The Secrets of the Audition Process: “The Temple of Audition Doom!”

For high school musicians who want to apply and audition for a college music program, the process and even the audition event seem to be cloaked in secrets. It just sounds scary and you might feel like Indiana Jones navigating the Temple of Doom, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It turns out that more than 90% of auditioners use word-of-mouth to prepare for the audition process. To paraphrase Indy, that’s not the way to fortune and glory, kid.

Follow these simple steps and you can survive and thrive through (cue spooky music) “The Temple of Audition Doom!”


  • Universities post their audition requirements. Read them.
    They will tell you:

    • If the material must be memorized.
    • If they require scales and how they want them demonstrated.
    • If you have questions who to call or email.

Remember, they are highly interested in you becoming a music major at their institution and desperately want to see you succeed in their audition process.

  • Read about the audition event itself on the school’s website.
    They will tell you:

    • Whether this is a one-day or multi-day audition.
    • When you need to make reservations to comply with their requirements for yourself and your family.
  • In your sophomore year choose a school that is high on your wish list and go with your family to observe their audition process.
  • In your junior year, go through the college audition process at a college or university that is not a part of your ultimate wish list.
    • Consider an institution near your home which is part of the state system of colleges/universities such as Tennessee Tech. You will likely need to apply to the university and submit the application fee before you are allowed to schedule an audition. Altogether, the application and audition fees may cost a few hundred dollars but are well worth the expense for this real-life experience. In addition, you might even decide to go through the audition process at more than one institution.
    • This might sound unconventional and it is. It might sound like a lot of work – it’s that, too. It is also a valid process. First and foremost, it gives you an advantage over other auditioners because you’ll know what the process is like; you will have been through it and know what to expect.

Audition Schedule

Here is a preview of a typical multi-day audition:

  • Thursday evening: Faculty recital
  • Friday morning:
    • Brunch with studio faculty, department tour, and listening to ensemble rehearsals.
    • Lunch with the studio instructor of your instrument or voice part.
  • Friday afternoon:
    Testing begins. You can request to take the tests with the auditioning students.

    • One-hour music theory.
    • An ear-training test usually given privately in front of two faculty members.
    • A music history test which lasts about thirty minutes and covers the most basic of concepts.
    • Rhythm studies with another two-faculty jury where you will be requested to clap or say the rhythm examples.
  • Friday evening: Dinner is on your own and then a Friday night concert from one of the school’s performing ensembles.
  • Saturday morning starts the individual studio auditions. Some auditions are in an auditorium or recital hall, so you may request to sit in on these auditions and most often your request will be granted.
  • Saturday evening or Sunday brunch is usually when incoming students and families are told which students have received full scholarships.

By observing this audition process, you have a great advantage over the majority of auditioners that arrive their senior year and walk blindly through this process.

The average cost of attending a tier-one school starts at around $65,000 per year, resulting in a four-year tuition price of $260,000. Therefore, if you have an opportunity to receive a full scholarship to this institution in the balance, why not give yourself every advantage? Use the process and like Indiana Jones, walk out of the Temple of Doom with the treasure.

Be brave!

Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO