Studio Audition Preparation

Studio auditions

All Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Musical Arts applicants must audition for a primary instrumental or vocal studio. Auditions are scheduled by completing a Music Application form. Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts applicants are not required to audition but may request a studio audition if they want to be able to take private lessons with studio faculty.  

All auditioning students must be able to read music, a skill which must be demonstrated through sight-reading in the audition. Accompanists are not required for instrumental auditions; one will be provided for voice auditions. Students interested in Jazz Studies must complete both studio and jazz auditions.

Below are specific repertoire requirements for each studio, information about jazz auditions, and advice for general preparation:

  •  Voice: Prepare two memorized art songs or arias: one in English and one in a foreign language. No music theater pieces are allowed for classical voice auditions. For Jazz Voice (see below)
    A pianist will be provided. Students will also be asked to sing a short sight-singing excerpt at the audition. PLEASE HAVE COPIES OF YOUR MUSIC READY FOR THE ACCOMPANIST AT TIME OF AUDITION. (Only one copy of each piece is needed for the pianist; no other copies are necessary.) 
  • Flute: Prepare a movement of a classical concerto or a piece from "Flute Music by French Composers."
  • Oboe: Prepare a Barret or Ferling etude, along with a solo of choice that best demonstrates your playing ability. Be prepared to play scales throughout the practical range of the oboe (i.e. low B-flat to high F.)
  • Clarinet: Prepare two solo works of contrasting style. In addition, please be prepared to play either an etude or several standard orchestral excerpts. The material that you select should demonstrate your highest level of proficiency, both technically and musically. You may be asked to play full-range scales—chromatic and all major and minor. Because of the limitations of repertoire, bass clarinet is not allowed as a primary instrument of study. All clarinetists must audition on B-flat soprano clarinet (or A clarinet when appropriate).
  • Bassoon: Prepare two contrasting movements of a sonata or concerto of moderate difficulty, plus one slow, melodic etude (preferably by Milde, Orefici or Weissenborn).
  • Saxophone: Prepare from memory all major and harmonic minor scales, each extended to the complete normal range of the instrument. You should also perform one of the following works: Paul Creston, "Sonata" (movements I and II); Pierre Max Dubois, "Concerto" (movement I); Jacques Ibert, "Concertino da Camera" (either movement); Alexander Glazounov, "Concerto"; Bernhard Heiden, "Sonata" (movement I or III); Paule Maurice, "Tableaux de Provence" (movements I and IV); Darius Milhaud, "Scaramouche" (movements I and II, or II and III); or (for tenor) Hector Villa-Lobos, "Fantasia." Other major works of similar scope and difficulty may also be performed.
  • Trumpet: Perform one or two solo movements or etudes that demonstrate your current and highest level of technical and musical development. Multiple tonguing and scales to demonstrate range may also be requested at the audition.
  • Horn: Prepare a brief work or movement from the standard repertoire, as well as a contrasting solo or etude, demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing. You may be invited to demonstrate other techniques, such as multiple tonguing and lip trills.
  • Trombone: Prepare a representative solo demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing or two etudes of contrasting style. Trombonists may also be asked to demonstrate multiple tonguing (both double and triple), as well as one or two scales to demonstrate both high and low range. For more information, see
  • Tuba and Euphonium: Prepare a representative solo demonstrating both lyrical and technical playing or two etudes of contrasting style. Examples for tuba might include Hindemith, "Sonate" (first movement); Galliard, "Sonata 1" or "Sonata 6"; Haddad, "Suite for Tuba"; or Gregson "Tuba Concerto" (first movement). Representative solos for euphonium might include Marcello, "Sonatas"; Grafe, "Grand Concerto"; selections from Rochut "Melodious Etudes Book 1" or a technical etude from the Voxman book. Major, minor and chromatic scales to demonstrate both high and low range are required. Students must provide an instrument for the audition.
  • Piano: Students auditioning for the Piano Performance program should prepare three memorized pieces: one from the Baroque era, one from the Romantic era or 20th century, and a movement of a Classical sonata (Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven). Students auditioning on piano for other School of Music programs (Music Therapy, Music Education, Jazz Performance, Composition) should prepare two memorized pieces, including at least one from the Baroque or Classical era.
  • Percussion: Prepare two pieces. One should be on snare drum and the other on timpani or a mallet-keyboard instrument.
  • Strings: Prepare two works that best represent your technical and musical abilities: a first movement from a major concerto and a contrasting work, such as a movement of a J.S. Bach Solo Sonata-Suite or two stylistically contrasting works from the major solo repertoire. Memorization is highly recommended.
  • Guitar: Only the jazz studies major is available for guitar. See the Jazz Audition requirements below.

Jazz auditions

If you have a strong background in jazz, you may audition separately with the jazz area faculty for jazz admission and scholarship consideration. Your jazz audition will be in addition to a studio audition (see above for percussion requirements). An accompanist will be provided, if necessary. If electing to perform a jazz audition, you should be prepared to play or sing:

  1. A piece of your choice in 12-bar blues form (such as Billie's Bounce or Straight, No Chaser) with two or three improvised choruses to follow
  2. A jazz standard of your choice (such as Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, Oleo) with improvised choruses to follow
  3. Sight-reading of jazz pieces

Jazz Drummers should be prepared to play the following:

  1. Swing time at various tempos
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of 12-bar blues and 32-bar AABA (rhythm changes) song forms
  3. Trade 4s, 8s, and choruses with a rhythm section over these forms
  4. Demonstrate various Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms (Mambo, 6/8 Afro, Songo, Samba, Bossa Nova and others)
  5. Demonstrate swing and ballad playing with brushes

Jazz Guitar

 1. Prepare three stylistically contrasting jazz standards, one of which should be an unaccompanied chord melody arrangement. The other two pieces will be accompanied live—be prepared to solo AND comp on these tunes. You are expected to bring charts—one or two copies will suffice.

 2. Sight reading of melody AND chord changes. For the chord changes portion of the sight reading, you may be asked to comp for a soloist.
 3. Assessment of aural comprehension, including identification of intervals, basic triad and 7th chord qualities, and common jazz scales.
 4. You may also be asked to demonstrate harmonic knowledge such as 7th chord inversions and common chord substitutions (tritone subs, backdoor ii-V’s, etc.)

Jazz Voice
Prepare two jazz songs in contrasting style (swing feel, bossa nova, ballad, contemporary), preferably with vocal improvisation (scat) as part of one of the songs. If neither selection includes improvisation, then be prepared to improvise over 12-bar blues. Be prepared to demonstrate sight-reading skills and sing a major scale, a minor scale of your choosing and a chromatic scale. The audition will also include aural recall (singing back a series of notes played at the piano), and harmonic identification (singing the notes you hear when a chord is played at the piano). An accompaniment will be provided unless you prefer to provide your own.  

General preparation

Acceptance to an undergraduate program in music is based on many considerations. The suggestions below indicate how you can best prepare during your high school years. This advice addresses both the ideal knowledge-set and skills-goals for college-level applicants and also the competencies needed by musicians as they practice the various aspects of the profession in college and beyond. In brief, you should learn as much as you can as early as you can.

Take responsibility for your own development

Each musician brings a unique set of talents, aspirations, and abilities to the musical scene. Although you are in school and probably studying with a private teacher, it is important to take increasing responsibility for developing your particular abilities toward your specific goals. Ultimately, you are responsible for choices about how you use your time to prepare for your future. For most musicians, that future involves music at the center supported by many other capabilities.

Practice, practice, practice

Whatever you do or intend to do in music, try to practice it as much as possible. This applies not only to your instrument and/or voice but also to other types of musical work. For example, composers should practice composing, prospective teachers should try to observe and gain teaching experiences under appropriate supervision, and those interested in music scholarship or criticism should practice writing and speaking on musical topics.

Perform alone and with others

Performance ability is essential for all musicians. You should be an outstanding performer on at least one instrument or with your voice, whether or not you intend to have a performance career. Keyboard ability is important for the life work of most musicians, and students with keyboard skills have a head start as music majors. Ensemble experiences of all kinds should be sought, as work in large and small ensembles develops different kinds of musical skills. Fine ensemble playing comes primarily through practice.

Master the basics

Be sure that you can read both treble and bass clefs and that you know key signatures, interval qualities, triad qualities, the major and minor scales, and how to write basic notation. Knowledge of musical terms and usage is important.

Develop your ear

Take every opportunity to train your ear by taking courses or studies in musicianship that include sight-singing, ear-training, sight-reading, rhythmic and harmonic dictation and so forth. Developing the ear is a lifelong job. The earlier this work is started, the better.

Hear as much music as you can

You need to be familiar with far more music than you perform. Try to hear as much music from as many historical periods and cultural sources as possible. Ask your teachers to recommend a listening list for you that covers the various solo, small- and large-ensemble repertory in your performance area. Try to make sure that you have heard the major works of all types in the particular area of music that interests you. Listen more to learn the breadth and depth of the repertory than to enjoy what is already familiar to you. Whenever possible, follow the score as you listen.

Learn how music works

Take opportunities to learn the basics of musical structure, including studies in such areas as form, harmony, counterpoint, composition, and improvisation. Like so many other things in music, this knowledge is developed throughout a lifetime. Those who are able to get started early have an advantage. Work with your music teachers, enroll in an AP music course if it is available in your high school, or take classes at your community music school to gain an initial acquaintance with this material.

Become a fluent, effective English speaker and writer

As a musician, you will communicate in music, but you will also rely heavily on your ability to communicate in words. Everything from rehearsals to teaching, to writing grant proposals, to negotiating, to promoting your musical interests relies on fluent English skills. Focus attention on learning to speak and write effectively.

Study one or more foreign languages

Musicians practice their art internationally. You are likely to perform music with texts in foreign languages and to work with musicians from all over the world. Significant musical scholarship and criticism exist in languages other than English. If you seek advanced degrees in music, reading fluency in one or more foreign languages is often required. Since languages are difficult for many people, you should begin acquiring knowledge and skills in at least one foreign language as early as possible. Consult with your music teacher about which languages are best for you.

Get a comprehensive high school education

Music both influences and is influenced by other fields of study: the humanities, mathematics, the sciences, the social sciences, and the other arts—architecture, dance, film, literature, theatre, and the visual arts. For entrance into college-level study, you are encouraged to gain a basic overview of ancient and modern history, the basic thought processes and procedures of math and science, and familiarity with works in as many of the other arts disciplines as possible. Most professionals who work with music develop a particular sensibility about the connections among music, history and the other arts. Understanding the basics of math and the sciences will support future work in music technologies. Social studies are related to understanding the context for various musical endeavors.

Think of everything you study as helping you become a better musician

As we have already said, the best musicians continue to learn throughout their lives. They are always studying and thinking, always connecting what they know about music with their knowledge of other fields. Since you never know the direction your career will take, it is wise to spend your high school years gaining the basic ability to understand and work in a variety of fields beyond music. Keep music at the center of your efforts, but accept and enjoy the challenge of gaining the kind of knowledge and skills in other areas that will support both formal studies at the college level and your music career beyond.

The above has been adapted from an advisory by the National Association of Schools of Music.