Auditioning for college is probably one of the most nerve-racking things a musician will do in their career. However, the rep you choose can go a long way to making you feel better about it! Here’s some do’s and don’ts for choosing your audition repertoire to show off your skills.
Choose rep you are confident in. This is honestly the most important rule. If you aren’t confident in your music, it’s going to show. Choose stuff that you could perform in your sleep, and live will be much nicer.
Choose rep that suites your age and instrument. I’ve watched 15 year olds audition for stuff while singing a piece written for someone with the years more experience and twice as old. Don’t do that. Sure, it’s nice that you can theoretically perform that really hard solo, but it was written for violin and never transposed for viola. Don’t do that. Choose rep written for your instrument, as it currently exists. You can perform that other rep when you have reached the right age or learned the right instrument.
Choose rep that shows off what you can do. Can you trill well? Find a piece that shows that skill. Do you rock that high or low range? Prove it to the auditioners. The point of an audition is to show the school how awesome you are. Your rep should help you with that.
Research your pieces. I mean everything about your pieces. Know what each Italian or German or French word in the score means. Learn about the composer. Know where the tempo markings are, know where the dynamic markings are, and know what those markings are. Learn the translation word by word, if you’re singing, and also find poetic translations. You want to know everything about the piece, because it looks unprofessional if the auditioners ask you about it and you don’t know the answer. Protip: using colored pencils on a photocopy of your score to highlight different markings in different colors is very helpful for this.
Choose rep that’s too hard for you. It’s better to rock something simpler than it is to mess up something harder. If a piece is just too difficult, then you might want to choose something else. Choosing something too hard for you shows that you don’t know your limits and may not be a good student for the school to admit.
Choose the same rep as literally everyone else. In the voice world, there’s a book called the 26 Italian Songs and Arias. Everyone sings from it. Literally everyone. If you want to stand out as a vocalist, don’t sing something from the 26 Italian Songs and Arias. The same thing goes for instrumentalists with their common works. The more familiar a judge is with the peace, the more times they have heard it, the more they will be able to detect mistakes. Plus, you will win points from the judges for not making them listen to “Se tu m’ami” or the Moonlight Sonata again.
Choose rep because it was in a movie recently/is super famous/your current or potential teacher loves the composer. Again, the more popular a piece, the more tired of it the auditioners will be, though this is mostly an issue in musical theater and jazz. Don’t perform anything from La La Land, and avoid the most common standards unless you are absolutely, positively sure that you can give the piece something no one else can.
Choose rep at random. Have a reason for all of the rep you choose. If you have six prepared pieces and have to choose two, have a reason for the two you choose. Make sure they fit your playing style well, or that they show off your skills the best, or even just that they are your favorites. But choosing two random pieces with no reasoning is not a good way to have audition repertoire that fits you well. At the very least, having a justification for why you chose the pieces that you did will make you more confident in your playing.
Good luck with your auditions! You’ve got this.