Parenting Win of the Week: Audition Season

Here's how parents can support their kids through their first big audition or tryout.

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Beautiful girl playing the violin in concert hall

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Beautiful girl playing the violin in concert hall

Photo by: Jasmin Merdan

Jasmin Merdan

As my kids continue to get older, I’ve noticed that certain things I didn’t have to deal with until much later in life are now present in their lives. I was really active in theater and dance, but it wasn’t until high school when I had my first audition.

Nowadays, auditions happen much sooner. My oldest is a sports player and he’s been trying out for travel teams since he was nine years old. Given these earlier pressures, I wanted to talk to someone about the best way to prepare for an audition (or tryout) and what happens if your kid is disappointed?

Dana Vachharanjani, founder of Dana V Music school in Louisville, Colorado teaches music lessons — from singing to cello — to kids, so she’s no stranger to youth going through the audition process. Here are the tips she’s learned along the way.

As our kids get older, they are starting to audition for more things, whether it be chorus, band, a play, etc. What is the best way to get them prepared, both mentally and for their audition piece?

The best way to prepare for any audition, regardless of the artistic discipline, is to find a good teacher. This might seem like a simple answer coming from a music teacher (and maybe it is!), but that doesn’t make it any less true. A good teacher is going to know the audition process and be able to help your child prepare their materials to the best of their abilities. However, there are other ways that parents can aid in preparing for the big moment.

  • Attend live events or watch performances online: How does the symphony’s cello section perform that excerpt your child is working on? What do your child’s favorite actors do that make their performances so riveting? Helping your child to see their craft in action is a great way to give them ideas and help motivate them.
  • Ask your student’s teacher how you as a parent can be involved: Talking to your child’s teacher, whether or not you have any prior knowledge or experience in your child’s artistic pursuits, will help shed some light on what they should be working on at home. Ask questions like, "How can I best help my child at home?" or "Should they practice differently?" Let your child’s teacher guide you as best as they can.
  • Positive Motivation — don’t burn them out before the audition: Helping your child to work diligently and intelligently is one thing, but forcing them to do so can be counterproductive. Help them by encouraging them and offering support.
  • Mock auditions are awesome: Have your child perform all of their audition materials in front of you, family members, and friends. Mock auditions are great opportunities for them to experience running through everything with a little bit of nerves, but still in a supportive environment.
  • Help them stay organized: You are the head of logistics! Once your child has decided to audition, support them by helping them stay organized. Knowing the details relieves any extra stress your child may have.
  • Make sure practice sessions have little distractions: A calm, distraction-free environment is key to productive practice sessions.
  • Remind them to limit their phone time: Help them set up a quiet room in the house without a TV, screens, or family members walking in and out all of the time.
  • Be their biggest supporter: There are critics everywhere — you might be surprised! Make sure that you are their biggest advocate, supporter, and fan. Stay positive!
  • Discuss your "role" on the big day: Some children love to have their parent(s) there for every step of the way, but there are others that would love to just put on a pair of headphones and zone out, or socialize with the other children before they are called. Find out what would be helpful to your child before the day of the audition and respect their wishes, but just be ready to jump in, if needed.

Nerves are a normal part of the process, but what do we do if our child is really nervous?

  • Preparation is a good way to minimize nerves. If your child feels prepared, they will feel more confident. Confidence will help them feel less nervous.
  • Encourage them. Remind them that nervousness is natural and (almost) everyone experiences it. Being nervous shows you care and are passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Offer perspective. I often remind my students that this is 5-10 minutes of their day and then they can move on. Callbacks are the same. These don’t take hours upon hours, so just put things in perspective. Even with longer callbacks, it is helpful if your child is aware of the process. Just keep that logistics train going!
  • Breathe! There are so many exercises out there that will help your child calm down naturally. I like to do 4-7-8 breathing — In for a slow four beats, hold for seven, and slowly out for eight beats. Another is a long slow breath in and then out while counting to 10, letting all the air out. Repeat these at least 3-4 times.
  • If they’re experiencing serious physical reactions (overly sweaty palms, vomiting, shaking, etc.), take a step back. Get to the bottom of their nerves with them but don’t push too much. Sometimes they need to process this experience and it takes time. There is nothing wrong with putting an audition on hold and waiting until they might feel ready for the next one.

How do you prepare a kid for an audition that is super competitive?

There are those auditions and competitions that will have more at stake. You, your child, and their teacher need to discuss the pros and cons of those experiences and how and if they benefit the growth of your child.

Your preparation might need even more organization and focus, but please make sure that you are keeping the physical and mental wellness of your child in the forefront. Some children love competition and some don’t. Getting through a competitive audition can truly boost a child’s confidence as a testament to the commitment they put into it.

What if your kid auditions and doesn't make it?

  • Unless they’re auditioning for a professional symphony or professional acting job, your child’s livelihood is most likely not contingent on how the audition goes. Not making an audition is just as much an educational experience as making it. What went wrong? Was the issue in the preparation or in the audition itself?
  • Auditioning is a skill in and of itself. The more you do, the better you’ll get at it. Don’t let "not making it" keep your child from auditioning in the future. Instead, give them some time to recuperate and then talk to them about it. Are they happy with how they auditioned? What were they most proud of? What can they most improve on?

What if your kid makes it but their friend doesn't? How can they be a good friend?

  • Teach them about being a gracious winner. Let them know it’s okay to console their friend, but it might not be the best idea to talk about their own successful results too much. Processing a rejection can take some time. Just let your child know that.
  • A good friend will be supportive of your child, no matter the outcome, but a little jealousy can occur. Help your child to know that their friend deserves to be treated with support and respect. Knowing how much your own child learned from the experience, encourage their friend to try again when the next opportunity presents itself.
  • Reactions to auditions can be unpredictable. Just make sure that you have a dialogue with your child so that you can work through anything that arises.

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