I was 4 years old when I played for my first violin contest. My parents were both music teachers, so it was very natural for them to help me during those stressful days. It didn't matter if I was four or fourteen, I was always nervous on contest days. If it weren't for my parents, I never would have made it as a musician. And, though I have great parents, what I needed from them to get through contest season changed as I got older. Sometimes, their nervous energy was too much for me. Other times, I knew I wouldn't have gotten through it without them there.
Auditioning for colleges isn't just stressful for the auditioner, sometimes it's just as - if not moreso - stressful for the parent or guardian. So, this one is for all of you. As someone who spent the better part of my adolescence auditioning, I hope to help ease your mind about how to handle audition season when you aren’t the one auditioning.
How do I help my kid prepare?
Preparing for the college audition process is rigorous. You have to research schools, visit campuses, prepare paperwork and essays, pay fees, pick audition material, prepare material, and the list goes on. Here are some ways you may be able to help:
If your teen seems overwhelmed, helping them simply start a list or a spreadsheet to keep track of college deadlines can be helpful. The spreadsheet can include school information, deadlines, fee schedules, audition dates, and to-dos. Save important deadlines to your online calendar with a reminder the day or even the week before an item is due. You can invite your teen to these “event” deadlines or send them a reminder. Marking these items off of your to-do list can make you and your kid feel accomplished.
Preparing Audition Material
Here are some things I personally found (and still find) helpful from my parents:
Staying Healthy and Focused
You, as the parent or guardian, know how to do this better than anyone. Eating nutritious food, drinking lots of water, getting some exercise, and plenty of sleep is so important during audition season. If your kid does get sick, it's okay. Help them stay calm and rest as much as they can. During this time, there are often not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. You're not alone. If you keep calm and focused, your kid will pick up on that and, even when it seems it isn't helping, I promise you it is. Having Mom bring me a cup of tea when I was studying or Dad reminding me that I should take a break and go for a walk are things I still remember fondly today.
How do I help on audition days?
This one is really important. Our founder, Chelsea Diehl, recommends having a conversation to understand how you’re needed for the day. I remember my dad being great at auditions. He was around, but off to himself reading a book and only helping if I asked. My mother, bless her, had to be sent away by me because her empathetic energy made me more nervous than I already was on my own.
Have an honest conversation with your kid and don’t worry if they’d rather you not be around for the day. Sitting in a coffee shop reading a book, taking a walk, or resting at the hotel while sending them your positive energy may be just as helpful as being by their side. If they do want you around, do your best to remind them to breathe, keep focused, have some snacks and water on hand, and be a source of comfort. Please don’t talk about your kids’ auditions or acceptances to other parents or stick your ear next to the door while they perform. Audition monitors notice these things and can always report back to programs if they find a parent to be distracting.
How do I help my kid once acceptances and rejections come through?
Oof, this is a hard one. Every kid will get at least one rejection, if not several. When I get rejections, having my parents tell me I’m talented and something will come along soon is great. Having my parents get defensive or bitter on my behalf to try and make me feel better is actually not.
This is a business full of nos. Getting used to hearing no and being able to persevere is essential for survival. If you find your kid is getting a lot of nos, check in with your college audition coach if you have one and schedule a brush-up lesson. You could also consider adding some colleges back onto your initial list to increase their chances. Let them vent to you, let them cry, let them be angry, and just be there for it. Be that source of comfort again and they will know deep down that everything will be okay.
If acceptances come - yay! Tell them to keep up the good work and hopefully there will be a number of great choices available at the end of it all. Remember, a lot of kids who get into school change their majors or schools. There will be more opportunities for your kid to flourish. I have many friends on Broadway who didn’t go to the “right” school or even major in theatre and they still made it. This is all about the long game - persevering through rejection, exploring the pathways life gives you, learning from them, and coming out stronger and more focused. The easiest or “right” pathway won’t always happen and sometimes it works out better than you could imagine. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you working with us at My College Audition, we are here to help guide you through this. We care about your kid and we will help in any way we can. You got this. Take a deep breath in, let it out, and trust.
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