Jazz Voice Auditions for Admission to a degree program

See the Vocal Jazz at UNT page for more information about Jazz Voice Studies at UNT.

NOTE: This page has been updated as of November 10, 2016. If you read information prior to that date, some minor information may have changed, so make sure to read everything carefully for the most up-to-date requirements and other information.

Steps to apply for admission into our program can be found here: http://music.unt.edu/admissions

Topics covered on this page:

Scholarships
Applicants who complete the audition process to be a Jazz Studies major are automatically under consideration to receive a scholarship. More information on scholarships can be found here:
http://music.unt.edu/admissions/scholarships

Undergraduate Auditions

For acceptance into the College of Music as a vocal Jazz Studies major, undergraduate students must:
1. Complete the application to the University of North Texas and the application to the College of Music.
2. Within the online College of Music application, upload a video screening recording comprising two jazz song selections (one slow, one medium or fast). See the FAQ section below for more details on the pre-screening recordings. NOTE: If you do not wish to perform a live audition, but only submit recorded videos, then your pre-screening videos also serve as your final audition. In that case, please skip to the information below about recorded auditions.
3. Based on your pre-screening video, you may be invited to perform a live audition.

If you receive an invitation to perform a live undergraduate audition (DENTON CAMPUS ONLY), you should be prepared to do the following:
• Sing one medium swing tempo song (preferably from the standard jazz repertoire -- use this for ideas:)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_Songbook
• Sing one ballad (or other slow tempo style, like slow bossa nova, very slow swing feel, etc.)
• Sight read short rhythmic and melodic examples
• Respond to aural testing (tonal memory, chord tone recognition, etc.)
• Vocalize through your full vocal range and demonstrate proficient vocal technique

Recorded Auditions
Undergraduate applicants who do not plan to visit campus for a live audition may submit final audition video recordings containing the selections described above, instead of pre-screening videos, and must indicate that the videos are being submitted as their FINAL AUDITION. If your recordings pass the vocal performance portion of the audition for admission, you will then be contacted to arrange a video (Skype) audition for the interview, sight-reading and aural testing portions of the audition. Audition recordings (links to your videos) must be received on or before the last live audition date in order to be considered for admission, however, we highly recommend submitting by December 1 in order to receive preference, get scheduled for a Skype interview and be considered for scholarships.

Graduate Auditions and Teaching Assistantships

Information on applying for the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree and it’s application requirements can be found here:http://jazz.unt.edu/dma-performance-jazz-studies

For acceptance into the College of Music to pursue a Master of Music (MM) degree, applicants must:
1. Complete the application to the University of North Texas and the application to the College of Music.
2. Within the online College of Music application, submit video screening recordings of a live accompanied performance (with accompanying instruments visible) that includes the following 3 selections:
a. A medium or up-tempo swing tune (including a minimum of one chorus of wordless improvisation)
b. A jazz ballad
c. A song in an alternate jazz style (afro-cuban, samba, ECM, etc.).
3. Based on your pre-screening video, you may be invited to perform a live audition. Graduate students currently living in the U.S. must perform a live audition for consideration for acceptance to the jazz studies program at UNT; no recorded auditions will be permitted for U.S. residents.

For those candidates living outside the U.S. who do not plan to visit campus for a live audition, you will NOT submit separate pre-screening videos, just one set of final audition recordings, following the requirements for live auditions listed below. Your video recordings should be made live, with no editing to the audio (no pitch-correction or "punching in") other than mixing of levels as needed, with the other musicians also visible in the video, preferably with a standard rhythm section. No auditions performed with accompaniment tracks will be accepted. If your recordings pass the vocal performance portions of the audition for admission, you will then be contacted to arrange a video (Skype) audition for the interview, sight-reading and aural testing portion of the audition. For more information regarding graduate admissions visit page 1 and page 2.

Requirements for live (and international student recorded) auditions
If you are invited to perform a live audition on campus, then you will be expected to perform the following (using different song selections than you used for your pre-screening recording, since we will have already heard those!):
1. One medium swing selection (120-160 bpm)
2. One up-tempo swing selection (220 bpm or faster)
NOTE: You will be required to demonstrate at least one chorus of improvisation on your medium and up-tempo swing selections.
3. One jazz ballad
4. One song in an alternate jazz style (bossa nova, samba, afro-cuban, funk, etc.)
5. At the piano, play the chord changes with a swing feel for one of the following songs: All of Me, Bye Bye Blackbird, Satin Doll, or Take the A Train (Singing while playing is optional but encouraged)
6. Sight read several musical examples in different tempi and styles to demonstrate a competent level of sight-reading proficiency. For international students who are auditioning by video recording, the sight reading will be done via a Skype conference call, to be arranged at a time arranged by the prospective student and faculty member.
NOTE: The live audition will be performed with piano accompaniment only, so please bring two copies of lead sheets for your material (one for the pianist, one for the auditioners to view).

Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Fellowships
The vocal jazz area has four positions for graduate students who are interested in teaching. Due to the rotating nature of our enrollment, the number of available teaching assignments changes from year to year. If you would like to express your interest in being considered for one of those teaching positions, please e-mail Professor Barnes (jennifer.barnes@unt.edu) once you’ve been invited to perform a live audition and let her know so that she can give a longer time allotment for the audition and interview. In addition to the material you prepare for your vocal audition, you should also be prepared to bring and/or discuss the following:

1. A resume of all music teaching experience
2. Recommendation letters from people who've worked with you or observed your work as a professional musician and/or educator (please keep these recent -- from people within the past 3 years)
3. Vocal arrangements you've written (if you have any), with recordings if available
4. Recordings of any groups you have directed (audio or video)
5. Play piano as if accompanying a student from a basic lead sheet (we'd like to see you able to play in a medium swing feel, ballad and bossa, perhaps on the same song). You may do that on one of your vocal audition pieces or something different. Note: Not being able to do that on an expert level does NOT automatically mean that you won't be considered, but we just need to know your ability level in that area.
6. Discuss the music that is inspiring you at this time, and perhaps a few vocal artists who've been influential in your formation artistically.
7. Discuss your background and understanding of vocal pedagogy as it pertains to singing jazz, and the ways that may be similar to or distinct from classical voice pedagogy.
8. Any non-performance-related skills or expertise that you possess, i.e. sound reinforcement, office software, computer music notation, graphic design, social media.
9. Discuss your materials, strengths and weaknesses, goals and philosophy of music & teaching.

NOTE: Please put your supporting materials in an online location (Dropbox or another cloud-based site) with a document that includes an index and description of the materials, and send us a link to its location no less than one week prior to your audition date. Hard copies (CD, DVD, printed pages) will be not be accepted.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About the Application & Audition Process:

What is the deadline for submitting my application?
Preference will be given to applications received by the first Monday in December. We will continue to receive and evaluate applications until we reach our capacity. This often happens in early March, and admission is competitive, so it's definitely to your advantage to complete and submit your application as soon as possible.

There’s no way I could afford to attend college without a scholarship; can I do anything extra in my application to stand out, or sing extra songs?
No need to do anything “extra”; as was stated above, every applicants is automatically under consideration to receive a scholarship, both for academic and musical merit. Follow this link to read about the affordability of UNT and options that may be helpful as you consider paying for your education: http://music.unt.edu/future-students/paying-college

Someone told me that for my pre-screening recordings, I had to prepare classical songs to sing in addition to jazz songs; is that true?
No! That used to be true, but now, no classical repertoire is required at any stage of our audition process.

For my pre-screening recordings, can I just send audio from a live concert?
No. We absolutely require a video recording, and your application may be delayed while we contact you to submit video, so please don’t submit audio recordings!

Can you help advise me on what songs should I sing on the pre-screening video?
No, we don’t give advice on what songs to sing! The requirement is that you have two pieces of contrasting tempo, one slow and one medium to fast, and we would prefer to hear standard jazz song selections, for example: a jazz ballad and a medium swing selection. Again, this link is helpful for many people who are unsure about song choice: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_Songbook
You should choose a song you really love, since we’re looking to see your style and your personality in your delivery, which usually happens most naturally on a song that you really enjoy singing and with which you’re very comfortable.

Can I just send the video (or links) directly to Professor Barnes to watch, since I already have a lot of videos uploaded on YouTube?
No! Please follow the directions online WITHIN the College of Music application to submit your links to a high quality recorded video audition on either YouTube or Vimeo (making sure that the video is NOT set to “Private”, but are viewable with a shared link or public). You cannot see where to upload the videos UNTIL you are at that point within the actual College of Music application online.

Can I sing with pre-recorded (karaoke) tracks for my pre-screening video or does it have to be a live accompanist?
Yes, you may use pre-recorded tracks, and if you do, please try to cut the track (using software like Transcribe or Audacity) to eliminate any long spaces where you DON’T sing, such as where there might be space for a saxophone solo or a “dance break”.

Can I sing the same songs at the live audition that I sang on the pre-screening video?
Yes you may, however, we recommended that you perform different selections at the live audition from the selections you submit on your screening recording.

Do I need to bring my own accompanist for my live audition?
Our recommendation is that you bring lead sheets for your songs, and we will have an accompanist who can play for you in the audition room. However, if you wish, you may bring an accompanist or digital recorded accompaniment (on iPod or other digital player that can be plugged in to an external speaker system).

Do I need to be an great “scatter” to get into your program?
No. Vocal improvisation is part of our curriculum, but is not something that we use exclusively to determine admission status. At the live audition, you may either prepare to improvise within one of your songs or we’ll ask you to do so over a 12-bar blues chord progression. If you plan to submit only recorded video for your final audition, improvisation is strongly encouraged.

How much does it cost to attend UNT?
Click here for current year tuition and fee information. Make sure you also read this webpage: http://music.unt.edu/future-students/paying-college for even more helpful information as you consider the cost of attending UNT compared to other schools you might be considering.

Can I apply to begin in the second (spring) semester instead of fall?
No. New students may ONLY begin their degree program in the Fall semester (not Spring or Summer) each year, due to the curricular and private lesson assignment flow from one semester to the next.

What kinds of teaching does the Gradate Teaching Assistanships include?
Graduate teaching assistants will all teach private lessons to anywhere from 1 – 6 private students, including freshmen, sophomores and non-jazz majors. They will either direct or assistant direct one of the four vocal jazz ensembles. There are also several classes that utilize teaching assistants, including Songwriting Class, Fundamentals of Jazz Performance class and Vocal Arranging Class. In addition, there are administrative and sound reinforcement-related tasks that need ongoing support from the teaching assistants.

If I send you links to my YouTube videos, can you please watch them and tell me what you think? Would I be likely to be admitted to your program?
Due to the number of students who apply to our program each year, we cannot provide evaluations of audition materials outside of the yearly audition process.

How many people apply and how many do you admit?
We usually have approximately 75 applicants every year for our program (all levels), and we admit an average of 6 - 8 undergraduate and 3 - 5 graduate students each year. Our program is obviously highly competitive for admissions, and we consider many different factors in order to determine whether our program is a good fit for each applicant and whether we can foresee their success in our program.

Do you only accept a certain number of [sopranos], [altos], etc.?
We do not have any kind of a "quota" for admittance on any particular vocal range.

I’ve heard that you have a lot of vocal jazz ensembles at UNT. I’m really a solo jazz singer, and not really interested in singing in vocal groups, so I think your program may not be a good fit for me. Is it true that I have to sing in a vocal group if I’m a jazz voice major, and is that the main way that I get performance opportunities at UNT?
Great question! The jazz voice majors at UNT are being trained to function as soloists in a variety of settings and with a variety of methods. We get asked about this ensemble requirement a lot, so here are the answers that I hope help make it clearer as to what, when and how those settings & methods work:
1. Everyone is enrolled in individual private jazz voice lessons every semester -- 8 semesters. No classical voice lessons are required, as vocal technique is taught in the jazz voice lessons.
2. Students enroll in five semesters of exclusively vocal classes that have solo singing techniques and learning at the core of the content: Fundamentals of Jazz Performance (2 semesters), Vocal Jazz Techniques (2 semesters), and Vocal Jazz Styles (1 semester), prior to the "capstone" recital semester.
3. Starting in the sophomore year, individual vocalists choose and prepare their own material (anything they choose, in consultation with their private teacher) with their own band for a performance each semester in the Friday Vocal Forum (every Friday from 3 - 4 p.m.). They may perform with any combination of instrumentalists they'd like (solo self-accompanied, duo, trio, etc., adding a horn section, string quartet, background vocalists --- whatever!).
4. Starting in the junior year, students enroll in Small Group Forum, which is student-led, student-run combos that get faculty coaching and feedback on material chosen and arranged by students. Sometimes vocalists lead their own combo as individuals, sometimes vocalists pair up to be leaders together --- it's up to them entirely. They work on their music all semester and also go into the studio to record with their combo.
5. Most of our students form their own small groups to pursue gigging opportunities off-campus, since gig opportunities are abundant in Denton and the whole greater Dallas area. Some singers pursue opportunities for more money-making things like "casuals" or party bands, while others perform with duos or larger groups at local wine bars or restaurants. Either way, that's a vital aspect of the learning process and is a regular way that our students grow and develop their sound, style, repertoire and gain experience.
6. Lastly, yes, everyone sings also in what's called a "large ensemble" every semester -- one of our four vocal jazz ensembles, which range in size from 8 – 12 singers (and full rhythm sections). So they are not really "large" ensembles by most definitions. There are LOTS of solo opportunities within that ensemble setting, particularly improvisationally. This experience is just one of the many things that our students do to perform as vocalists, but does play a vital role in developing a higher level of musicianship, which is why we require it every semester. Singers who excel in these ensembles are challenged to improve their sight-singing, pitch accuracy, vocal control, stylistic flexibility, improvisation, microphone technique and sound system understanding (everyone participates in learning about the sound gear). In addition, everyone learns how to communicate better with rhythm section players, improve their "we make music TOGETHER" mentality, have performing opportunities, and learn by observing how to lead a group of singers/instrumentalists to work together towards musical goals.

For additional questions not addressed here, you may e-mail Professor Barnes at

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