I still remember waiting outside in the hallway, the sound of a slightly out of tune piano playing and a girl singing her heart out on the other side of the wall. My mind was racing. What if I didn’t make it? What would that say about me? I’ve been singing my whole life and making this choir meant a lot to me. So much was on the line.
This was my experience auditioning for the choir at Concordia University River Forest. If this is the kind of experience that people go through when they audition for something, it begs the question, do auditions really have a place in the church?
The first thing we should do is look at the scriptures for insight. In the old testament, worship happened in the Temple, and its song leaders were chosen, trained, and raised up because of their skill.
They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288. And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.
1 Chronicles 25:6-8 (ESV)
It’s obvious that there was some sort of training and equipping process and that these people were chosen because of the gifts that God had given them. I think it’s important to realize that they were chosen for this. They didn’t appoint themselves to these positions but David, the king of Israel, chose them.
Are auditions necessary?
I believe that, based on the size of your congregation and pool of musicians with which you have to choose from, you need some sort of vetting process. By auditioning, you hope to find whether someone has musical skill, a servant heart, and the ability to function on a team.
I once received a question, “Why do I have to audition to sing praises to God?”
My response was, “You don’t have to audition to sing praises to God… you have to audition to sing into a microphone and lead others in worship.”
As musicians in a worship band, our goal is to serve and lead the congregation in worship. Being a part of a worship band is a leadership role. Auditioning people helps us to see if people are capable of leading without being a distraction.
Serving as the director of worship arts in a large church, I can’t imagine our ministry without auditions. I say this, all the while, remembering the feelings I had when I went through similar experiences. It can be nerve racking, scary, and intimidating. We have worked hard over the last couple of years to refine our process so that it is less intimidating and still helps us see what we are looking for. Below is what we have learned while doing auditions at Shepherd’s Gate:
Audition with a Leadership Team. We have a worship band leadership team that serves in the areas of spiritual guidance and team placement. This group of leaders is present for the entire audition weekend, helps with the interview questions, and lastly prays over each person who auditions. Making team placement decisions with multiple people keeps you from making decisions based on your own biases and protects you from accusations of unilateral decisions.
Audition with a band. If you have the people, invite other musicians that are currently serving in your ministry to serve as a house band for the auditions. This will help the person who is auditioning to feel less isolated. Before the weekend, I remind the band how intimidating it can be to put yourself out there and encourage the musicians to go out of their way to make the auditionee feel welcome. It’s an awesome opportunity to serve others. It also helps you to determine whether or not they can blend well with others, play their part, etc. It’s a win-win!
Audition & Interview. Every audition has 2 parts. The first 20 minutes are strictly musical. The auditionee will be asked to play/sing songs with the house band while the leadership team listens and observes. The second 25 minutes are an interview where we ask several questions to try and ascertain why a person wants to be a part of the team and if they would be a good fit with the rest of the band. Prior to the audition, we ask people to fill out an online audition form with a plethora of questions that help prime us for the interview discussion. Lastly we pray over them.
Provide defined outcomes. We let the auditionee know that they will be contacted by phone or email within two weeks of their audition and informed of the teams decision.
There are 4 possible responses:
- You will be asked to join the regular rotation of musicians.
- You will be asked to serve in a fill in or as supplemental musician to help you grow in your craft and build the team.
- We believe you would have what it takes to make it on a band musically in the future with some more practice and would like you to consider a future audition in 6-12 months. Feedback will be given on what to work on.
- We appreciate your hard work and willingness to serve, however, we’re not sure music ministry is right for you at this time and would like to get you connected to serve in another area.
As part of our audition packet we ask, “If you aren’t placed on the team, what other serving areas would you be willing to try?” This helps us affirm their desire to serve and connect them directly with an opportunity for service.
Be prepared. No matter how much you communicate and serve those who are auditioning you will still get people who are pretty upset about team placement decisions. Pray about it, receive it, let it humble you, attempt reconciliation, and move on trusting in the decisions that you and your leadership team made.
Question: What does your church do to bring in new musicians?
Promo Video shown a month before auditions.