Preparing For Your Easter Production – The Auditions

You’ve got the date, you’ve picked the production and the copyrights are secured. Now is the time to find the talent! A tip we like to share – hold general auditions during the year so when specific parts are needed you already have an idea of who can play what part and where the members of your church talents’ lie. If you haven’t done so yet, no need to worry. We aim to break down exactly what you need to hold successful auditions and ultimately put on a well-received Easter production that helps spread the good news to your congregation and community.

You’ll Need:

  • List of Vocal solos with requirements (SATB, male/female, age range)
  • If you think many people will try out for one role, use a uniform audition rubric sheet to rate the auditions (keep this private for your selection purposes only)
  • List of drama leads with requirements (gender, age range, abilities)
  • A quiet and private audition space (tip: main sanctuaries are normally a bad place, try a classroom or smaller room)

Scheduling

Give more than one audition time if you’re expecting a large turnout. One after Wednesday night services and one after Sunday services should allow those with scheduling conflicts to still be involved. Recognize red flags early! There are many people who have the best of intentions when signing up but don’t have the stability in their schedules to fully contribute to your team. If you see they’re not able to come to pre-audition meetings or have to re-schedule their audition times, be aware that the issue will probably not be solved by giving them more responsibility, pressure, and obligations.

Posting Parts

Where

If you are posting parts and auditions, a great place to start (if your service format and pastor allows) is to make an announcement during several of your services. Make sure the visuals team has the details to prominently display them on announcement slides and the church bulletin.

When

Give your congregation at least a two-week notice for the auditions and have hand-outs available that outlines time requirements, responsibilities, and rehearsal dates before you members audition for roles.

Pre-Audition

For auditions to go smoothly, you must be prepared, begin on-time, and set an example for how you’d like the entire production to go. Auditions should be kept short and to the point. Five or ten minutes per person should be more than enough time to run through key parts several times. Also, prepare a statement to read to ensure that everyone understands what the time requirements and responsibilities will be. It’s also important that everyone agrees to these requirements before the audition begins.

For many, it may be their first audition in any setting. Let them know that it’s okay to be nervous and that perfection is not a requirement! If time allows, spend a few moments talking with and getting to know the person auditioning. This will give you some brief insight into their personality and communication style, but more importantly, it can help relax someone who’s nervous.

The Audition

Vocal Parts

New Vocalists – For those who have not previously been a part of the worship team, your audition should serve to familiarize yourself with his or her overall skill level. There are countless different approaches to vocal appraisal but here are a few specific skills to look for:

  • Matching pitches
  • Simple scales
  • Find ranges
  • Mimicking simple melodic lines
  • Ask for their “small voice” and their “big voice”
  • Sing a verse or chorus from a worship song they know (a capella)

Finally, have them sing selections or the more difficult parts of the role they’re auditioning for.

Seasoned Vocalists – If you’re already familiar with a vocalist’s abilities, don’t waste time matching pitches or running through scales. Jump straight into the parts they’re trying out for and then decide whether or not they’ll make a good fit.

Musicians

Orchestral Instruments

Many churches that will be performing a sacred work (“high church”) will need to retain professional musicians to complement their current team. If this is the case, nearly any professional orchestral player from a local or regional symphony orchestra (most every town has one nearby) will more than qualified for an Easter production. If they’re professionals, they’ve probably played your sacred works before! It would be considered inappropriate to require a live audition for a professional orchestral musician. If you are concerned about a difficult part, send them a copy before speaking with them.

For non-professional players or younger members, the following is a checklist for auditioning:

  • Sight-reading
  • Have them play the same passage several times, listen for consistency

Praise Band Instruments

Drums

  • Tone / Clarity / Pitch Stability
  • Play any difficult solos or passages from the program’s musical

A great “pocket” drummer can smooth out a lot of wrinkles in a music performance, but picking the wrong drummer can wreak havoc throughout the entire production. Below is a checklist of some important things to look for in a drummer (in order of importance):

  1. Steady tempo.
  2. Tasteful fills/turnarounds (check that they’re not dragging fills)
  3. Ability to change dynamics (ability to play volume from 1-10, not 10-10)
  4. A light-handed, soft-playing drummer is a confident and comfortable drummer!

Rhythm Section (Bass, Guitars, Keyboards)

When auditioning for these positions, “tastefulness” is the golden ticket. Take time to explain what you’re looking for in a bass, guitar, or keyboard player. Let them know the goal is a team environment and a team sound. It’s a big advantage if a musician has experience playing in a group and not just solo. Here are a few things you should check for when auditioning rhythm players:

  1. Ability to sight read chord charts
  2. Comfort level with their instrument
  3. Any difficult solos or passages from the program

Drama / Acting Roles

If you’re short on experience in the realm of theater, consult with other colleagues in your area. It’s very common for music and creative arts directors to bring in outside help (judges) for the audition process. No matter how discerning you are, having another set of eyes and ears will always bring a broader perspective on a performance.

Here are some tips for running a smooth drama audition:

  • Have all actors for a role audition the same parts for comparison (compare apples to apples).
  • Allow actors to select an additional passage that they feel resonated with them personally (optional).
  • Don’t be afraid to coach during the audition. If a performer needs to change something in his/ her delivery, don’t be afraid to teach them. This will also show you their ability to take advice and follow instructions. It’ll also show you how quickly they can change/improve aspects of their performance.
  • If you think they would be a better fit for another part, give them a chance to read lines for that character/part (even if they have to read from the script).

Ending the Audition

If done poorly, the end of the audition can be an awkward and disappointing experience for all. If someone is obviously not a good fit from the beginning, don’t stop them early or cut their audition short. Show courtesy and love to see it through to completion. Always thank them for their time, but don’t feel obligated to embellish their abilities or performances as this can lead to unfairly high expectations.

At first, you should separate drama practice from the musical side as much as possible. This allows for efficiency and prevents one group from potentially distracting another. Only when both groups have “owned” the material will combined practices be beneficial. Lastly, do at least two dress rehearsals of your production. Use the information gained from the dress rehearsals and modify any aspects as needed (especially timing).

If you have questions regarding copyrights and your Church please contact us at 877-394-5566 to talk to a copyright expert. Or log onto our website and chat live now.

Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s founder/CVO, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.