Finding a great song that isn’t overdone can be a challenge. Especially if you are ten and have never been in love or had your heart broken. Let’s face it. There are only so many musical theater songs written for young performers. Picking age appropriate material is important so that you can relate to it, but you can also find songs that work by making some adjustments. Maybe a child has never been in a romantic relationship but I’m sure they can identify with losing their best friend or having a celebrity crush.
I am asked all the time about how to choose musical audition material. I decided to ask my collaborator in my upcoming musical audition workshop, vocal coach Bob Marks, to weigh in. Bob has coached hundreds of young performers on Broadway, such as Lea Michele, as well as pop stars, like Ashley Tisdale and Britney Spears.
Here are some of the questions he gets asked.
Student: Where can I find a song no one else sings?
Bob: Why would you want to sing a song no one else sings? In my experience, it’s a good idea to sing a song that is not overdone, but not one that the casting team has never heard. You want them to be listening to YOU, not just wondering where the song came from. And the accompanist may have a lot of trouble playing a song he’s never seen before. I think it’s best to give a unique performance and let them remember you!
I have to agree with Bob. And if there is a song you absolutely love, enjoy singing, can relate to, and shows off your voice and personality, go for it! Let them hear the song like they’ve never heard it before.
Student: What if I can't relate to my song because of age or gender?
Bob: There are many ways to relate to a lyric, and the private subtext you create (what you’re thinking while you sing), is very personal. You might be singing a love song to a pet or parent, not necessarily your spouse! However, if the people you’re auditioning for feel that the song is inappropriate for you, it might hurt your chances for a callback.
Well put, Bob. I have heard songs written for boys, sung by girls. And vice versa. If you can create a natural, believable story, by all means, sing it.
When auditioning, the song can be taken out of context from the show. How do you, not the character, identify with the song? If you are singing "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid," it is improbable to think you are a mermaid on land for the first time. Perhaps you can imagine you just landed a role on Broadway and play the awe, excitement, and exhilaration that would come with that notion.
I hear kids that have the most beautiful voices. The only thing missing is the story they are telling through their song. Who are you singing to and why are you telling them this? Pay attention to the “monologue” of your song. It’s what will get you the callback and hopefully the job!!!!
Remember, master your craft, empower yourself and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is an acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, director, and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Denise has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway and in television and film, as well as educating parents on the business of show business.