The Age of Video Auditions

I am a long-tenured percussionist with my developmental years being in the 1980s. I’m not trying to be too cliche here, but there was no public Internet, YouTube or any other form of social media. Very few had email access and there were no smartphones with cameras. While all of these things have greatly enhanced the immediate information available to the developing musician, I am particularly disappointed in the adoption of amateur video auditions.

My own amateur audition experience included all state band in Indiana, youth orchestras, college and professional musicals/orchestras. Practicing and perfecting the required material is always a given, but having to perform it live for a professional adjudicator, department head, conductor or music director is what truly differentiates the best candidates in my opinion.

Video auditions were completely justified during the pandemic years. There was no other way to safely identify candidates in 2020/21. But many organizations have standardized on video auditions in the now-endemic times in which we find ourselves. The lure of convenience and cost reduction is strong here. No need to find a venue/school willing to host auditions, hire professional adjudicators for the day to hear candidates live, make candidates travel to the audition site and so on. However, the end result is now focused on recording 50+ takes at home and sending along the best video with no pressure to perform it live.

The other component that is eliminated by video auditions is sight reading. This is always a high-pressure moment in auditions. The candidate is given a short amount of time to view the required etude and make it happen on the spot. The result of this is critical to finding the best candidates.

This all varies by state/organization and I have students in both Illinois and Indiana. The Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) has gone to 100% video auditions at junior all-region and high school all-state levels. The Indiana Bandmasters Association (IBA) has admirably continued with on-site auditions for all state band where sight reading is still required as was the case when I was in high school. Have your students check with their band director for their school’s organizational affiliation. As an example, Indiana now has a competing organization to the IBA in the Indiana Music Education Associaton (IMEA). The IMEA high school Honor Band has no auditions. Selection is based solely on director nomination and other non-audition criteria.

I want to emphasize that I don’t want to take away from amateur musicians that have been selected via video auditions. It’s a great thing for an amateur percussionist (or other musician) to be able to perform the required material at a high level. This has nothing to due with the students overall. My true concern is with the organizations that have eliminated the critical dimension of live performance from their selection process.

Feel free to comment below if you disagree.

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