From Jerry Tsai, President of Acceptd
Over the past few years we’ve seen a call for change in the arts industry: the theater industry taking a hard look at their lack of diversity, the Academy Awards called out with the hashtag #oscarssowhite, and symphony orchestras re-evaluating the hiring process for their musicians. As the President of an arts-focused platform, I think about these systemic shifts regularly. Equity and accessibility aren't buzz words to us at Acceptd. Our first core value is to Radically Serve Others. This means we do everything in our power to go above and beyond for our clients, our artists, and the overall arts community.
In the past two audition seasons, we hosted more than 50,000 online auditions through our platform, AuditionRoom. We witnessed incredible success stories for arts organizations and individual artists alike. And, though we are excited that live auditions are back, we also fear that abandoning an online option entirely will cause complications for individuals with accessibility impediments - both physical and fiscal.
We hope that the lessons learned from the pandemic will remain - to provide broader opportunities to those with limited access, and to consider how much value we bring to each other when we are able to connect in new, equitable ways. We invite you to consider holding one or more remote/virtual sessions during your upcoming audition and interview cycle. Continue reading to find out more about how we can support you in keeping the doors open for all.
What We Learned from AuditionRoom
When the pandemic began, we saw a need for our partners that we could help fulfill. We had the engineers and support to create the live audition experience on a virtual platform so that our partners could easily host hundreds of artists who weren't able to audition in-person. Yet we have found AuditionRoom's impact goes far beyond the pandemic. Auditions are often cost-prohibitive for many artists to attend - and not just because of airfare and hotel rooms. For families, it may mean caregivers taking time off from work, or childcare costs for siblings.
Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama is one such partner giving the students a choice of either in-person or virtual auditions this year. Ithaca College is another partner that is offering virtual auditions every Saturday they have campus auditions. Duke Ellington School of the Arts found AuditionRoom invaluable to offer students from the DC area safe and accessible auditions.
"Equity is the name of the game in my book," said Savannah R. Overton Williams, Director of Enrollment & Educational Partnerships at Duke Ellington. "We know we’re returning to in-person, but we also know that there may be some folks who don’t feel comfortable…. and I don’t want to take that opportunity away from them." If you represent an organization that truly values access and equity, continuing to offer some sort of virtual option is essential.
AuditionRoom provides a virtual lobby that can hold up to 300 users, and artists waiting to audition can meet program representatives who can host a virtual Q&A or a warm-up to help artists relax and get a feel for the program. Catherine Weidner, Professor of Theatre Arts at Ithaca College, said one thing she appreciates about AuditionRoom is the flexibility to move someone around if they are delayed or need to step away for a few moments.
Other features include:
a virtual waiting room
announcements when an artist is on-deck
recording capabilities for reviewers
easy communication and data management between audition auditors
To learn more about AuditionRoom, click here.
What We Learned from Virtual Walk-In Audition Weekend
When live Unified auditions were cancelled, the prospect for walk-in auditions was lost as well. Acceptd saw a need to create a Virtual Walk-In Weekend for artists and programs who rely on those options. Musical theatre and theatre students who were looking for additional programs to apply to, couldn't travel to initial auditions for a school, or couldn't sing at an earlier audition due to illness, had access to dozens of programs for a small fee.
Virtual Walk-In Audition Weekend was also valuable to our partners who wanted to increase applications. In 2021, 31 programs utilized the Virtual Walk-In Auditions, and that number increased to 35 programs in 2022.
For student Chelsea Castro, Virtual Walk-In Audition Weekend brought her tremendous opportunities and connected her with her dream school:
Virtual Walk-In weekend helped me find my dream school, Molloy College and the CAP21 program. I had a rough process with lots of twists and turns. Walk-In weekend provided me with the opportunity to 'buff' up my list with more schools so I would hopefully have more options come decision time. I ended up doing 5 Walk-Ins. Every single one of those schools hadn't been on my radar and weren't programs I had considered, and I ended up getting a BFA offer from every single one. I finished this process with 9 offers for BFA audition-based programs, and FIVE of those came from Walk-In weekend. It ended up that 3/5 of my top schools were Walk-Ins.
Not only was she able to choose from more BFA programs, but she valued the equity provided by the virtual option:
By mid-February, my mom and I had gone all over the country for different visits and auditions and it was invaluable to have a travel-free audition opportunity. In April, once I had all my offers, we traveled and visited each option, but we saved so much money and hassle by being able to wait until I knew if any of the new school options had a space for me in their BFA programs."
For more information on participating in Virtual Walk-In Weekend, click here.
As an organization that strives to uplift young artists, we've been listening hard to the insights and values of the next generation. Across the board, we've seen not just an acceptance of virtual practices, but a real desire and appreciation for programs and institutions that prioritize accessibility. This young generation isn't afraid of calling out the old way of doing things, and they are eager to see evolution and change in their educational environment and in the arts industry as a whole. If you're not currently offering inclusive opportunities in your search for artists, we highly encourage you to explore the virtual options available to you. And if not, we'd recommend being prepared to answer questions about if your program is truly living out the tenets of equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
We at Acceptd promise to continue to actively look for opportunities to create greater equity and accessibility for artists around the world. And, we are here to listen to our artists and to our clients about ways we can create more opportunities for all artists. The arts connect us all, and Acceptd strives to do our part by connecting artists everywhere to programs that help them flourish.