It’s NYSSMA season, and all over NY State, kids are prepping their scales, sight-reading skills and selected solo pieces to show off their talents. Recently, a parent asked me what her daughter should wear for her upcoming NYSSMA audition, and it got me thinking about presentation for auditions in general. As performers, we are always conscious of how we present ourselves to those taking in our work. In audition settings, attire is especially important. Before we even open our mouths, pick up our bows, or prepare our embouchure we make an impression on our audience with how we are dressed, and how we walk into a room. Many performers struggle with finding the best audition attire, without taking the focus away from the performance itself. Here are some good tips for how to pick out a great, appropriate outfit for your big day.
1) Determine the formality of the occasion
In today’s society, we have seen a general slackening of dress code for many sectors, with many employees able to work in jeans, sneakers, etc. However, auditions should be considered special events, and fashion for them needs to be approached in the correct manner. One of my general suggestions, no matter the level of audition, is NEVER wear jeans or sneakers. Even if it is a less-formal audition, I always suggest at least nice khaki or black pants. Girls and women should feel free to wear pants or skirts, depending on their preference. For more formal events, such as a big concert performance or recital, formal dresses, suits, and even tuxedos may be more appropriate. However, I would NOT suggest showing up to your NYSSMA exam in a tux! For boys, a shirt and tie, and perhaps a jacket (if you prefer) should be just fine.
2) Remember: comfort is key
Auditions can be nerve-wracking and stressful. One of the best things you can do to help yourself perform well is to dress comfortably. If an outfit is in any way constricting or uncomfortable, it will not only distract you from your performance, but it may impede your ability to physically move in the manner required for your instrument. For female singers, wearing 4 inch heels for your audition, when you are used to practicing in flats or shorter heels, will throw off your balance. The adjustment might be too big to overcome in a short time. For sting players, tight jackets or long-sleeved shirts may get in the way of proper bowing, so make sure to test your range of motion in your outfit to make sure you can still play as usual. An unusually tight belt or shirt can affect breath control for both singers and wind players.
3) Your outfit should not distract audience/judges from your performance
Erring on the more conservative fashion side is always a good idea with audition attire. When you audition, the key is to appear neat and professional. You want the judge or audience to remember your performance most, not your outrageous orange suit! Ladies, showing too much skin can be distracting; make sure your skirts hit at least knee level, and that neckline does not plunge too low. On the opposite end, men’s jackets and pants should not be overly baggy, too-long, etc.
For singers, it might be appropriate to dress in a style of a particular role you might be auditioning for, but I would discourage anyone from showing up dressed as a clown when auditioning for Pagliacci! Again, your outfit should enhance your audition, not overtake it!
4) Keep your hair out of your face!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have witnessed even professional musicians commit this faux-pas. From a practical standpoint, hair in your face can mean difficulty seeing sheet music or the instrument itself. In addition, blocking your face from your audience’s view shuts them out of your performance, and often prevents them from sharing in your enjoyment of a piece. So, pull out the hair gel, clip those bangs up with bobby pins, and let us see your eyes!
The key to finding an appropriate outfit when performing or auditioning is simply to use common sense. If you do not feel comfortable in your clothing, you will likely not give your best performance. Why compromise your months of hard work in music lessons and musical preparation with an easily remedied wardrobe issue?
Break a leg!