Audition Advice from Jeff Caldwell,
Professional vocal coach, pianist, director, actor
- Never put plastic sheet covers in front of me. I’ve never met one that didn’t reflect light, even the excellent non-glare ones. I agree with not having a book crammed full of music – it even makes turning pages hard. One practical use of sheet covers is to protect your copy of music, which you transfer OUT of the cover and into the binder before the audition.
- I personally prefer and recommend you have separate music for each version of a song you do. Please don’t tell me to ignore the markings of your 16 bar cut when you’re doing the full song. Just have a clean version for each.
- Double-sided absolutely, and with an intelligent thought about minimizing page turns. A 4 page song should only have one turn, between pages 2 and 3.
- A 16 bar cutting shouldn’t have any page turns. Don’t have the intro on one page and the song proper on the next. Better to turn later after the song is established than after only a few bars. If you have a cut involving a key change or feel change, don’t make it at a page turn.
- Just ask a teacher, coach or pianist about these things. It’s worth the investment.
- Don’t ever snap, pound out the tempo on the piano, or set the music down and walk away. Rehearse your introduction and tempo setting skills all the time so it is second nature and easy.
The ONLY exception is if you’re a jazz singer or doing a jazz standard as a jazz singer in character. Since even in the highest level clubs they will snap and count the band in, it is an acceptable practice in only a few circumstances. If you plan to do this, I would have a conversation with the pianist and ask them if they mind that. I personally am not a fan of someone sitting next to me to converse, or to putting their hand on my shoulder, unless we’re super good friends. Don’t set water or anything else on the piano. That’s my domain in an audition.
- And yes, be prepared. There will always be someone better prepared than you, so why not just set the bar high and be THAT person.
- Have fun. Be IN the room. Try to know who you’re going to meet, who’s playing.
- As you walk in, assess the room and where your focal points will be. Pay attention to what is going on. If the monitor says your name, and the director says “Hi….(Insert your name here)” and looks at your resume, you don’t need to then announce your name and what you’re going to sing.
- Sing things you LOVE to sing. Control the circumstances you can – what you present as representing you and your talent.
- Casting – ah yes. Sizes, types, other people. Most often if you don’t get cast it is due to circumstances beyond your control. 5th Ave had to change some folks around years ago in a production I was involved in due to the height of the leading lady they’d hired from New York. But, here’s a real insider tip: your reputation in the business can make a difference.
- Two stories: I benefited from this in grad school because of a voice teacher I played for. In a casting session she just said “Oh, I love Jeff Caldwell” and I got the role over many more deserving singers. End of story.
And a very talented actress was not cast in a very lucrative tour of a recent R&H classic revival because of who she’d be sharing a dressing room with. The sentence “Oh they hate each other” was said, and the director took her out of the consideration pile to protect the actress already in the tour. End of story.
- So it works both ways: How you treat people, what relationships you’ve ruined (etc…) all play an unfair but realistic part of the casting process.
- There are very few songs that are overdone to the extent that you shouldn’t sing them. My two best songs were standards on many “Never Sing” lists, and I always got a callback because they were perfect for me and my type. But if your song is done a lot, you’d better be awesome or have a great new take on it. Sometimes the less popular song from a show is good to look at. I’d rather hear “Someday” than “Come Out of the Dumpster,” for example. You can find cuttings from extended solo sections in duets, like things from Title of Show and Urinetown.
- I don’t ever want to hear “Once Upon A Time” or “Someone Like You” unless you can NAIL those high notes without sounding and looking like you’re screaming. Same thing with “Run Away With Me” (which I enjoy playing) or “At The Fountain”.
- Generally Jason Robert Brown is so showy for the piano that you will be upstaged by a good pianist. Why compete with that?
- I’ve never not cast someone because they sang a song I didn’t like. But often you might not get cast if a song exposes your break, or reveals your weaknesses instead of playing to your strengths. I personally love to hear someone display control and versatility. The end of “Someone Else’s Story” (for example) shows you can power belt, mix, and sing in contemporary head voice in 6 bars if you approach it that way. As a music director that gives me confidence that someone has a command over their instrument.
- I really enjoy the actor who comes in, sings a song, and is relaxed enough to know that they can’t control the dynamic of the people at the table, but they can bring their piece in, sing it with good volume, and leave knowing that they did everything possible to prepare the music with a coach and schedule plenty of practice time in advance of the audition.