James Madison University
Percussion Studio Auditions
The following is meant to help in preparation for an audition into the percussion studio at JMU.
While some of these ideas are specific to our program, most would be of value to anyone auditioning for any school. Should you have specific questions, do not hesitate to email one of the percussion faculty. Best wishes to you.
Overall requirements at JMU
We require a concert style snare drum solo and a solo on a keyboard percussion instrument. You will also be asked to play a concert roll. If desired, you may perform a solo on timpani. If you would like your drum set skills considered you should submit a recording (cassette tape, VHS, or CD) of you performing with other people. You will be asked to sight read on snare drum and marimba.
You may bring your own drum(s) or use the concert snare we provide. Many students with good skills choose to perform a rudimental solo in addition to their concert style selection. This may improve your evaluation.
Although marimba is most often chosen you may perform a solo on marimba, xylophone or vibes. You may perform both two - mallet and four - mallet solos if you wish. You may bring your own instrument, or we will provide a five-octave height adjustable Malletech marimba.
Timpani/drum set specifics
These two instruments can help in your audition evaluation. They will not ‘hurt’ your audition score in any way. We will provide 4/5 timpani with balanced action pedals unless you request Dresden pedals ahead of time. The drum set tape/CD needs to show you performing with other musicians. This could be your high school jazz band, a rock band, jazz trio etc. Even playing with just a bass or piano is acceptable.
JMU AUDITION HINTS
As early as possible take lessons with a good teacher who will teach you to read music. All musicians must play a good long tone. Ours is a concert “buzz” roll. Practice reading music on all instruments, including drum set: It’s our language! Show your best abilities! Don’t gamble with the most difficult thing you know. Learn good fundamentals and demonstrate these in the audition: good grips, relaxed motions, musicianship.
Relax and show your personality: We will be working together for four years. We are looking for people who want to explore and learn. Think what you would want to see if you were going to work with someone for four years. During the interview part of your audition relax and be honest with your answers. We will be honest answering your questions.
Plan ahead: The most successful students are those who begin their study with a good teacher years before the audition. This is not to say that you cannot improve considerably with one or two years of lessons, but if you’re reading this prior to your senior year – start now! Find a good teacher who will guide you in the fundamentals of movement as well as reading music. Be sure to study as many percussion instruments as possible, but for sure snare drum and mallets.
Repertoire ideas: As mentioned in the hints section, perform music that shows your best abilities. Don’t bring something so difficult that you cannot show your musicianship. I hesitate to make lists because I don’t want you to think you must play something listed. Those of you who do not have a private teacher with experience at selecting audition material feel free to email our faculty for some suggestions of works that would be appropriate.
Final Preparations: Find out as much as possible about the school. Check out the facilities, the instruments, and the requirements. Try to make a visit so you can decide if you think the teacher and/or the curriculum is what you want to follow for four years. We will respond to email or phone call questions. Check out the academics and reputation of the University. Your degree will have their name at the top! In your final preparation, think like a faculty member. Think about what kind of a student you would like to work with for four years.
Yes, dress and appearances are important. We’re looking for students who are serious about developing their skills, yet our only impression will be your background, how you play, how you talk and how you look. A coat and tie is not required. Neat casual is fine, but frankly a t-shirt is not impressive.