COVID-19 closures force music auditions online


Photo submitted by Madelyn Puhrmann

Sophomore Madelyn Puhrmann practices her violin at home. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all musicians are forced to stay home and practice alone, making coordination between the members of the entire music group difficult.

Austin Fierro, Online Editor

Following the stay at home order by Governor Tim Walz, all public schools were asked to close until May 4. This caused many school-sanctioned activities to be modified or canceled, including music auditions. While the band program had largely completed auditions for the 2020-2021 school year before spring break and avoided complications related to the stay at home orders, the orchestra and choir were forced to conduct auditions online. However, evaluating musical performance over a video or audio recording is not the same as a real-life audition, which can cause complications for both the performer and the evaluator.

“The online audition seems a little less effective because the teacher cannot directly view our performance. However, we can have as many do-overs as we would like. I feel more comfortable online because I can go at my own pace, but I think that in-person auditions are better at getting me out of my comfort zone,” junior Noah Woodruff said.

For the evaluator, online auditions can hinder their ability to properly evaluate the performance. Audio quality will never be perfect, and it could make it more difficult to notice any errors in the playing. Online auditions also make it difficult to provide immediate feedback to the performer and evaluate their ability to quickly learn from their mistakes.

“Online auditions do make the process of judging auditions faster, and it is easy to go back and compare multiple recordings. However, we only see the student’s best take, and the process lacks human connection,” orchestra director Zach Sawyer said.

For the performer, it can be both a blessing and a curse to conduct auditions online. Online auditions make it very difficult for the performer to receive immediate feedback on their performance and learn ways to improve. However, being able to record multiple times until they are satisfied with their performance, as well as removing the pressure of playing for a live audience can make the stress of auditions more bearable. In addition, the requirements of auditioning could be loosened, and Woodruff stated the audition “takes a lot of the pressure off.”

Online auditions do make the process of judging auditions faster, and it is easy to go back and compare multiple recordings. However, we only see the student’s best take, and the process lacks human connection.”

— Zach Sawyer

“Pros of doing the audition in person would be that it is one and done. You get your audition time and you get one chance to show your skills. This is helpful because you don’t have to worry about making it perfect,” explained Puhrmann. “In the same way, this also is a con because you may have not liked the way things went and therefore wish you could’ve had a redo. With the online audition, a pro would be that you’re way less nervous because you aren’t being put on the spot. You don’t have that shaky feeling and that is helpful because it shows your skills off much more.”

At present, the only way for the music program to hold auditions is to conduct them online. While it is not the ideal situation, the music directors have worked hard to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. In the future, the music program may be able to use this system as a way to allow students who are unable to attend live auditions a chance to try out for a higher band.

“I would rather have an audition in person than online. However, I am more than willing to record myself and send [a video] to my teacher given the circumstances we are in,” Woodruff said.

Auditioning online is a useful tool that can be used in the future to help those who may need it, but it is not an easy process. Transitioning to an online format is difficult for students who are accustomed to live auditions, but both students and teachers handled it well and are moving towards an excellent year of music for the 2020-2021 school year.

Overall, I feel that I was still able to evaluate students’ performance without a major change from the live auditions. However, I still prefer live auditions. I enjoy connecting with the students during the audition process,” Sawyer said.