already in place for text uploads (including SS#'s and other vital information) to the Common Application, Universal App, Uniform App, etc. (All sorts of crazies out there already trying to get their hands on Obama's college application essays--more even than would have interest in a Joshua Bell bootleg). Extending these kinds of internal controls to audio/video files should not take an enormous effort. FYI: YouTube videos have the option of being "private" (shared with up to 25 other YouTube users), or they can also be made public.

    I'm sure that any institution or group contemplating the security issues will cover most bases in maintaining adequate security, but if you look at the headlines, every month or three a major bank or credit card processor has their files or systems hacked, often to the pain and anguish of those involved. Like military tech, the offense is always trying to outdo the defense. Escalation, curiosity, financial gain, or "because I had to beat the system" are among the reasons.

    As for YouTube, I haven't read their TOS, but if it's written like Facebook's, there are still unknowns and gray areas as to who owns what. Given the current Facebook change of TOS and their subsequent reversal to the original, more "individual's right's stance", my take is that in the long run they will revert to their own best interests and their bottom line. Their policies may become like those of the banks and credit card companies, changing terms based on their own interests. "The Best of YouTube" or "Nude Facebook Hotties" on cd is only an enterprising entrepreneur's whim away. There is a tremendous amount of "pirated" audio and video out there under current copyright protection, and it seems like the copyright holder or their agent must bear the burden of tracking it down.

    Personally, I do think the idea as submitted by N8MA has merits, and I imagine at some point such a system for music apps/prescreens/auditions will surface and be workable and relatively safe. It may serve to reduce costs and expenses for applicants. I hope it's both workable and beneficial.

    But if we take the idea a bit further, one can envision true interactive virtual tours, online trial lessons, and auditions. A virtual BM perhaps? Then tuition and associated fees can drop dramatically.

    Excuse me, but I'm ranting, and don't mean to. Blame it on the prevailing economic mood, or the ramblings of a grizzled old geezer.

    Technology is wonderful. But when son applied, I don't even think he had the option of an online app. Sometimes its difficult to train an old dog. ;)
  • RichardHKRichardHK Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    Interesting stuff. My boy is currently playing a number of piano pieces and uploading them to YouTube. Has a dozen so far ranging from Scott Joplin rags to Debussy/Bartok. I believe the promotional experience of YouTube has value, and internet video is certainly here to stay.

    Given good video and sound quality, I also believe YouTube (and similar) can be acceptable for pre-screening. Which brings me to a new question that I have not found a discussion on.

    It is usually acceptable for music composition demos to have prospective film composers rescore segments of Hollywood movies. As long as for demo purposes, and not made available to general public. But with YouTube...

    Q1: Has anyone heard any judgement on using such demos, say 2-3 minutes long movie visuals scored with new soundtrack, as being acceptable?

    Q2: How would you music college auditioners react to YouTube demos? Assuming good quality. Either straight music, or movie replacement soundtracks?

    Look forward to any comments. I am holding my boy back from uploading a wonderful example of his music accompanying 2 1/2 minutes of a 1981 film Excalibur. Seems a shame given the millions of illegal movies up there already.

    Hong Kong

    PS. Yes. S is getting prepared for end 2009 applications!

    PPS. You can find him on YouTube by searching for "Matt Entwistle". Comments on his performance welcome. :)
  • ImperialZeppelinImperialZeppelin Registered User Posts: 377 Member
    Well, besides the posting of copyrighted material on YouTube, the simple act of over riding the copy protection on a DVD is also illegal, if he used a DVD for the original video source.

    If you want to showcase this talent, which I think you should, I'd mail DVDs to individual schools and not post them on YouTube since you're treading against copyrights and copy protection.
This discussion has been closed.