7 Things Families Overlook During the Musical Theatre College Audition Process

auditioning college Mar 20, 2023

Written By: Chelsea & Cynthia

Featuring: Julie Kavanagh 

Applying to musical theater programs can feel like a never-ending rollercoaster.

It's completely overwhelming. So it's common for some essential parts of the process to get overlooked.

This is why we have brought our friend and BVC Aspire Head Coach Julie Kavanagh into our blog-sphere to discuss the seven things families and students overlooked during the musical theater college audition process.

A quick background on Julie: Julie is a graduate of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music's Musical Theater program, class of 2011. She has toured with the Broadway First National Tours of Hello Dolly and La Cage aux Folles, and has performed at major regional theaters nationwide.

Julie has worked as an educator at Broadway Method Academy in Fairfield, Connecticut for the past seven years. She's also the program manager for the Steven Sondheim Awards, the Connecticut and Massachusetts High School Musical Theater Awards, which is part of the National High School Musical Theater Awards, which you might recognize as the Jimmy Awards.

We are so lucky to have Julie on our BVC Aspire team and learn from her wealth of experience in the industry! 

Let's dive in!

Here are the seven things that get overlooked by parents and students during the college audition process...

1. Using Your Time & Finances Wisely In The Preparation & Application Process

The bottom line? Pay close attention to those due dates. This is why the Aspire program is so important because we really focus on the sweet spot for the audition timeline, which is the summer before your senior year, and really utilize the time that you have. Then when you get to the fall, you are already set and ready to go, and by the end of September when Aspire ends, you are done with your prescreens. You are ready to move forward and can enjoy your senior year. 

So the second part of that is using your finances wisely. The application and audition process for musical theater is not an inexpensive process to go through. And then college is not an inexpensive thing to look at on the horizon.

Focus that money on training and prep, for example, instead of, putting the money towards a fancy studio rental for your pre-screens to get videoed on fancy equipment. 

Take the time to plan ahead for what you are planning to do over the summer. Are you going to need to visit universities and colleges or do you hold off on those trips and save that money so you can get prepped for prescreens and then take the trip later on when you're accepted to schools.

There are a lot of things that you could spend your time and finances on, that look flashy, fun, and fancy. But at the end of the day, it makes no difference. Programs will be evaluating you on your talent and potential, so focus your money and time on strengthening those aspects of your performance. 

2. The Reality Of The Numbers Game When Applying

The audition process is a numbers game. It is not a "reflection of your talent" game. It's not about whether you have skills or if you have a place in this business or a future in the world of musical theater. It really is a numbers game, which can be a hard truth to swallow.

There is only a certain number of slots in each program, and some of them are more competitive than others. So at the end of the day, even if there are 50 really talented people and a school can only take 20, that doesn't mean the 30 people that didn't get in weren't deserving or talented. It just means there were only a certain number of slots.

Think of it more as sorting - there will be all kinds of incredible musical theater students who are applying for various musical theater programs, and essentially schools are taking their time to sort them into the right fit, both for the schools and the student. Having this mindset will allow you to spread your net a little wider than you anticipated, as there are so many good schools out there, more than what you might think. 

3. Following The Instructions For Each School

There are a lot of requirements going through this process, and not every school is the same. Some may operate off of the "common prescreen", which is where multiple schools ask for the same material and you can use the same tape over and over. But not every school utilizes the common prescreen. (Though we wish it was! Big fans of the common prescreen over here)

More often than not, you'll need to have two songs prepared - one being a classical piece (Pre 1970), and then a contemporary piece. You'll also have different requirements for your songs, different cut lengths for different schools, different lengths of measures, and different timeframes.

And then you'll get into your monologues and you'll have differing requirements for those. They'll likely ask for two to three monologues, a contemporary piece, a classical piece, and a contemporary potentially contrasting piece. And then some schools will have specifics within those categories.

You'll also get into the dancing element, as some schools will require a dance prescreen. Some schools will also require a ballet option, which has specific requirements within each of those elements.

The bottom line is that there are lots of details that go into this process and lots of instructions, which is why it is really amazing to have a team behind you who is gonna help you keep track. Work smarter, not harder.

We promise you that with all of these schools, there are many different reasons why schools come up with these various requirements, even if they may seem silly. But they're important and it's a great opportunity to just show that you care about the details and respect what they're asking for.

4. Having Conversations About The Cost Of Attending School

Oftentimes, families overlook having the money talk and we get it, it's overwhelming and a lot of families don't have a culture of speaking about money, and a lot of young people are in the dark as to what their family may or may not be able to provide in terms of financing for school. That's why it's so crucial to have the money talk because the last thing that you want is to get into your dream school and then have no way to pay for it.

Talking about this from every angle is crucial so that both parties, students, and families, don't get their hearts broken at the end of this process. At the end of the day, it's will be helpful to know what's possible and then you can focus your time and energy toward that attainable goal.

5. The Essay And The Wild Card

Students easily overlook that this is an opportunity, not just another requirement, and the opportunity is sharing about yourself or highlighting what colleges can't see from your resume. Whether it's that you learned how to cook from your grandmother, or you get up at five in the morning to get on the tractor to work on your family's farm before school. It's a way to show schools the well-roundedness of your character, beyond that you love and are talented at musical theater.

There are so many elements outside of performing that make us who we are and being able to highlight that is so cool and special. Allow yourself to feel excited to look at these additional audition elements, as opposed to one more thing on that checklist that you have to complete.

6. Considering The Experience Of Faculty Members (Especially when it comes to lesser-known schools/programs)

Often we see lists like "These Are The Top 10 Schools", and of course, there are criteria for that, but those lists aren't always exhaustive. There might be a school that isn't on your radar, maybe a smaller school, or a new program that didn't make those 'lists'. If you do a little bit more of a deep dive into who the faculty members are, you might find some really amazing faculty that you would be so lucky to study with.

Looking at those faculty bios, you might find real gems in a school that maybe wasn't on your radar originally. There are some unbelievable programs across the country that might be smaller and not as well known, but the opportunities to train with some of these people are well worth it. Open up your mind and be a sponge to all of the options that are around you.

7. The Impact Of Kindness And Gratitude Throughout The Process

Kindness and attitude from students (and families) is so important because not only does it help with the trajectory of your path as a professional, but like most importantly, as a human being. We're all going through this crazy journey of life at the same time, so do it with kindness and grace.

Whether it's the monitor outside the audition room or the assistant or an admissions officer - everything that you do makes an impact. There are so many opportunities that you'll have throughout this whole process between interacting with administrators, faculty, your accompanists, fellow auditioning students, or students who are already in the program, there are just so many junctures at which you'll have an opportunity to show kindness, grace, and gratitude.

Also - we should add to show it to ourselves. Please show kindness and grace to yourself as well. There will be so many times throughout this process when you'll think, "Oh, I should have done this instead". Or, "That didn't go the way I thought it should." Showing a little kindness and grace to yourself is also going to go so far for your confidence and stamina while auditioning (even beyond college!).

Finally, be sure to express gratitude to the folks who've helped get you where you are. Your parents, siblings, guardians, grandparents, teachers, choir teacher, theater teacher - everyone. Remember the support that has been given to you along the way. If you haven't been given the support that everyone deserves, then we hope that you will get it in the future and you have an opportunity to be that support for others too. What you put out will eventually come back to you, and sometimes in surprising ways. 

And if you’re ready to get expert mentorship and ongoing training as you prepare for college auditions, then you’re invited to join the waitlist for our BVC Aspire program! Book a free consult with us - we can’t wait to hear your story and help you take the next step in your career.

Click here for your copy of our FREE GUIDE to Starting the College Musical Theater Audition Process

Click here to join our Facebook group for parents and students. We host biweekly Facebook Live Office hours to answer your questions and facilitate great discussions.

If you're interested in diving deeper into this topic or exploring other interesting musical theatre conversations - check out the Broadway Vocal Coach podcast! Or check us out on Instagram, and get involved in the conversation!

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