By David V. Patrick
Vocal Coach/Music Director
So you have an audition coming up and need to choose a song to sing. Should the song be up-tempo or a ballad? Should it be more recent Broadway or a classic? Should it be by the composer of the show for which you are auditioning, or perhaps one from the same era or in a similar style?
Each audition comes with its own spoken and unspoken requirements. Certain Broadway composers love to hear their music sung in an audition, while others cringe when their music is performed in such an intimate environment.
With so many songs from which to choose and so many unique personalities behind the audition table, how does one determine which song (or songs) to sing? Here is a quick checklist of simple ways to make your audition stand out from the rest.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
The first and most important question you should ask is: Do I have a personal connection with this song? Whatever style or type of song you select for your audition, it should first and foremost be one that you can connect with, physically and emotionally. If the gender of the text isn’t yours, adapt it or select another song. Make sure it fits you and your experiences in life.
TELL THE STORY
Ask yourself some questions:
1. Can the text of this song be used to tell my own story?
2. Can I apply my own subtext to this song?
A song comes to life when you can personally tell a story—either the story the lyricist or book writer created or, better yet, your own story overlaid on the existing lyrics.
Drawing upon your own memory is there someone in your life you need to sing this song (tell this story) to? Is there an event in your life you wish for a “do-over?” Bringing these personal experiences into your performance
makes the song come alive for the listener. Liking the song is the first step. With some basic dramatic license you can use the lyricist’s words to tell your story. While the listener will be unaware of your personal subtext, they will be keenly aware of your connection to the song.
KEEP IT REAL
Take “Back To Before” from Ragtime by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The fact that the story takes place during the early 1900s should have little or no impact on your approach to the song as a solo or audition piece. The first line of the song, “There was a time our happiness seemed never-ending. I was so sure that where we were heading was right.” This could be about you alone, you and a close friend, or you and an organization you belonged to. The only real requirement is that your subtext has some type of real emotional impact for you.
So make it personal, tell the story, and keep it real—three simple statements that can make a world of difference in your musical audition or performance.
David V. Patrick has been a vocal coach/music director at the Walt Disney World® Resort for the past 29 years. He currently serves as a Vocal Performance Manager at The American Idol™ Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.