Senior Garrett Schwartz vividly remembers the afternoon he auditioned for a spot in the Gustavus choral ensembles as a first-year student.
“I still can remember standing in line with other singers for auditions and feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unsure of what to expect,” Schwartz said.
Like Schwartz, many students who are preparing for their ensemble, theatre, or dance auditions during orientation may feel intimidated by the thought of putting their talents on display in front of a college instructor.
“Even though I knew I was very prepared, I still felt like the stakes were higher since this was my first college audition and I really wanted to do my best,” Schwartz said.
With nearly 40 percent of students participating in a fine arts program each year, hundreds of Gustavus students have experienced the feelings that go along with a music audition.
However, Schwartz believes the nerves were worth it.
“Being a part of choir has been one of the most impactful things I’ve done during my time here at Gustavus,” Schwartz said.
During her orientation week orchestra audition, Senior Lauren Lowe remembers a similar mix of emotions, but felt comforted by the positivity and warmth from the staff who were watching her audition.
“Auditioning as a first-year was a little nerve wracking at first because I practiced all summer long, and my nerves peaked when I walked in the room I saw Dr. Lin and Dr. Knoepfel sitting at the table,” Lowe said.
“At first I was intimidated, but once they started to talk to me, it was really fun and I loosened up a lot. I played my heart out and made it into Gustavus Symphony Orchestra,” Lowe said.
“Being a part of choir has been one of the most impactful things I’ve done during my time here at Gustavus.”
-Senior Garrett Schwartz
As a vocal performance major, Senior Mary Nyhus has been through her fair share of auditions. For her, the key to acing an audition is thorough preparation.
“For my first-year choir audition, I ended up ‘winging it’ with a folk tune. I did just fine, but having a song prepared tells the director that you are serious about the audition and you want to put your best foot forward,” Nyhus said.
Similarly, Nyhus recommends making sure that personal warmups have been completed before the audition to allow time for performers to gather their thoughts and feel calm before entering the audition room.
“Whether you play an instrument, dance, or sing, it’s so important to warm up and allow yourself enough time to feel confident before your audition. Directors can tell the difference between someone who is prepared and warmed up and someone who may be overextending themselves during an audition,” Nyhus said.
Especially in auditions where a performer is making a first impression, Nyhus mentions that staying within one’s comfort zone may be the best way to go.
“As much as you might want to impress the directors with your musical prowess, do not try to push yourself past your personal limits. Pick a song you can sing or play comfortably and focus your energy on perfecting your piece, instead of trying to tackle something that you’re not comfortable doing,” Nyhus said.
Regardless of the nerves a performer may feel before or during an audition, Nyhus and Schwartz both believe that nervousness is a normal part of the process.
“Everyone else auditioning is just as nervous as you are and feeling this way is a normal part of the process; it means that you’re eager to succeed. Trust me, the directors understand this and they want to see you do well. Just focus on yourself and don’t be distracted by anyone else. The directors are proud of you just for auditioning,” Nyhus said.
“My nerves went away quickly once I realized how kind and accepting the choir directors were of me during my audition. It was clear that they had respect for student performers and their main priority was to make sure I felt comfortable enough to express myself both musically and personally,” Schwartz said.
After auditions had passed, Schwartz, Lowe, and Nyhus all spoke to the positive experiences they had in the Gustavus fine arts programs.
“I’ve been in [orchestra] all four years now and they have been the best four years of my life. I have met some of the best people I know through this program,” Lowe said.
“I have always made time for choir in my schedule because I have learned so much about teamwork, friendship, and the importance of making music as a community through my time in the program. I would highly recommend auditioning for any arts program that you’re interested in as a first-year at Gustavus. The staff all want to see you grow into the best version of yourself possible,” Schwartz said.