College Audition Checklist
Getting into a top-notch college-level music school is quite a challenge. Competition for these coveted spots is extremely high due to the large number of qualified candidates. Be sure to study with a good private teacher who can prepare you for your college auditions. A qualified teacher can help you put together your "audition package"; a collection of solo works/etudes that you can use for all of your college music school auditions.
Faculty - Facilities/Equipment - Ensembles
This is the order I recommend to students who are considering majoring in music. A reputable teacher is most important. However, the availability of facilities (practice rooms) and quality instruments along with ensemble experience are also very important.
Select several schools
Due to the competitive climate of music school auditions it is a very good idea to select 6-7 schools. The school you pick as your "#1 school" may have a limited number of available spots. Keep your options open.
University vs. Conservatory
There is no right or wrong answer for this. A university program will offer a curriculum that includes non-music courses (geology, sociology, English, etc.). A Conservatory atmosphere is usually a smaller setting with more attention toward music-related courses.
If possible, visit your prospective schools when classes are in session. Try to meet with the professor(s) and catch a few classes, rehearsals and/or concerts. Be sure to talk to current percussion majors at each school to find out what it's "really like" to be a student there.
A suit and tie (for gentlemen) is ok but not necessary - just nice "business casual" attire (long sleeve buttoned shirt and dress slacks) is fine. No tuxedos! Nice apparel signals how seriously you are taking the audition - and the school.
Choose challenging (yet playable!) solo repertoire that highlights your musical strengths. Unless you are familiar with the timpani at the school, select a solo work with little or no rapid tuning changes. 4-mallet marimba repertoire is usually preferable to 2-mallet works. However, select a marimba solo that truly reflects your current level of ability. Be sure to select a snare drum solo/etude that includes rolls at various dynamics and challenging rhythms.
Copies of music
It is always a good idea to bring along 3 copies of your audition repertoire for the audition committee. Some schools may specify how many copies, etc. but bring copies along just in case.
Many schools will ask for a sight-reading etude. Take this very seriously! Work on your sight-reading skills on a daily basis. And most importantly, take a quick look at the key signature, tempo marking and overall dynamics at the audition. Don't play too fast! Stay in control at all times.
Sticks and mallets at the ready
Have your sticks and mallets ready to go at the audition. Do not take extra time removing your mallets from plastic bags etc. This wastes time and will leave a negative impression on your audition committee.
If schools offer an interview segment, have a few prepared questions to ask the faculty (how many majors are in the program, what ensemble experiences are available, what facilities and instruments are available, etc.). Good questions signal to the faculty that you are truly interested in their school.
After the audition (recruiting)
Congratulations! You have received acceptance letters from several schools. You now have the enviable position of deciding which school is best for you. Sometimes scholarship consideration comes to the forefront in your decision-making. Be sure to remember the priorities you set for yourself before you auditioned. Are the faculty top-rate? Are facilities and good quality instruments available? Are suitable ensemble experiences waiting for you at this school? Keep in mind that the recruiting process may make you change your initial priorities (which may not be a good thing). Sometimes a big scholarship from a small school may not be as beneficial (in the long-term) as a moderate-sized scholarship from a well-known music school.
If you communicate with a potential university professor be sure to thank them for the opportunity to play/audition for them. DO NOT offer too much information in regard to what other schools you are considering. If someone asks you what other schools you are considering the best answer to give is: "I am very interested in attending your school/program". Be sure not to alienate anyone during this process. Consult with your teacher and other professionals (whose opinion you trust) and make your decision.