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Composer Insider: What is a Virtual Audition?

In the 21st century, composers can find talented individuals through virtual auditions. What is a virtual audition? A virtual audition can be defined, loosely, as an audition that takes place in a virtual space or is not conducting "live" like a traditional audition. Today auditions are being created through Youtube, like Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir auditions online, through e-mail, or even through online A&R services like Music Xray. You might want to set up a Skype audition or an audition through Google. Is a virtual audition easy to set up? Yes, and usually it is low or no cost to set up. 

 Cast members for Libertaria: The Virtual Opera were selected through virtual auditions.

There are distinct challenges when dealing in the digital world, especially if the audition is for a live part. For example, an actor or singer might submit a perfectly edited video or sound clip, but in reality may be incredible terrible for the part. That is why it is is important to request unedited raw takes with no edits, no effects, no alteration whatsoever. You also want to give them an original excerpt from your production.  

Singers might want to submit a song from an album and instrumentalists might want to send typical audition excerpts, actors want to do practiced monologues, but what you need is what they can do with new music they have never heard before.  

And you want to know that they have not had a lot of time to take a hundred takes mixed down by an engineer. 

Singers Perry Cook and Matt Meadows sing Metal Ink from Libertaria.

With my animated work Libertaria: The Virtual Opera, I created virtual auditions through Music Xray, e-mail, listserves, online artist boards, and put up ads in music publications. There was a two-step audition process. First the singers sent me a one minute raw take, then I sent them an excerpt from the opera. They recorded that. 

Libertaria was unique in that I requested that all cast members record their own audio for the opera. This was the biggest challenge as the level of recording quality differed greatly between cast members. I created an instruction booklet that also included a basics of recording booklet for the singers. I uploaded click tracks (that included a piano playing each part), instrumental tracks, the instruction booklet, screenplay, and scores in Libertaria Virtual Rehearsal Albums set up through Bandcamp.com, which allows you to set up albums with bonus files for free. 

When conducting online auditions you need to be organized, fair, and try to anticipate any questions or needs of your auditioners. This may include a click track, a clean score, providing a screenplay or libretto, and specifying what type of audio you will accept in detail. The more detail you can provide, the better.

I also requested e-mail auditions through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even had the addition of Perry R. Cook to the cast when he contacted me about the opera. At that point I needed to beef up my male cast, and he had the perfect baritone voice to do that. 

You can use virtual auditions to reach out to a global cast and international talent for your local production, especially productions that take place online, are animated, or related to some sort of interactive media (like a video game or online gallery). 


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