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auditions for middle school chorus

I have just taken a new middle school choral position. The previous teacher resigned in October, and there has been a series of subs in between. I know the previous teacher didn't hold auditions for 7th and 8th grade chorus. The school is grades 6-8. I am interested in how other people have handled auditions for middle school chorus. As far as I know, the administration is not the reason no auditions were held in the past. I am hoping it can be a recruitment tool, because I have found in other settings that raising the bar with an audition (even if pretty much everyone is accepted) can increase the appeal of the ensemble.
I look forward to your responses.
Amalie Hinson
on February 21, 2016 10:11am
Amalie- It is possible that there is a policy against having auditions at the middle school.  Check with the Administration first and see what (or if) any policies are in place, and go from there.  You said that as far as you know, the admin. has not been the reason, but it could actually be Board of Ed. policyand not Admin. decision.  So, probably just check to be positive.  I would have the students prepare a solo for you, either of your or their choosing, and bring them in individually to sing for you.  The first thing should be a "range check" to find the range and tessitura, and also put the student at ease.  "My country Tis of Thee" is a pretty good selection if you want everyone to sing the same selection.
Ahead of time I would prepare a simple  rubric for scoring with a 1 to 3 or a 1 to 5 numbering system.  Print it out and use it so that the "ratings" seem more "official".  Use whatever skills you think are most important -"pitch" "tone quality", etc.  
Also ahead of time, I would formulate a set of rules and guidelines for the choir that the student and his/her parent(s) would sign and agree to that is handed out before the audition, and given to you signed at the aufition.  That way, if you have any particular things you feel are important (attendance, etc.) there are no "quibbles" when the student is accepted into membership.  They have already agreed to follow your rules.  KEEP THESE "application" forms in a safe place in case something comes up later regarding the student portion of the responsibilities for membership.
on February 21, 2016 11:39am
Susan Young's thoughts are precise. With your school's and district's permission to audition potential choir members established, I would prepare a form letter for parents of those that desire to audition. In that letter, I would inform the parent that their child has requested an audition for choir membership.  I would then list the requirements and responsibilities for membership, the expectations of members, and the choir's basic schedule.  I would ask for the parent's signature that would signify their agreement with what was written in the form letter, their address, their home and/or cell telephone number, their work telephone number, an emergency telephone number, their business e-mail address, and their residential e-mail address.  The return of the signed and documented form is the vital beginning of the audition process.  Create your rubric-based audition form (Susan Young) and make photocopies of it on three-hole photocopy paper.  Include the student's name, a check box that signifies the successful completion and return of the parental letter, a box to check for the student's choral section.  I would certainly include in this list of choral sections Soprano I, Soprano II/Alto I, Alto II, Cambiata (soprano or alto and tenor ranges), Baritone, Bass.  I would know what pitches constitute each vocal section.  As accurately as possible, include the student's homeroom number and the room number where the student is found during your planning time.  Following that would be the chart of the rubric (Susan Young) including range, tone, intonation, and their ability to match pitches with three examples of two-note intervals (I sing/play two successive notes and you sing them back to me). I would have them sing the standard "Happy Birthday" (sing a melody with an octave leap and listen to the student's tone, intonation, et al), and sing a portion of any song with which they are comfortable. Separate these forms by grade level, and then place them alphabetically into a three-ring binder for future quick and easy access.  Do you need warm-ups?  Theory sheets?  Basic repertoire? Let me know if you need help with these.  All the best!
on February 21, 2016 4:17pm
You may already have an audition rubroc, but here's mine. Use it and/or modify it, if you like.
on February 22, 2016 6:34am
Hi Amalie!
Many people audition their middle school students and have super programs.  It's an individual decision for sure.  In my own program, I've opted not to audition students to enter my program.  I have found that many students in this age group are very nervous to sing alone, but they are often very enthusiastic about being a part of a large group performing ensemble.  I have also found that the best recruiting tool is to make choir an enjoyable place to be.  We have to laugh with them.  We have to give them structure.  We have to share our passion with them.  They will see it and respond to it.  For example, I love musical theater, so each year, we do a musical theater revue that is our major fund-raiser for the year.  I audition the kids for that show, but it is completely voluntary.  it's awesome to see children who've never auditioned for anything overcome their fear.
Wishing you the best of luck as you embark on your new journey!
Dale Duncan
on February 23, 2016 5:59pm
What about a placement audition? You could have a select group, but also have an opportunity for all to participate. I've had some really rewarding experiences getting kids to improve their singing in these sorts of groups.
If you decide to do an audition, I'd also try singing in parallel thirds with them against a melody. I work with 5th graders in choir, but have found it instructive to see who can hold their own part while I sing a melody.
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