Rocco Dal Vera is the Head of the Division of Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), an internationally renowned institution for the performing and media arts. He is the co-author with Joe Deer of Acting in Musical Theatre: a comprehensive course, and with Robert Barton, Voice: Onstage and Off. Both of those texts are used to establish curricula at schools throughout the world.
Q: What is your biggest piece of advice to a student auditioning for colleges?
A: With hundreds of performing arts programs in the US alone, it’s important for you to engage in a thorough process for choosing a school. Select the right program by investigating, visiting and narrowing your choices. Check out the elite schools but also consider your in-state options that may not be household names (yet!).
Depending on the discipline, you will also need to determine the kind of degree you’re interested in: a straight Bachelor’s degree (BA or BS), a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), a Bachelor of Music (BM) or a certificate. Each offers its own advantages and should be explored, which will help you focus in on your preferred programs.
Narrow your selection to five or six schools and visit them — even try to observe classes. Investigate your choices to find your fit. It is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.
Q: What's the best way for a student to prepare for a college audition?
A: Look at the audition requirements for each school and identify the common features to craft and perfect your audition package. Avoid creating five different packages for five schools. You can’t possibly be secure with that much material under pressure. In general, follow the rules and keep an eye out for requirements that say “don’t sing or perform these pieces.” Nothing makes a faculty member disregard you faster than doing something they’ve explicitly told you not to do.
Most college auditions happen between the end of January and the middle of March. So, begin the process of selecting and/or preparing material by at least October. This will give you time to winnow down your choices and try them out in some lightly pressured situations (recitals, cabarets, etc.). Get advice from your teachers, coaches and mentors who have experience in helping students get accepted into good programs. Give yourself the chance to work the material and get so comfortable with it that you don’t have to think about it technically.
Some programs ask for contrasting packages. Contrast can mean many things: ballad vs. up-tempo, serious vs. comic, classical vs. contemporary. In general, you don’t get points for doing any specific kind of material. The piece should be great for you. Your performance is more important than the novelty of the material.
Q: Any final words of wisdom for our readers?
A: Don’t psyche yourself out by thinking that what you wear is the determining factor. Your hair, your charm, whether the person before you did the same song — none of those are very important. When it comes right down to it, a school is looking for talent that will develop well in its particular program. Know the material cold and perfect it so you can perform with confidence.
The UC College-Conservatory of Music’s degree offerings span the spectrum of the performing and media arts. Applications for fall 2017 are now open.
Learn more about CCM’s 100+ major options by visiting http://ccm.uc.edu/info.html.