Audition Tips from MSA Students

2021 has finally rounded the corner, and we are greeted with an entire year of possibility. For Mississippi School of the Arts, the first few months are a time of excitement and the start of a new beginning for many. Yep, you guessed it; it’s application and audition season! The next class of student artists are exactly where current MSA students were a year or two ago, and to us, it feels surreal. 

This post is advice for the hopefuls working on their applications; you will be hearing from students in each discipline as they reflect on their experience applying and auditioning for our fine arts school. A special thanks to the students who offered to participate! Maleigh Crespo is a senior literary student. Josie Deaton is a senior vocal, Jimena Medina is a junior media, and Diego Mendez is a junior literary, Zayne Vance is a senior theatre.

What discipline(s) did you audition for?

Crespo: “Literary.”

Deaton: “I only auditioned for the Vocal department.”

Medina: “I auditioned and was accepted to media and literary arts.”

Mendez: “I auditioned for Writing ✍️”

Vance: “I auditioned for both the Theatre and Media discipline and was graciously accepted into both programs. I chose to be a Theatre because acting is my true passion and is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Could you go over some of the thoughts you had while preparing your portfolio? Were there any worries or concerns you experienced?

Crespo: “I had never really written creatively, and to write forms that I had never even heard of was a little intimidating, at first. However, after a week or so of perusing the internet trying to understand what a sonnet was, I just let my natural instinct and passion for writing lead the way.”

Deaton: “With the vocal audition, you have to sing a prepared piece from a set list of genres.  Before MSA, I was only comfortable singing pop songs and songs at church.  It took a lot for me to be able to sing from those genres but now I am comfortable in all of them and love singing all of them.  Don’t let the opera or classical songs scare you!  They are super fun.”

Medina: “During portfolio preparations, the main thoughts I had were always, “is this piece good enough?” I always doubted myself with all portfolio pieces for both disciplines. I would always try my best to keep a positive mindset, but negative thoughts, such as “I won’t be accepted if I turn in this piece because it’s not good enough,” always overruled the positive.”

Mendez: “While preparing my portfolio, I was sooo nervous and scared! I had to look up what some of the things I even had to submit was. I also waited till the day EVERYTHING was due before I decided I wanted to go to MSA, so I was running around all school day getting teacher recommendations and the guidance counselor was helping me. It was chaos!”

Vance: “When I was preparing my portfolio for my audition, I was extremely nervous about how it looked and was worried that it was not good enough; however, looking back on my portfolio and can safely say that it was just fine the way it was. I bring this up because I know that your portfolio can be something that may stress you out a lot, but you should not let it do so. Just do your best on your portfolio and it will be just right!”

Do you have any tips for people as they navigate the application? Things to keep in mind?

Crespo: “I would say be honest. Don’t try to be someone or something you’re not, and that’s easier said than done, but just be you!”

Deaton: “In the application, I think a very important part is the essay!  Be yourself and let the reader know why you deserve to be at MSA!”

Medina: “One tip I would give is to not procrastinate! I know that most teenagers procrastinate a lot, but please do not leave your application for the last minute. There’s nothing wrong with turning it in on the day it’s due, but make sure you pace yourself! You want to include pieces that have been made with passion, not speed!”

Mendez: “My biggest tip is don’t wait and decide you want to go to MSA till the day applications are due, but also, don’t let it hold you back. Don’t let your inner critic force you into being too scared to audition. Shoot your shot and just see what happens.”

Vance: “When it comes to your application, please be sure to list all experiences that you have had in the field of the arts. For example, before coming to MSA I did a whole lot of community theatre productions as well as would participate in writing contest. If you list things down that you have been a part of it shows people that art is not a mere hobby of yours but is something that you truly and deeply care about.”

Could you walk us through your audition process?

Crespo: “After I submitted my literary portfolio with my application, a few weeks later, I received a letter saying I was invited to audition. On audition day, I was greeted by some wonderful Arts Ambassadors and given a tour before going to my on-site audition: a writing assignment, in which I was given a prompt and an hour to complete it. Then, I was escorted to Y-Hut where my interview was conducted. They asked me questions about my study habits, what time I wake up, how I get to school every day, etc. Then, my mom and I went out for ice cream, and several weeks later I was opening my letter that said I had been accepted. The rest is history!”

Deaton: “I waited in the Phoenix for what felt like forever.  Then I was moved into JI into one of the visual rooms to wait for my audition.  Then I was taken into the stairwell for a warm up right before my audition.  I remember starting off with my prepared piece, I think.  After, the pianist that was there gave me exercises I had to sing back to her and the judges.  I felt like I did horrible on those, haha.  After, I was given sight reading.  It is hard but it is supposed to be.  I cried when I left my audition because I didn’t think I was going to make it, but here I am!”

Medina: “I arrived for my audition around 8:00 on Saturday morning. As I checked in, a large group of arts ambassadors approached me to answer any questions I had and assured me that it was going to be okay! Minutes later, a media arts ambassador walked me and a few others to our audition. Two hours later, literary arts ambassadors walked me over to my next audition while answering any questions I had on my mind.”

Mendez: “So, I get to this big school and walk into a library. I had a brief moment to talk to other auditionees; then, they made us write a personal essay, and that’s what made me most nervous. I was shaking in my boots as people finished before me, and I didn’t know if I’d have enough time. I had no clue what to write about, but I knew not to write about any of the explicit examples from the prompt. Next, they carted me off to some room while I waited to be interviewed by the principal and another staff member, and I was chill. I won’t lie–I was just having a blast talking about Papas Pizzeria and eating goldfish. Looking back, the audition was as easy as pie. Honestly, the people who were already at MSA leading me around the campus and staying with me were so comforting. It really washed away my doubts.”

Vance: “For my audition process, it was very simple. For the Theatre audition, I had to have a one-minute monologue prepared and fully memorized. There was three people there who viewed my audition, one of them being Dr. Robert Brooks, the Theatre discipline teacher. After I performed my monologue, they told me to do my monologue again, but with a different emotion. After doing that, they gave me a monologue to do a cold read of. You can still look at the monologue when doing this part, they want to see how you handle doing a cold read. After this, they told me to walk across the stage with my emotions changing as I walk from one end of the room to the next; and, just like that, my auditions were over. As for my Media audition, they took all the people who were auditioning for the Media department into a room and sat us at computers. After explaining to us the differences between camera shots and angles, they gave us a sentence that leads to a story. Our job was to come up with a story from the one line given to us and for us to show what shots we would use for the story. It was a long process, but nothing hard at all and the environment was very welcoming.”

Were there any aspects of the audition that were different than you expected? Was it easier, harder, more/less nerve-wracking, etc.?

Crespo:  It was definitely nerve-wracking, but the interview was a lot easier than I expected. I imagined an interrogation, but it was really more of a conversation. Also, the Arts Ambassadors were really helpful in assuring me that everything was gonna be okay and not to be nervous- which it’s kind of surreal that I get to be in their shoes now.

Deaton: “I went into the audition room confident but honestly, I left defeated.  It just goes to show that even if you felt like you did bad, there is still a chance.  Mr. Pat isn’t looking for the best singer with no mistakes, he is looking for potential to become the best singer.  If we were already perfect, there would be no reason to come to MSA!”

Medina: “I was definitely nervous with both auditions, but when I really got into the creative flow, there was nothing else in my mind at that moment. The media auditions require you to finish a creative prompt and you must write on costumes, makeup, lighting, etc. for what you would do if you were to film your story.”

Mendez: “I was not expecting to have to write on the spot. That REALLY just threw me out of my element . Honestly though, the audition was easier than I thought it would be. I was scared to be interviewed by such important people at the school, but it was actually pretty okay.”

Vance: “To me, the only thing that was different about my audition process than what I was expecting was that it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I was worried that people were going to be very hard on me and that I would freak out and mess up; however, the environment was extremely welcoming and every single person there was extremely nice and made sure that my nerves would not get the best of me. Since the environment and people were extremely nice, it helped calmed my nerves and make my experience a lot better than I was worried it would be.”

Do you have advice for handling audition/interview anxiousness?

Crespo: “I would just tell them not to doubt themselves or their art.”

Deaton:  “I think the best thing for me was talking to current students beforehand.  I know auditions are looking different this year but if you can connect with students, they can tell you anything you might have questions about.  Just take deep breaths and let fate happen!”

Medina: “Try your best not to overthink it! Before your audition, try to talk to a few arts ambassadors; these students know what to do in these situations and try their best to calm your nerves. During your interview, make sure you stay true to yourself and show them who you really are!”

Mendez: “Just know that if you’re this far into the audition process because they’ve already seen something within you that shows to them you are capable and worthy of being there. I just fully accepted that and tried to keep my inner critic at bay.”

Vance: “The main thing you want to be aware of for audition/interview anxiousness is that everything will be okay. MSA is about wanting to make their students grow to be the best artist that they can be. They are not looking for you to have the best skills coming in. They are looking for people with talent, but also a drive and love for the arts. They are aware that you’re just students, not professional artist, so just be honest and do the best you can. One thing I will say about the interview process is to ALWAYS BE HONEST! Please do not lie about anything they ask you, because they will find out if you did lie about something. Be honest with everything they ask you, because, as said before, they know you’re only a student right now. Also, always be polite and respectful because the interviewers will be polite and respect you too.”

Is there anything else you would like to say to potential students?

Crespo: MSA is what you make it, so make the best of it.

Deaton: “You are all amazing and worthy of a spot at MSA!  No matter what happens in your audition, never give up and believe in yourself!”

Medina: “It’s okay to be yourself! All students and staff are extremely welcoming here!”

Mendez: “Don’t not audition out of fear, no matter the reason you’re auditioning. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again because it bears repeating. If anything, remember what I heard a student in my class say the other day: “You’re constantly growing, you don’t have to be perfect today.” Have fun, be wild, and be free!

Vance: “The last thing I want to say about the whole applying/auditioning/interviewing to MSA is to remember that we want you here. We as a school know how talented many students are when it comes to the arts, and we want to provide a safe space for you where you can become the best artist that you can be. This school is also the most accepting and diverse school you can find in the state, so you will never have to worry about being left out of anything. Just know that we are all rooting for you and we know you got this! If you ever have any questions you want an answer to, them please feel free to contact me at email via Zayne.vance@msabrookhaven.org I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and help you through your audition process. Thank you so much and have a lovely day!”

If you have any questions, or you’re still feeling worried, reach out to someone at MSA. Our admissions recruiter, Brianna Moore, would love to tell you about our school; you can get in contact with her at admissions@msabrookhaven.org or by calling her office number  601-823-1309! This page will have much of the information you need to apply to MSA, but feel free to explore the rest of the website to get a better understanding of the school:  https://www.msabrookhaven.org/admission/apply-to-msa/ Also, you can always reach out to present students; you can find the majority of us who contribute to the school’s public blogs on social media by searching our names. Please, don’t feel embarrassed about messaging us! Even if we do not know you personally, we are happy to help in any way that we can. Class of 2023: Your applications are due by February 1st, 2021! Remember to have confidence in your work and recognize your value as an artist. Good luck, and we hope to see you soon! 

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