We generally hold auditions at the beginning of fall term every year (look for posters and NNB notices or check out our table at the Student Activities Fair to find out where and when). Sometimes we hold auditions during the year as well (for example if some of us are going abroad winter term, we may need more people!) If you get accepted into the group, you’re in for life (really, we’re not joking—once a ‘dental always a ‘dental!) so you won’t have to re-audition every term or anything. We are completely student-run, so the only people present at your audition will be the current members of the Accidentals.
The most important thing to remember in Accidentals auditions is that our goal is to hear you sing and decide how good a fit you’ll be with the rest of the group, not to scare the crap out of you. So relax, be yourself, and maybe even try to have some fun if you’re really brave. We’re not scary. We promise. Here’s a basic rundown of how auditions go:
Stage 1: First Round Auditions
In your individual audition, we’ll let you choose whether you want to do your solo song first, or if you’d prefer to wait. We’ll also lead you through a warm-up exercise to test your range, and have you do “sing-backs,” where you sing series of notes after they have been played on the piano for you. Solos are your turn to shine. Let your personality show, and have fun with it. These are some (but certainly not all) of the things we look for in women auditioning:
- Solo Voice It’s important that you have the ability to carry a song on your own, but you should also be able to…
- Blend This includes being able to control your vibrato and the volume of your voice, in addition to shaping the “color” of your voice. It’s a tough choice to make, but we always have to turn down some outstanding singers who can’t blend. Our blend changes depending on the group at the time, so if you get turned down once, you might blend better the next time you try out!
- Intonation Try to hit notes directly rather than sliding up or down to them. Slides can be cool stylistically, but you should be able to be accurate when you want to be. In an a cappella group, it’s imperative that everyone in the group be able to hold their pitch because there isn’t any instrumental support to keep it where it’s supposed to be.
- Range Even if we love your audition, we definitely have needs for people with specific vocal ranges sometimes. Many of our song arrangements span nearly three octaves from the highest part to the lowest, which means we need people with freaky ranges to sing some of the more extreme parts. To a large extent, this is beyond your control, but you’d be amazed at how your voice develops over your college years. We’re especially looking for low, low altos right now, but that doesn’t mean being a soprano or a mezzo puts you out of the running. A group full of low, low altos would sound pretty silly, I think. Try to pick a solo song that shows off your range!
- Sass We take our music seriously, but we also love to have a great time together. Chocolate, hugs and general group lovin’ are almost as important as music sometimes, because it really does show in the music when group members get along. We want to see how much you love singing. Group decisions are made by consensus rather than by elected officers, so flexibility is key. This is not to say that you have to be wishy washy. On the contrary, the Accidentals are an opinionated group of women. But, as in any group, everyone must be willing to compromise.
These aren’t all the things we consider, but they are some of the more important ones. It’s always amazing to see all the different women who come through auditions. Even if you don’t make callbacks, please audition again! The group’s sound is constantly changing as different people leave and return. One term we might not need any high sopranos, and the next we may be begging for them. Please don’t think it’s you. A lot depends on what voice parts we need. Some of the current Accidentals auditioned more than once before they made the group. So keep auditioning! We usually aren’t looking for a specific number of people—it depends on how many we have and how many of you guys really impress us—but we generally take between two and four. After a period of painful deliberation, we narrow the auditionees down to a smaller list (usually 5-10 people, but it depends on how many people audition, and how many outstanding auditions there are). We then post this list along with the day and time for…
Stage 2: Callbacks
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. We think you’re pretty groovy, and we want to hear you sing a whole lot more. Since this is probably the day after your first audition, we’ll go through group warm-ups again. Try not to be intimidated (I know, not likely) if one of us walks by and sticks her ear near your mouth. We’re just trying to hear you better. Then we’ll do a group improvisation segment. Improvisation is an important part of being an Accidental. Some of our songs have improv sections, and we occasionally arrange songs by listening to them and making things up, so you will need to be able to invent your own parts.
After the improv segment, we will teach you three different parts a song that we do (which is usually “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock) which are the low harmony, the melody, and the high harmony. If you are a low alto, we may also ask you to try singing the “bass” line. When it seems like everyone has the parts down pretty well, we send everyone out of the room and bring you in one at a time. You will sing all three parts with members of the Accidentals singing the parts you aren’t singing. We’re looking for your ability to hold your own part, blend with the other singers, and hold your pitch. We might ask you to try changing your vowel shapes or sing with straight tone. After everyone has sung alone with the group, we might bring you in in twos or other groupings to see how you blend with one another, and how those groupings sound with current members.
After that is the sucky part: waiting. We try to make our decisions as quickly as we can, but it’s almost always really difficult. When we’ve decided we’ll post our list, but don’t be surprised if someone comes to kidnap you from your dorm room (hint: It might be in your best interest to be at home.) in the wee hours. Again, if you don’t make it this time, please audition again. That’s about it. Good luck to everyone auditioning!