College auditions have universally moved to online platforms this year as we ride out the pandemic. This presents challenges for everyone involved, but being mindful of what adjustments you need to make, and how your actions will affect the audition committee, can help to make things go as smoothly as possible in this "new normal". Incidentally, I predict we'll be seeing a lot more virtual auditions in future years as it alleviates financial woes related to travel and scheduling challenges for schools, so keep these tips in your back pocket for the future, too.
For pre-recorded auditions:
Read my post on making a decent recording with home equipment here.
Upload video (or audio) onto a ubiquitous platform, either You Tube, Google Drive or Dropbox.
On You Tube, you can set your videos to "unlisted" so they can't be found by the general public. "Private" does not allow anyone but you to view, so avoid this setting!
For Google or Dropbox, make videos playable from the program; when faculty members are required to download videos, they become easily aggrieved.
Large files (HD video, .wav sound) are cumbersome and don't improve sound much. We are listening on our laptops, so go ahead and upload compressed files for ease of uploading (for you) and playability (for us).
Carefully label each file with your name. In a sea of recordings, we may not remember who sent what.
Check all links before sending! We may or may not take the time to track you down and ask you to resend materials that don't work.
For virtual live auditions:
Do everything to ensure your connection is strong: close all other windows on your browser, and if you're at home, ask family or roommates to support you by not using streaming services or other bandwidth-greedy activities during your audition.
Turn off all sound notifications. They distract us all.
Use the most robust equipment you can get your hands on. A laptop and, if you've got it, a USB mic are ideal. Your phone is not a good option, but an iPad might be alright. Do a test run by Zooming a friend or your private teacher beforehand to check sound quality.
Make sure sound settings in the app are ideal; for Zoom, you can turn off mic attenuation and choose "original sound" to allow more dynamics to come through.
Dress nicely and choose a tidy backdrop (i.e., hide your dirty clothes under the bed). It's a good-faith show of effort and we appreciate it.
I worry that, without seeing campus, it's particularly difficult to imagine yourself at a school, let alone being comfortable committing to moving across the country to attend in the fall. Many universities have pretty impressive virtual campus tours on their websites that will help you get a feel for campus. But more importantly, you want to get to know the music department you'll potentially be joining. Ask for contact information for a couple of current students in the studio so you can ask them questions from a student's perspective. Attend all online meetings or class observations related to audition days, or see if the studio teacher would let you join a virtual studio class to get to know the studio a little bit.
And as always, make the most of your time interacting with any prospective teacher, whether over email or in your Zoom audition. You're choosing a school based on how much you think you can learn from the teacher and what it will be like to join that particular musical community, so look for every clue you can!
Good luck to all of you who are auditioning in this decidedly strange year. I am confident that you can still find the right fit despite our current isolation, and I also look forward to a more open, in-person fall 2021!