Ensemble Audition Information

List of ensembles in the School of Music

Auditioning for entry into the School of Music? Visit Undergraduate or Graduate admissions.


Orchestras 2016-17

Symphony Orchestra Auditions

No spring 2017 auditions are scheduled.

Click here for: 2016-17 Symphony Orchestra Concert Schedule

Please prepare all of the excerpts (listed below) for your instrument.
String players are also required to prepare a 2-3 minute solo or etude of the student’s choice. Solos will be played first, excerpts second.

Forms to be filled: Orchestra Audition Form (see FORMS below) and bring with you to your audition.

Please check your email periodically for updates or changes.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Concert Band office by emailing Barbara Douglas at bldouglas@wisc.edu or calling 608-890–2456.

To learn more about orchestras at the School of Music, visit this page.

Bands Fall 2016

2016-2017 mid-year Wind Ensemble auditions

To schedule an audition, click the button.

Excerpts are listed below. Forms to be filled out are listed below.
University Bands does not require an audition. Simply register and attend rehearsal at the scheduled time.

Please check your email periodically for updates or changes.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Concert Band office by emailing Barbara Douglas at bldouglas@wisc.edu or calling 608-890–2456.

Athletic Band Audition

For athletic band auditions, please contact Wendy Margolis at wmargolis@wisc.edu or 608-263-1896.

Choral Spring 2017

UW-Madison students:

Spring 2017 choral auditions for all interested UW-Madison students will be held Tuesday, January 17, 2017 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Click here to sign up online for an audition time slot. You do not need to be a music major to audition for a choir.

* Please note: University Chorus is a non-audition choir. You can simply enroll in the course if interested.

The 8 minute audition will include singing My Country, ‘Tis of Thee (we have the words and will help you with your best starting note), and sight reading. International students may choose a simple song of their choice. Afterwards, the conductors will help you decide which choir best suits your schedule and abilities. Each choir has several required concerts per semester. Please arrive ten minutes early for your audition.

Do not register for choir until after the audition. Please bring your class schedule with you for reference. Everyone will receive results within a few days, so please email if you do not hear back.

Click here for Choral Audition Form 16-17

Print form, double-sided on white paper. This form will also be available outside the door of your audition room. Please put your name on the top of both sides.

Community Members/Non-UW:

Spring 2017 Choral Union auditions for interested community members (non-UW students) will be held Wednesday January 18, 2017 from 6:00-7:00 PM in Humanities. There is no need to sign up in advance, auditions times are first come, first serve. The 8 minute audition will include singing My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, and sight reading.

Community members interested in Madrigal Singers may also audition at that time.

If you have any questions, please contact Barb Mahling at (608) 263-1891 or mahling@wisc.edu.

Jazz Ensembles 2016-17

No spring auditions are scheduled.

Jazz ensembles auditions for jazz studies majors will be held on Thu, Sept. 1 from noon until 4:00 pm (jazz studies majors will be assigned time slots). Jazz ensemble auditions for non-majors and for other music majors will be held from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Tue, Sept. 6; Wed, Sept. 7; and Thu, Sept. 8. Please click here to sign up for a non-major or other music major jazz ensemble audition. Auditions are scheduled in 10-minute intervals, including set-up. Ensemble placements are for the full academic year, so there are no regularly scheduled spring semester auditions, except in the occasional cases of specific vacancies.

Auditions are open to music majors and non-majors on all instruments (the 2015-2016 jazz ensembles consisted of roughly 50% music majors and 50% non-majors). Students must be enrolled in classes at UW-Madison and upon a successful audition be able to add a 1-credit section of MUS 262 or MUS 562 to their schedule.
Students wishing to audition on more than one instrument should sign up for multiple audition time slots (one per instrument). Saxophonists who would like to be considered for multiple saxophone chairs (alto, tenor, baritone) should audition only on their first-choice saxophone but indicate their available doubles on their audition form.
There is a wide range of skill and experience levels represented in the UW jazz ensembles. However, rhythm section players (piano, guitar, vibraphone, bass, drums) should have prior jazz ensemble experience. Improvisation experience is required for most instruments, but there are some ensemble opportunities for brass players who are novice improvisers.

The jazz ensembles audition is a single audition at which students are considered for placement in any of the School of Music’s six jazz ensembles. UW’s jazz ensembles are not ranked by experience or skill level. Each ensemble has a different curricular and repertoire focus (for example, the Latin Jazz Ensemble focuses exclusively on music of the Afro-Cuban diaspora, see http://www.music.wisc.edu/student-ensembles/jazz-ensembles/ for a description of each of the jazz ensembles), and the jazz faculty attempts to rotate participating students through different ensemble experiences from each year to the next.
Upon a successful audition, students will be assigned an ensemble based on multiple considerations, which include the student’s schedule availability, instrument distribution and available space within the ensembles, matching similar skill and experience levels, the student’s stated ensemble preference, and other pedagogical decisions. Ensemble rosters will be posted on Fri, Sept. 9. Once they have been assigned to an ensemble, students will receive a registration code and must then register for the corresponding section of the 1-credit class MUS 262 (for undergraduate credit) or MUS 562 (for graduate credit).

Reading: students will be asked to sight-read a jazz big band part together with piano accompaniment (provided). Focus is on jazz-appropriate phrasing, sight-reading accuracy, instrumental tone, and technical ability. Guitarists’ and pianists’ sight-reading piece will include comping over a given chord progression. Bassists’ sight-reading piece will include walking a bassline over a given chord progression. The level of difficulty of the sight-reading will be adjusted based on the auditioning student’s experience and reading ability. Students with limited reading skills who are otherwise experienced jazz players should still audition, as sight-reading accuracy is only one of several consideration in ensemble placements.
Improvisation: students will be asked to improvise on a standard chord progression. Novice improvisers who are not yet comfortable navigating chord changes can substitute improvising over a blues progression in the key of F (concert).
Drummers: students auditioning on drum set will be asked to play a variety of jazz grooves at different tempos (including medium swing, ballad, two-feel, fast swing, Bossa Nova, samba, 3/4 jazz waltz, and others).

A full drum set with cymbals, guitar amplifier, and bass amplifier, and piano will be provided for the audition. Drummers may choose to bring their own cymbals, and guitarists may choose to bring their own amplifiers. Upon successful audition and enrollment in a jazz ensemble course, instruments (woodwinds and brass instruments, and basses) are available for rent from the School of Music. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide instruments for students to prepare for their auditions.

Students concerned about the sight-reading aspect of the audition can prepare for the audition by reading through transcribed jazz solos (available online) or reviewing previously played ensemble parts, and/or by reading through melodies and improvising over the changes of a variety of lead-sheets from the various volumes of the Real Book (Hal Leonard), Jamey Aebersold play-a-longs, or other fake books. Suggested melodies for sight-reading practice include both melodies that are usually performed as written (many jazz originals whose melodies are notated with very specific rhythms, especially bebop compositions such as pieces composed by Charlie Parker or Thelonious Monk) and melodies that require interpretive changes for an idiomatic performance in the jazz idiom (most jazz standards, such as Broadway compositions by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, or Jerome Kern, which are usually notated in simplified forms in fake book lead sheets).
Students wishing to brush up on their ensemble improvisation are encouraged to prepare by informally playing jazz standards together with friends, to seek out jam session opportunities such as the Madison Jazz Jam (www.madisonjazzjam.org), and to practice alongside recordings or with Jamey-Aebersold play-along recordings or the iReal Pro app.

For further questions regarding auditions, please contact Barb Mahling at 608.263.1891 or mahling@wisc.edu

Black Music Ensemble (BME), a registered student organization and ensemble affiliated with the School of Music, will hold auditions on Wednesday, September 7, from 1:20 to 3:00 in room 1321 of the Humanities Building. Students will be expected to 1) improvise over the blues form, along with a rhythm section, 2) perform some prepared piece, ideally from the canon that the group draws from (i.e. music composed or performed by a black artist, esp. jazz), 3) speak briefly about their musical influences and demonstrate some depth of knowledge about black music, 4) answer a couple of questions about music theory.

The audition process may include other pieces, at the ensemble’s discretion. However, these four steps will make up the bulk of the audition. If students have a passion for black music and think they have something to add to our group, but feel like they are lacking in one or more of these categories, they are encouraged to audition regardless.

Mid-Year Audition Excerpts 2016-2017

Ensemble Audition Advice

For information about ensembles at the School of Music, click here.