Audition Tips

A short guide to undergraduate auditions

Paul Joseph/UBC

Paul Joseph/UBC

By Katherine Evans, Manager of Admissions

Greetings! By now most Bachelor of Music applicants will have received a definitive audition date and time for early March 2019. Some of you may have taken a lot of auditions, or this may be your very first one. It’s a chance for you to get acquainted with the School of Music — our facilities, our faculty, and our current students — and a chance for you to demonstrate the musical skills you’ve been working on! We really want to make the audition process stress-free and enjoyable, so we've put together a few tips.

Planning Your Audition

1.     Leave extra time to get to UBC Music early. Parking is available pretty close to the music building and the bus loop is about a 10-minute walk. You will want to be able to visit the welcome desk in the lobby, settle yourself in a practice room, and have plenty of time to warm up before finding your audition room.

2.     Hydrate & make sure you have something with you to eat.  Food options on campus are growing daily but most are still at least a 10-minute walk away – time you may not want to take from your pre-audition routine. The Music Undergraduate Society will have cookies and coffee available in the lobby.

3.     Ready? Take a deep breath, remember to think of the music, and have a good time!  The faculty is enthusiastic and ready to hear you play or sing your very best.  They love to meet applicants and learn about their talent and potential.

What to expect

How long are the auditions?

Auditions are generally are 15 – 20 minutes long.

What does it feel like when you walk into the audition room?  

The auditions are professional, but definitely friendly. Everyone on the faculty audition panel wants to hear you play your best. One of the faculty or student assistants will usher you into the audition room and make sure that you have a moment to get settled.

Is there an interview portion of the audition?

There is no formal or mandated interview portion of your audition, but in almost all cases the faculty panel will take a few minutes to talk with you about your musical experience – they’ll ask you about something you’ve written in your application essay, or about a piece of music you’ve chosen to perform…it’s an informal opportunity for you all to get to know each other.

Is there a music theory exam or separate sight-singing exam on the day of my audition?

No, there’s no longer a theory exam required. Instead, applicants who are accepted into the BMUS program and choose to attend, will take a theory placement exam in the first week of school.  More details are here: under “Music Placement Test".

Is a collaborative pianist (accompanist) required at my BMUS audition?

At the undergraduate level, working with a pianist is optional for all auditions except voice. Because a pianist is mandatory for voice auditions, a UBC staff pianist is available free of charge to play at all voice auditions. Anyone auditioning for voice may also work with the pianist of their choice.

A little insight from our faculty...

Richard Epp, vocal coach extraordinaire, plays at about 95% of the voice auditions at UBC. He’s given us a little insight into this process below:

Audition time is exciting at UBC for everyone who works here. We are as excited to hear you and to get to know you as you are to be here. I play for the voice auditions and have played most of the standard repertoire. I am also very good at following singers :)

When I come out to the lobby to bring you into the audition space, I will introduce myself and have a quick look at your music. I may ask for your tempos, but if I start at a tempo that you are not used to, just sing it the way you are used to and I will follow you. If I don’t know the piece I will ask for the tempo and then I may take ten seconds just to look at the music. If you are doing a very obscure piece you can just send me an email with the info.

In the audition the people listening may be writing down notes, reading your file, etc. Don’t let that throw you. They hear many people during the day and the chances are they are writing down things they liked, how beautiful your voice is and how much potential you have, as opposed to what they didn’t like. So, take a deep breath, be confident and have fun.”

Questions or concerns?

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me at!

Updated from Feb. 21st, 2018

More audition advice!

The BMus auditions are almost here, and we've got more sage advice from our faculty. This will be of particular interest to prospective students of voice and of wind, brass, and percussion.

From Dr. Robert Taylor, Chair of the Wind, Brass and Percussion Division:

Dr. Robert Taylor

Dr. Robert Taylor

  1. Prepare diligently! Your audition is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your musical strengths.
  2. Read the audition requirements carefully and prepare all of the required selections. Whenever possible, listen to multiple recordings of the required pieces so that you understand the context of each passage.
  3. Be professional and make a good first impression. Dress appropriately. The faculty panel may ask you some informal interview questions. 
  4. Warm-up and arrive early with your instrument tuned and ready to go. Bring your assembled instrument and sheet music. It’s not possible to leave your instrument in the practice room unattended, so please bring your cases and materials. It’s possible that you could leave some things in the hall with the audition assistant, or bring them into the audition room with you if you like. 
  5. If sightreading is asked: scan the music silently before you begin. Choose an appropriate tempo so that you can perform at your best without stopping. Play as musically as possible, paying close attention to all expressive markings (and adding interpretive decisions of your own!).
  6. Take some risks, communicate your interpretive intent, and remember that auditions are an important educational experience. Everybody in the room wants you to do well. Break a leg!
Prof. Nancy Hermiston

Prof. Nancy Hermiston

From Professor Nancy Hermiston, Chair of the Voice/Opera Program:

For the singers, we want you to know that we are very happy that you have decided to audition for us and we are looking forward to hearing you sing!  Please don’t be nervous — we are singers too and we are a positive, friendly audience! You should sing whatever pieces that show your own individual voice at its best.

We are looking for singers who can communicate the song to the audience, no matter what language it is in, and move the audience with their performance. We are looking for students who have good potential for future development; who love performing and love being part of a program that challenges them musically, intellectually and encourages them to be socially responsible individuals who give back to their community and will become global citizens.

Our program is diverse, interesting and large enough to challenge our students but small enough so that the student will not feel lost. Students receive the individual attention required to help them be the best that they can be and to achieve their goals. We offer our students a very high standard in their performance and academic subjects and give them many opportunities for international performance experience during their undergraduate degrees!

As always, please direct any questions to Katherine Evans, Admissions Manager, at