Making the cut

GVL / Marissa Dillon

GVL / Marissa Dillon

Erin Grogan

Between two days of vocal ensemble concerts and an audition day, this week is a big one for Grand Valley State University’s Music department.

Auditions for music majors are normally held on Saturdays, but this week’s audition will be held on Friday, Feb. 20. This is the fourth of seven audition days held throughout the year.

Valerie Stoelzel, GVSU’s concert manager and arts information coordinator, is involved with organizing the audition process.

“I think we’re really good with the audition process,” Stoelzel said. “We’re structured, yet not terribly structured. We still give that personal attention.”

Students who audition to become instrumental music majors are required to be accepted at GVSU and prepare two or three contrasting pieces in a personal audition.

“These are students who really want to have a career in music,” Stoelzel said. “We’re looking for a well-rounded musician who shows this is what their passion is.”

During the audition day, students are expected to perform pieces in front of a panel of three faculty members who are acting as judges. This panel will judge auditions based on many things including tone, intonation, rhythm, style, phrasing, expression, stage presence and overall presentation. They will also judge the students’ sight-reading skills. The Music department expects around 25 students to attend the upcoming auditions.

Ellen Pool, director of choral activities, is the conductor of the University Arts Chorale, Cantate Chamber Ensemble and the Select Women’s Ensemble. Pool also teaches choral conducting classes in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Auditions for the Music department as a vocalist has different expectations from those wishing to become instrumental music students. They must prepare three songs for auditions – one foreign language art song or aria, one music theater song and one classical art song. Similar to instrumental auditions, their placement is also determined by on sight-reading ability and knowledge of music theory.

“We look at their technique and assess where they are,” Pool said. “We expect them to be able to begin rigors of college work.”

The Music department offers opportunities for students who are not music majors to participate in music groups, such as ensembles and choirs. Some of these groups include the Select Women’s Ensemble, the University Singers and the University Arts Chorale. These groups perform throughout the year.

On Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m., the University Singers and the Select Women’s Ensemble will perform an hour-long concert in the Cook-DeWitt Center. The concert will consist of gospel spirituals and a mountain ballad. The Select Women’s Ensemble will also perform Reflections from Yad Vashem, a piece that combines Bible and Hebrew texts with names of children persecuted in the Holocaust.

“It is a demanding piece emotionally and musically,” Pool said. “This is a piece people need to hear.”

Another concert on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cook-Dewitt Center will feature the University Arts Chorale, Cantate Chamber Ensemble directed by Pool and Varsity Men directed by Charles Norris. They will perform a mass with the Chamber Orchestra and two spirituals. The Cantate Chamber Ensemble will perform 20th Century and jazz music.

“They are going to be fabulous,” Pool said. “All groups are very well prepared. They are performing at a very high level.”

Any GVSU student interested in joining the Music department’s major or minor programs is able to participate in auditions, but they must submit an application online at least 3 weeks prior to their preferred audition date. The Music department will also hold auditions in March and April.