Audition: Appearance and Professional Etiquette for a college audition by Dr. Sarah Holmam

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I am including a handout I received from a Sarah Holman, a friend a colleague and professor of music at Wheaton Conservatory.  She has some great advice for how to audition for colleges as a potential voice major. 

Audition: Appearance and Professional Etiquette

I. Appearance – Opinions on this vary greatly. These are general comments. Please confer with your private instructor for further detailed guidance.

A. Women

1. Dress or Skirt – Considerations should include color,

pattern, length, sleeves, and overall fit.

2. Shoes – Considerations should include color,

height, closed or open toe.

3. Hair – Away from face and well groomed.

4. Makeup – Worn to highlight and flatter you, yet not over done.

5. No glasses.

6. Jewelry – moderate in size and complimentary to dress. Nose, tongue, eyebrow and multiple ear-piercings are to be discouraged.

B. Men

1. Suit/Jacket and Tie – Generally a dark solid color with an

appropriately coordinated shirt/tie. Not wearing a tie is possible

if the shirt is the right style to wear with a jacket. Other considerations should include overall fit and tie length

2. Single breasted coat should be unbuttoned, double breasted


3. Dress Shoes – Color appropriate to suit, together with socks

4. Hair – Well groomed and out of face. Facial hair should be

neatly trimmed.

  1. 5. No glasses.
  2. A. Pre-Audition Etiquette
  3. B. On Site Audition Etiquette

6. Jewelry – moderate in size and complimentary to suit. Nose, tongue, eyebrow and multiple ear-piercings are to be discouraged.

II. Etiquette

1. Familiarize yourself with the institution’s program ahead of time to see if you understand it or have any questions. A question in the audition might open a conversation that would allow them to see more of who you are.

2. Familiarize yourself fully with the audition requirements to be sure you are well prepared. Inquire ahead of time about warm-up facilities. Ask if you can rehearse with the accompanist ahead of time. Be sure to offer to pay them. Be prepared for no rehearsal time.

3. If you are visiting a school prior to the audition and taking a sample lesson, offer to pay for the lesson and the accompanist if one is used.

1. Plan to arrive at least 60 minutes prior to your audition to familiarize yourself with the location.

2. Have your music available for the accompanist in an organized fashion; easy to read and easy to find, and music that stays open for the accompanist. Be polite and courteous to them.

3. First visual and musical impressions are all important! Introduce yourself and work to be yourself. Be confident without arrogance; open and inviting. A genuine smile will help you be more relaxed. Depending on how the audition is structured, announce the title and composer of your first selection.

4. Certainly take water with you, but perhaps not into the auditioning room.

5. Thank them for hearing you.

Sarah Holman:

Sarah Holman, mezzo-soprano, has performed opera and oratorio in numerous venues in the US, England, Asia and Mexico. She has also been a recitalist and has been a featured artist and master teacher with the Southern Young Artist Opera Project in Bejing, China and Changhua and Taipei, Taiwan. She was a featured artist and master teacher with the Asian Opera Festival in Kunming, China, and at the Bel Canto Opera Workshop in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. A recipient of a Goldovsky Opera Directing Internship with Harrower Opera in Atlanta, Dr. Holman, Professor of Voice, has served as Director of Opera at Wheaton College Conservatory. She was a featured presenter at the International Congress of Voice Teachers 2017 conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr. Holman has served for years for the National Association of Teachers of Singing as president in Chicago then district president and regional director. She is presently on the Foundation Board.  

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