Tag Archives: tips

Maddie Beer Sister Act - Photo by Jeff Sprang

Pro-Tips for Auditioning for Theatre

by Colleen Cook

At the Renaissance, we frequently have auditions running for upcoming productions. The audition is a critical moment for any performer, because it’s your chance to show your best self and potentially secure the part of your dreams. For our casting teams, auditions are challenging because so many talented individuals show up and perform well, and many factors (age, look, personality, etc.) all go into the final casting decision.

If you’re curious what auditions are upcoming, we keep all of our audition information current on our website, and we also post our cast lists there as well; we also try to keep our social media audience informed on our Facebook page. Each type of production has a slightly different process for auditioning: some register for specific time slots and specify what they’d like to hear and see, others offer an open process where there is more flexibility. When in doubt, follow directions and be flexible in the moment!

Our artistic team has offered up some pro-tips for having a better audition. Here are our top tips, and a few things to avoid:

Tips:

“Be prepared, flexible, respectful, focused and friendly. The auditors take notice of you the second you walk into the room, so be self-assured but not arrogant. Roll with the punches and do what is ask of you to the best of your ability without apologizing or making excuses. Producers and casting agents know that big egos cause big problems. Act like a professional, don’t tell them you’re a professional.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Be pleasant throughout the audition process. We watch you, and try to engage with you, from the moment we first meet you. If we sense a challenging attitude, it may not matter how well you audition. As directors, we need to know that you are willing to work WITH us; and that we can successfully communicate with you.” – Dauphne Maloney

 

“When approaching an audition, and while in the audition process, fully commit to everything you’re asked to do!  If you’re asked to read for a role that doesn’t interest you, do it anyway. Still apply yourself; use your training, skills, and experience to show us the best of what you’ve got (don’t try to “throw,” or sway an audition by downplaying your ability to audition well in ANY role.)” – Dauphne Maloney

 

“If it’s a musical audition, have several varying selections prepared. The auditors may not like your choice and may want to hear something different. Have your music clearly marked and in a three ring binder. No accordion/taped-together mess that flows over both ends of the piano. No loose sheets. If your music is a Xerox copy, make sure the music is printed on both sides, so there are less page turns. Clearly mark where you’re beginning and ending, taking liberties with tempo, pauses, ritards, etc. If there is a coda or you’re going back to a certain part of the music, print that sheet out again so your accompanist doesn’t have to flip through the pages to find the right spot.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Don’t audition unless you’re willing to accept any role.” – Lori Turner

 

“Come in the room and make us believe that whatever you do is what you meant to do.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“Be familiar with the show and the composer, and select audition material that is aligned with that show/role/composer’s style.” – Lori Turner

 

“Be clear, concise and friendly to the pianist – even if they mangle the accompaniment to your song. Soldier on as best you can. The auditors know it’s not your fault, you don’t need to point it out.” – Michael Thomas

 

 

Pet Peeves/Things to Avoid:

 

“Worst for me is when someone comes in the room and is apologetic or making excuses for their performance.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“Don’t bombard the auditors with excuses – such as: you’ve recently had a bad cold, you’re nervous, you haven’t had time to adequately prepare, etc.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Starting off your audition by telling me the reason you may not sing your best that day.” – Lori Turner

 

…sensing a theme here???

 

“When someone is unprepared or underprepared, without having music explicitly marked for the accompanist, and copping an attitude when things don’t go perfectly.” – Kelly Knowlton

 

“When a performer auditions with the wrong style of music for the show they’re auditioning for.” – Lori Turner

 

“Don’t overstay your welcome or try to be hilarious.” – Michael Thomas

 

“Children choosing to sing songs which are inappropriate for their playable age; for example: “I Dreamed a Dream, ” from Les Miserables–sung by a seven-year-old. A more appropriate choice for/from that show would be “Castle on a Cloud.” – Dauphne Maloney

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing

by Colleen Cook

How many times have you heard, or maybe you have said yourself, “I can’t sing.” These words are anguish to me, because in my life singing alone and with others has been the source of some of my greatest joy. To think that so many people miss out on that joy because someone told them they weren’t good at it, or they perceived they weren’t is too sad.

Before working for the Renaissance, I had the privilege to teach vocal music in the public schools and privately and was able to study under some of our generation’s greatest voice scientists and voice pedagogues at Shenandoah Conservatory during my graduate study. Through all of that, one thing was completely evident: nearly everyone can sing. (I only qualify that statement because there are few individuals with vocal injuries or disabilities that do prevent them from singing. But, that is not representative of 99% of people who claim they cannot sing).

Learning to sing is like any other physical skill. As an athlete trains their brain and their body as they prepare for their first 5K or their hundredth marathon, so a singer trains their body to perform what their brain desires. A successful singer engages their entire body in singing, not just their larynx and mouth.

The first day you put on a pair of running shoes, you don’t expect your body to run like an elite runner, but for some reason most people expect their natural untrained voice to sound like a professional singer. And, when it doesn’t, many feel enough shame about their untrained voice that they give up for life. Having personally helped dozens upon dozens of people develop their singing voice from not being able to carry a tune or even match a pitch to successfully singing with performance groups and even pursuing singing as a career, I’m here to say that the idea that “you can’t sing,” is just not true.

If you’re a beginning singer who wants to get better, here are three tips for getting started:

  1. Train your ear to coordinate with your voice
    Sit down at a piano, keyboard, or pull up this handy online pitch pipe and play one pitch. Then, try to sing that same note on the syllable “la.” Does the note you’re producing sound like it’s higher, lower, or the same as the note you are trying to match? If your note is higher, try sliding down until it sounds the same. If it’s lower, try sliding up until it sounds the same. If it sounded the same, then try another until you’re consistently matching pitch.
  2. Get a handle on your registration
    One common pitfall for beginning singers is matching the appropriate registration. The female voice uses “chest” registration, “head” registration, and a “mix” registration.  The male voice uses a “chest” registration, “mix” registration, and “falsetto,” registration. Simply put, each registration coordinates different muscle dominance in your larynx to create a heavier/fuller or lighter/clearer sound. Your “chest” voice is likely similar to the voice you speak with – it’s a full, robust sound that we sometimes associate with lower pitches. Your “head voice” or “falsetto” is a headier, maybe initially airy, lighter quality of registration. Your “mix” is a mix of the two, very commonly used in contemporary singing styles.

    Here are 3 videos that will help you to identify your vocal registers:

     

  3. Start Simple
    Your first race wouldn’t be an ultra-marathon, so don’t start with a pro-level song as you’re learning to sing. Choose a simple melody that you like with a limited range (that is, the distance between the highest and lowest notes); I recommend starting with a lullaby, hymn, or children’s folk song. Practice singing every note on pitch first, then make some choices about vocal registration. Once you have a handle on those things, consider where you might make some dynamic choices, that is, how loud or soft you’ll sing. Then, practice, practice, practice!

    Remember that vocal technique is only part of great singing; at its essence, great singing is also great storytelling. Think about how your face and body will subtly communicate the emotion of the song you are singing, and what vocal choices you can make to better tell that story.

Be encouraged that as you practice these three skills, your voice will improve! And, if you’d like some further help, seek out a voice teacher for a few lessons to help guide your growth. Happy singing!