February 10, 2023

Admission Blog:
Vocal Arts Audition Tips

With vocal arts auditions around the corner, we asked Carleen Graham, MSM Dean of Vocal Arts, to share tips and insights on what audition participants can expect, and we learn helpful audition tips from MSM students and alumni!

For more information about auditions, visit the Audition Information page, or contact the Office of Admission at admission@msmnyc.edu.

Dean of Vocal Arts, Carleen Graham, shares tips and insights on auditioning at MSM!

Can you describe what an audition day looks like for applicants and what will take place? What is the process like?

Dr. Graham: When you come into the building on the day of your audition, you want to give yourself plenty of time so that you’re not rushed. When you arrive, you will see where the registration table is, you’ll sign in, and you will be given an opportunity to use a practice room to warm up. Then, you’ll be given the location of the audition.

Who will be on the audition/interview panel?

Dr. Graham: You will see a number of voice faculty members in the house listening to your audition. It may vary from day to day because of schedules, but you could see up to eight or nine faculty, or, depending on the day, you might see fewer.

After you have your audition, you will have an opportunity to meet with me in small groups with other auditionees so that you can ask questions and I can get to know you a little bit. I hope you’ll take advantage of that opportunity because I would really love to get to know you.

“You actually control the room for the 8 to 10 minutes that you’re in there, so you can control how we listen to you. So come in, be yourself, and don’t put on any airs. Be genuine.”

What advice can you offer for a successful MSM audition?

Dr. Graham: I would say that the number one thing is that you want to sing what makes you feel good. You do have to show us what you’re capable of doing, but it also has to come from a song or an aria that allows you to shine and that you feel your best at.

Think about what you want to say. What does the repertoire that you pick tell us about you? You’ll want to sing pieces that help us learn about you very quickly. We have to make very fast decisions because we hear so many people each day, so make sure that what you prepare for us can show that very quickly.

If you have a piece that has a long introduction or interlude, you might want to consider having it cut. Say you have an aria that has 16 measures of introduction. Find a way to cut that introduction down to four measures because it saves time. Then, we can get right to listening to what you can do.

What should applicants keep in mind for the audition?

Dr. Graham: You actually control the room for the 8 to 10 minutes that you’re in there, so you can control how we listen to you. So come in, be yourself, and don’t put on any airs. Be genuine. Look at us, say hello, and be just open to what’s happening in the moment. The committee or someone in the room will ask you to introduce yourself and tell them what you’re saying. Look at people in the eye when you do that.

Practice saying the titles of your arias or songs so that you can say them correctly — that’s really important. Make sure that you communicate well with the pianist and thank them after you’re finished because they really are a key part of your audition experience. Think about the performance and what you want to say.

On behalf of the Vocal Arts department at Manhattan School of Music, we look forward to welcoming you and wish you a wonderful audition!

From MSM Opera Theatre's Double Bill: Le portrait de Manon & Angélique

Click through the images below to see our Vocal Arts department in action!

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