• Student Information: Tips for the Performer
  Tips for Auditions
  Audition Timeline

Students, did you know. . .

  • A WSMA Music Festival is intended to celebrate your accomplishments, and provide you with a clinic for continuing musical growth?

Whether or not ratings are given, the purposes of WSMA Solo & Ensemble Music Festivals remain the same:

  • Establish standards of excellence in music performance
  • Motivate you to continue studying music
  • Improve your music performance
  • Improve your understanding of music literature and music concepts
  • Understand the relationship of your musical experiences to other life experiences.

Tips for Solo & Ensemble Performance

At Least Three Months Before the Festival

  • Ask your music teacher about the performance level he/she recommends for you, music selection, accompanist recommendations, required movements, time allotment, and ensemble options.
  • Make a practice schedule. Remember to include time for other activities, such as co-curricular school activities, sports, work, etc.
  • Locate an original copy of your piece(s) for the judge.
  • Secure an accompanist, and give the music to the accompanist. o Number the measures in your music, the accompanist's, and judge's copy.
  • Practice with a metronome slowly, target difficult areas, and work in sections.
  • Do your homework about the music's stylistic period, terms, tempos, phrases and form, proper ornamentation (trills, etc.), and text.
  • Schedule time to work with your music teacher.

At Least 4 Weeks Before the Festival

  • You should be comfortable performing all notes, rhythms, articulation, and text.
  • Be musical — do more than what is printed in the music.
  • Give special attention to dynamics, tempo changes, phrasing, and other musical elements.
  • Begin rehearsals with your accompanist and/or ensemble(s).
  • Tape your performance to critique yourself, and invite others to provide comments. Use a critique form like the one found in the WSMA Handbook.
  • Perform for others as much as possible.

One Week Before the Festival

  • If necessary, copy pages to accommodate awkward page turns.
  • Inform your accompanist of your performance time and room.
  • Take good care of yourself and get plenty of rest.
  • Clean your instrument, and be sure it is in excellent working condition.
  • Write the introduction you will announce at your performance. Include your name, school, accompanist's name, the title and composer of the work, and a single interesting aspect of the piece to listen for (style, rhythm, form, technique, melody, etc.)
  • Arrange a "dress rehearsal" with friends so you can practice the sequence of tuning, your introduction, and your performance.

The Night Before the Festival

  • Review your schedule for the day.
  • Schedule time to listen to other students.
  • Be sure your music is ready for the judge and for you.
  • Write a Thank You card to your accompanist.
  • Decide on what you'll wear to the Festival. This is a special day, and you should plan to dress up. Avoid jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, hats, etc.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
The Morning of the Festival
  • Double-check your instrument and music. Bring extra reeds, strings, or supplies to avoid an emergency.

At the Festival

  • Arrive in plenty of time to locate the warm-up and performance rooms.
  • Carefully warm-up, stretch, and tune.
  • Arrive to your performance room 10 minutes early, if possible.
  • Tell the room monitor you are there.
  • Don't panic if your accompanist is late; they will be there.
  • Conflicts will be resolved. Tell people about them, and they will be worked out.
  • Nervousness is normal. The best way to reduce nervousness is to be as prepared as possible.

Right Before You Perform

  • Give the judge their copy of the music, unless the room monitor offers to do this for you.
  • Prepare your instrument (wet reeds, empty spit valve, etc.)
  • Tune to the piano.
  • Smile and announce your name, school, your accompanist's name, the title and composer of the work, and a single interesting aspect of the piece to listen for (style, rhythm, form, technique, melody, etc.). Be mature.
  • Position yourself so the judge can easily see what you're doing.
  • Mentally prepare yourself.
  • This is your opportunity to show everyone what you can do. Let any mistakes go by, and enjoy making music!


When You've Finished. . .

  • Approach the judge, politely listen to comments, and thank the judge.

Most importantly. . .

  • No matter what rating you receive, if you have followed these guidelines, you will know you have done your best in preparing for Festival. You should be proud of what you have done. Remember to support your friends in their musical performances.

Tips for Auditions

Auditions vs. Festival Performance

Unlike a performance at a WSMA Music Festival, the outcome of an audition often involves additional recognition or placement in a music organization. Auditions are usually required for state and national Honors organizations, summer music camps, acceptance in a collegiate music performing ensemble or department, or chair placement. Proper preparation for an audition requires many of the same steps as preparing for a WSMA Music Festival with these additional guidelines:

Audition Performance Goals

A successful audition performance demonstrates accomplishment of technical skills and musical artistry which goes well beyond the dynamics on the printed page. The three simple steps to achieving this goal are:

  1. Practice Slowly
    • Work on difficult passages using a metronome. Increase speed only when you have comfortably mastered all musical elements at slower tempos.
  2. Practice Often
    • There is no substitute for practicing. Perform for others before your audition. Tape record your performances, and invite others to critique you.
  3. Perform with Confidence
    • Your audition selections should be performed with emotion and confidence. Put yourself in the music, and practice communicating with your audience as you master the technical aspects of your music.


Most auditions require performers to sight-read. Practice sight-reading at least once per week. Read through unfamiliar pieces of music. Before you sight-read, check your music for the following musical elements using the STARS* acronym:

S - Sharps or flats in the key signature
T - Time signature and tempo markings (text, if you're singing lyrics)
A - Accidentals and Articulations (bowings, accents)
R - Rhythm (isolate difficult rhythm passages, and subdivide them)
S - Signs (dynamics, DC al Fine, repeats, changing meters or tempos, etc.)

*STARS acronym is from Essential Elements Comprehensive Band Method � Copyright Hal Leonard Corporation Milwaukee, WI All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Winds/Percussion/Strings/Piano Auditions

Memorize all required major, minor, chromatic, and/or modal scales. Be prepared to perform as many octaves as possible in even tempos using the correct articulation pattern, if any were provided in the audition requirements.

Vocal Auditions

Be sure you ask for proper coaching on language pronunciations, style, and phrasing. Always warm-up carefully before the audition.

Audition Timeline

At Least Three Months Before the Audition

  • Complete the audition application and turn it in by the deadline.
  • Get your own copy of the audition requirements.
  • Carefully review the audition requirements, and ask your teacher to clarify any questions you might have.
  • Obtain copies of all music for your audition.
  • Write down a realistic practice schedule. Remember your other commitments (co-curricular activities, sports, work, etc.) Get in the habit of practicing all of your audition requirements (scales, etude, solo, sight-reading, etc.) every day.
  • If needed, find an accompanist.
  • Schedule several lessons with your music teacher before the audition.

One Month Before Your Audition

  • Record your performances often, and evaluate your performance. Invite others to hear you perform, and use a critique form like the one found in the WSMA Handbook.
  • Ask your music teacher for assistance.
  • Practice with your accompanist, if one is required for your audition
  • Keep practicing scales, sight-reading, vocalizing, and other audition requirements.
  • Clean your instrument, and be sure it is in excellent working condition.

The Day Before the Audition

  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Audition Day

  • This is a special day, so dress appropriately - no jeans, T-shirts, or hats.
  • Arrive in plenty of time to find the warm-up area and your audition room.
  • Warm-up the way you've been taught to warm-up. Don't imitate others, or be intimidated by different warm-up sounds you'll hear in the warm-up room.
  • Arrive to your audition room at least 10 minutes before your scheduled time. Check with others to see if the judge is on schedule.

In the Audition Room

  • Smile when you give the judge your music and/or evaluation forms.
  • Take the time to collect your thoughts before your performance.
  • This is your time to show the judge what you can do. If mistakes happen, simply continue and strive for an even better performance.


You took the initiative to audition, and you followed through with your commitment.

When the Audition is Over

  • Listen carefully to any constructive comments the judge may give you.
  • Thank the judge for evaluating your performance.

Audition Results

  • Be proud of what you've accomplished because you gave your best to your audition performance.