By Michael Pedersen
More than a thousand students lined the halls of the E-wing in the Harris Fine Arts Center during the first week of classes, awaiting their chance to audition for one of the four audition choirs at BYU, including BYU Singers, Concert Choir, Women”s Chorus and Men”s Chorus.
Director of Concert Choir and Men”s Chorus for three years, Rosalind Hall said, “I love it. I absolutely love meeting all the students who have a desire to sing in the BYU choirs. The Spirit they bring to the audition process is an inspiration to me.”
Getting into a BYU auditioned choir requires a three-step audition.
Singers who have not previously sung in one of these choirs must first pass an audition with a graduate student.
Passing this, they go to an individual audition with the directors of the choirs. If they pass this level, they are invited to a call-back with other singers trying out for a specific section.
Here, Hall urges those lined up in the Madsen Recital Hall to be bold to be better considered as she walks down the line listening to clarity, diction and pitch as singers sight-read what she gives them.
Looking back at the 80-plus hour process in five days, Hall said, “It almost killed me, but although it is physically exhausting, it is in many, many ways the most rewarding work of the year.”
Although she is looking for those who can sing well, Hall is also concerned about finding those who can commit themselves 100 percent.
“The success of our year depends largely on the commitment of the singers. To see people who are so committed and want so badly to do it – it just thrills me every year,” Hall said.
“And this year, especially, I felt there was an energy and a spirit in students that was even greater than I”d experienced before,” she said.
Ryan Morley, 18, a freshman from Perry, Box Elder Co., majoring in accounting, said he decided to audition for Men”s Chorus this semester after having listened to their music before.
Although Morley felt intimidated by those filling up the hall during auditions, he said, “Had I made it or not, I still would have been grateful for the experience I had of auditioning with other such amazing voices.”
Morley said he was thrilled to find out he, along with 209 other men, would be singing in Men”s Chorus for the next eight months.
Hall is also quick to admit that besides voice and commitment, she is looking for “make-it-happen” students, a phrase she picked up as a graduate student at BYU from Dr. Ronald Staheli, who encouraged his students to be make-it-happen people.
“In the individual audition, I categorize voices as definite, probably, possibly, or no. They might not be a definite. They might have a ”probably” or maybe even a ”possibly” voice,” she said. “But if they have a make-it-happen spirit to them, they may still find themselves on the final list because in the final analysis, that”s what I believe makes the choir successful.”
Dr. Ronald Staheli, founder and director of BYU Singers since 1984, said he also loves the audition process.
“I love the excitement, the enthusiasm, the purity and the realism that comes into the room. You see students as they really are. There”s not much chance for pretense,” he said.
Like Hall, there is more than voice considered for even the most prestigious choir at BYU.
Along with being active in their respective student wards and spiritual lives, Staheli said, “If I have to choose between a personality and a great voice, I must choose a medium good voice and a great personality,” he said. “We work so much on community effort – on feeling together as a whole, on the idea of all for one, one for all. Hence, if they really are a singer, but there”s a stiffness in the personality, I tend to steer away from that.”
Staheli said he also has some concerns about hurting the feelings of students who will not make BYU Singers during auditions.
“My big concern is that we do auditions so fast that someone is going to get their feelings hurt. Even the worst singer in the world has enormous spiritual gifts,” he said. “My worry is that those who know they haven”t sung very well in an audition feel as though they”re a failure as a person.”
To those who leave with a bad audition, Staheli said he hopes and prays they will see the bigger picture and realize their other gifts.
And to the 500 students who didn”t make the choirs this year, Staheli said, “When the list goes up outside my door, there are some whoops of joy and delight, but there are also tears, which is always hard for me.”
To those who are not successful on this occasion, Hall suggests the University Chorale, open to anyone with the time and desire to sing, as a stepping-stone to increase their chances of getting in an audition choir next year.