4 things to know about auditions and portfolios

May 2, 2016


Advice from faculty members in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications

So you want to be a music student—or maybe it’s theatre, design or fine art? Getting into one of these programs in the Faculty of Fine Art and Communications is a bit different than the other faculties. Not only do you need to meet the academic requirements of your program, but you must also show your passion for your craft in the form of an audition or portfolio presentation.

Here’s what you need to know about the audition and portfolio processes for the Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music and the Design Studies, Fine Art, and Theatre Arts diploma programs.

1. Read the requirements

Then read them again. Think you know them? Read them one more time—and make sure you understand them. If you don’t, contact the program. Your success in this process hinges on how well you meet the requirements.

“There are specific audition and technical requirements for each instrument,” says Jim Head, guitar section head, Music. “We’re looking for versatility and the ability to play some different styles and improvise a bit. Honestly, the most important thing I would say is that people thinking about coming into the program should work hard at meeting the audition requirements. Most of the people who aren’t successful didn’t really look at them.”

Jim also suggests that Music students start working on their audition pieces early.

2. Come prepared

If the audition requirements asked you to learn a piece provided to you or to present your own, be ready to do so. For Design Studies and Fine Art, ensure you meet the minimum number of portfolio items requested.

“A disorganized portfolio is an immediate turnoff,” says Robert Andruchow, program coordinator, Design Studies. “It may not be an issue with the work itself—it’s that the student simply didn’t take the time to ensure that all of the things that are needed for the portfolio are in there or they didn’t pay any attention to detail.”

“If someone really feels they want to be in the program, they should prepare the audition the best they can to their level of understanding,” says Bill Richards, piano section head, Music, “and then we’ll give them the best chance and make our determination on that.”

3. Let go

You only have power over the performance you bring to the stage (or your work in the portfolio you submit).

“People have no control over the audition environment,” says Jim Guedo, program coordinator, Theatre Arts. “The only thing they have control over is choosing a song or a monologue that they connect with, practicing the materials and preparing for the audition.”

Put your best foot forward—you’re making your first impression on people who could be your future teachers. 

4. Try, try again 

If you didn’t make it through the process the first time, don’t give up! Take the feedback you got, practice and work on your portfolio or performance.

“Even if you’re not 100 per cent confident in your portfolio, or your abilities as an artist, it doesn’t hurt to submit this year,” says Robert. “If you don’t get in, it won’t affect your chances of getting in the following year.” He adds, “Don’t automatically discount yourself. You just never know until you actually apply.”

Brian Thurgood, the music program’s drums section head, agrees. “It’s a process. If you’re not ready at the first audition, there are certainly things you can do or resources you can find so you can audition again. It doesn’t have to be the end of your pursuit of going to a music school.” (If you’re a musician, you can get private lessons through MacEwan’s Conservatory of Music.)

You just might find that all you needed to do from the get-go was follow steps one and two above.

“ Don’t automatically discount yourself. You just never know until you actually apply.

“When I see somebody who’s worked really hard and put together all the things that we asked them to do, that’s an outstanding audition to me,” says Jim Head. “They have all the technical requirements, they’ve picked some good music and polished and prepared it.

“And when they take it very seriously, they’re demonstrating to me that they really want to be here.”

Each program is different, of course—be sure to visit your program’s webpage for more information.

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