Why the Texas Music Educator's Association (TMEA) Vocal Auditions Are So Very Awesome and What You Can Do to Nail Your Next Audition
First off, thanks TMEA! Without you, I wouldn't have had the life changing experience that made me say "no matter what I do in my life, I will always have music as a part of it!". This is a mega post all about TMEA with the focus on the vocal ensemble auditions.
What is TMEA?
The Texas Music Educators Association is an organization that sets up competitions for high school students to compete all the way from the regional level up to the state level. This process starts with 64,000 students total, and over the course of 3 or 4 rounds of audition gets narrowed down to a few ensembles representing the best in Texas.
Why is it so life-changingly-awesome?
Okay you asked (or maybe you didn't) so here is my story:It starts with a nerd in a small town...No seriously, it really does, it starts with a choir nerd in a small town that did appreciate the coolness that is singing, but not necessarily choir music. I went to high school in a small country town that basically looked down on the arts. Fortunately, our choir director at least made the effort to get us the TMEA sheet music and tracks. So my freshmen year of high school, I learned all the music backwards and forwards and still didn't make the first round of auditions. So I decided I was going to be more prepared for next year by checking out one of the many summer camps available to learn the music. That's when my world changed.
Choir is often associated with long boring slow songs. Although I loved to sing, I really didn't love choir music. I thought it was mostly boring and was interested primarily in contemporary music. During the UT Austin All State Choir Camp though I realized, much like Elphaba from Wicked, that something had changed within me. It all changed when we were singing Beatus Vir by Monteverdi. We had rehearsed it the bass section and as usual, I was complacent with what seemed to be yet another boring choir song. Then I sang with the other 300 or so singers at the camp and thought "oh wow I really like this".
THEN two amazing violinists just walk their musical selves in and began playing a somewhat fast, beautiful duet. Then it started happening. All the singers and the violinists and I formed this world of sound that sent chills down my spine. Have you ever seen someone sing or watched a movie that made you want to cry tears of joy? Yeah. This was me, only more so, because instead of passively watching from a distance, I was part of the music, I felt I was the living, breathing music.
Would you rather watch someone eat your favorite dessert, or eat it yourself? What most people do these days, much like watching someone eat a dessert, is listen to music, but only when you become the music do you fully get to taste it. It's a world of difference. In a world where half your life is lived on some version of a computer, feeling your body and soul making the music vs watching from the sidelines is what is so deeply needed to feel fully alive. It's very easy to get lost in the conceptual cyber-world or the world of your thoughts. When you live in your head and on a screen 24/7, you feel a little less alive, out of touch with your body and soul. Although we have an abundance of music to listen to, we need to BE the music. Now more than ever.
The year I made the All State Choir (which is the top choir you can make through the TMEA audition process) I went to downtown San Antonio, stayed in the Hyatt (all paid for by TMEA) and I got to work with not only the top high school singers in the state of Texas but also get to sing with a full orchestra and work with the top conductors IN THE WORLD. Yes, you read that right . There is a level of focus and heart in each one of these singers that you really can't find anywhere else. It's truly a special, once-in-a-liftetime experience. If you (or your child, depending on who is reading this) will not be a music major, then you should especially be involved in TMEA to experience what it's like to work with such a high caliber of singers, because it may be your only chance in your lifetime. It's not about the singers themselves, but about the deeply touching experience it is to have everyone singing with their heart, mind and soul AND have the skills to reveal that.
What if you don't make the All State Choir? Is it still worth it? Of course for me the summer camps on their own made it totally worth it, so even if you were to go just off that, YES! It's totally awesome in itself. More importantly though, what made my experience so special was the journey I went through in all of my auditions. I heard and felt music in a way I had never experienced before. When you deeply learn difficult music and master it, your ear (and often your voice) will grow along with it. Had I just sat in my high school choir, I would have totally missed out on the things that would have deeply enriched my life. Who knows what I would be doing today. So yes, it's absolutely 100% worth it regardless of outcome.
So you might be saying...
"I'm in! I want to do this! How Do I Start?"
Start by Subscribing and Downloading the Free Guide I Made Below. I Can't Go Back in the Past and Gift This To Myself, So I Made it For You Instead 🙂
It all starts in May...
The sheet music for the TMEA auditions (I like Pender's) is available in late May, as of the time of this writing (July 2017) there are small school and large school sets of sheet music, so check with your choir director to find out which one you fit into. If you can't find out for some reason, just get the large school music packet. During May, you want to get your music Solfegged (if you know how to do that), your measures numbered and if possible begin working with a voice teacher who is familiar with the TMEA All State process and can play your music on the piano, among other qualifications.
Don't forget...the last couple TMEA auditions will involve sight reading...so now would be a great time to start practicing a little every day. Also during May, is a SUPER great idea to sign up for a choir camp! There are several choir camps throughout the colleges in Texas that will cover a good number of the songs and even do a concert at the end of the camp. You also get to meet other high schoolers from other schools and do other fun activities. Try to sleep if you can.
In June and July...
Summer Camps, Voice Lessons and Practice Practice Practice!!
Colleges throughout Texas offer All-State Choir Camps! For the last few years, I've taught at the Texas State University it's super fun while being super educational! You can sign up for voice lessons there (most universities don't offer that) and take electives like vocal pedagogy, musical theater, etc. Check out more below:
This is about as early as you can get your info for the very first audition in the TMEA process, which will be either be district or region. You can work on all of your pieces and then once you find out the pieces for the first audition you'll be able to narrow down to just those that are selected. There is ALWAYS a region audition, usually happening in late October, but there are sometimes district audition depending on which school you go to and whether you're a female or male. (Females often have a district audition somewhere towards the end of September).
Key to Success: Nag Your Choir Director!
Choir Directors often are inundated with so very much to do and so many kids to manage that it's very easy for important details to slip through the cracks. On my last year of high school, my choir director told me the wrong pieces to practice by accident so I ended up barely knowing one of the pieces for the All State audition. No fun. So make sure you nag your choir directors and double check everything so big accidents are avoided.
Questions to Ask Your Choir Director in August
- Will there be a district audition for my voice part?
- If so, when is that audition?
- What pieces will I need to have learned for that audition?
- When is the Region audition?
- What pieces will I need to have learned for that audition?
- How soon can I get the vocal practice tracks?