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Why auditions are important for developing artists

Auditions at Idyllwild
Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

Nothing is more exciting nor valuable to young artists than their first auditions. As unpleasant or nerve-wrecking as they can be, they bring numerous opportunities for young people to grow personally, as well as in their craft. They reveal our strengths and weaknesses in a clear and convenient manner. They showcase our talent to key figures in the performing arts world, but most importantly, they are fun and liberating, allowing us to express our true selves.

More than a necessary means to the end of getting the part, auditions are transformative for us all in our formative years. Even experienced virtuosos can get stage fright and fumble their lines in a room full of strangers. Now imagine the same scenario but with a fresh grad. Instilling this mental tenacity in a young person equips them with some of the most powerful soft skills they would need to succeed later in life.

Idyllwild Arts Academy understands just how significant auditions can be for young artists.

At this private high school in California, surrounded by alpine forest, aspiring creatives receive intensive training in the arts and a comprehensive college preparatory curriculum that connects their creative aspirations to their future careers.

Auditions at Idyllwild

Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

Nurturing gifted young talent in artists is where the Academy excels. In this day and age, this also means developing “professional auditioners”.

For some students, this learning process begins even before they enrol. As part of the admission process, applicants are encouraged to audition on-campus or during an audition tour. For example, applicants to the Academy’s Dance programme would have to showcase ballet – a combination of Barre, Center and Pointe work – as well as a contemporary classwork or solo.

An art of its own

Talent alone isn’t enough for success in the arts. As the industry becomes more competitive, gaining an edge means standing out in auditions. The Academy teaches students the skills needed to achieve this, showing instrumentalists, dancers, singers and actors how to use and refine them, as they would any other aspect of technique.

Ashley Rizzo Moss, Admission Officer for Music, who is also a part-time Voice teacher at the Academy, explains how her department achieves this: “All three divisions of our Music Department (classical, jazz, songwriting) give their students many opportunities for mock auditions. This is hugely beneficial because even a talented musician who has put in tremendous practice hours can be thrown off balance by the audition experience.”

Auditions at Idyllwild

Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

This includes understanding how to deal with audition adjudicators. With so many musicians to view, audition adjudicators are only human. They may be hungry, in need of a restroom, exhausted, bored and have dulled perception after hearing the same musical piece performed many times. This can translate into rudeness – Ashley said she has even seen adjudicators take phone calls during an audition!

“Learning to deal with these unfortunate realities of the audition experience during their mock auditions at Idyllwild Arts builds patience, flexibility, and confidence,” she explains.

This comprehensive training goes beyond preparing a portfolio or performance that blows the adjudicators away. Artists usually have a few precious minutes to prove themselves with little room for error, even in the smaller things – such as how to introduce yourself with confidence – to bigger things, like how to make the best possible use of the few minutes granted for the audition.

Each student in the Music Department receives individualised training and advice on the matter. The auditioning musician, for example, could be accompanied by another musician they have only just met and must quickly inform the accompanist about tempo. For an auditioning vocalist, on the other hand, the Music Department will show the auditionee how to explain how the musical notes correlate to the words being sung. Students are also taught purposeful breathing, so that by way of the auditioning vocalist’s breath, the pianist knows exactly when to start playing.

Auditions at Idyllwild

Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

“Our Music Department even teaches our students not to hand staple sheets of music to accompanists, more than one of whom have cut their fingers on staples!” says Ashley.

Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management – these are the hidden benefits of the auditioning process and the very same top five most important skills identified by employers in research by LinkedIn.

“With the rise of AI/automation changing the job market, 92 percent of talent professionals and hiring managers agree that candidates with strong soft skills are increasingly important,” according to the 2019 Global Talent Trends Report. “In fact, it could make or break a hiring of the perfect candidate as 89 percent feel that ‘bad hires’ typically have poor soft skills.”

What the report also tells us is the benefits of auditioning young can’t be underestimated. With these soft skills, Idyllwild Arts graduates leave able to thrive in the perfection of their art or in whichever profession they choose.

The former Head of Idyllwild Arts will visit Korea, China, and Taiwan in November. Dr. Douglas Ashcraft, long the Head of the school but now one of its outstanding classical piano instructors, is eager to meet young musicians, visual artists, theatre-lovers, dancers, filmmakers, fashion designers, and creative writers.

Please contact Dr. Ashcraft through his assistant, Ashley (ashleym@idyllwildarts.org), for a meeting in Seoul (Nov. 12-13), Chengdu (Nov. 15), Qingdao (Nov. 16), Shanghai (Nov. 17-18), or Taipei (Nov. 19-20).

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