To bring you the perfect Audition Cut arrangements for your auditions, Musicnotes has partnered with Sheri Sanders, the pioneer behind the musical theatre revolution Rock The Audition. Sheri turned her 2011 “how to” audition book into a multi-media online training program – “Rock the Audition Online” for performers, teachers, coaches, University musical theatre programs and teens. Sheri’s ability to capture the essence of all styles of popular music and their relationship to musical theatre story-telling shows in her Long and Short-Cut arrangements of popular songs – made specifically for auditions!
Sheri very kindly took the time to share her words of wisdom with us, enjoy!
Musicnotes: How did you get started in Musical Theatre?
Sheri: My start as an actress was in legit musical theatre, but I quickly became someone who could do anything you wanted me to do with 2 days of practice–legit, pop/rock, opera. Then as a teacher, I taught the same thing. I believe anyone can do their version of any style with a little researching, and a little soul searching.
Musicnotes: You’ve starred in so many productions, which one was your favorite?
Sheri: They are all so different for me! I played Little Becky Two Shoes in The National Tour of Urinetown it was a laugh riot. I was Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, it was so real to the history of my family, I had a hard time keeping from crying the whole run. I channeled Kitty Genovese in an Opera called The Screams of Kitty Genovese, about the famous murder that created “bystander syndrome”. That was amazing; feeling someone while you are portraying them. I’ve also done The Full Monty three times, I am the perfect Georgie-kind-of-actress; working class, real, wears her heart on her sleeve, and a wild child!
Musicnotes: What led you to start “Rock the Audition” and why did you want to create your own arrangements?
Sheri: I noticed when the original Rent auditions were happening that they started to ask for popular music and since everyone grew up listening to show-tunes, no one knew any! If they did know pop songs, they definitely had no sense of how to handle them. That’s why the casting office went to scout real rock singers at bars and clubs for the show. I grew up listening to popular music, so I knew a ton of it, loved it, and sang it well at auditions so I decided to share my love of it with other people so they can succeed too!
I started a “Rock Class” from the ground up in 2004 and as I started working with actors, we had to get sheet music to bring in to class to work on. So I would go to the Lincoln Center library, or grab it from popular music collections. When we started shaping the auditions, it became evident that these were whole songs and you can’t do whole songs at auditions. Especially Pop tunes! The stories aren’t linear, like in musical theatre, and there was that pesky repeat and fade. We had already established in the musical theatre community that there were legit “union” or “non-union” cuts, but not with popular music.
So I had to start creating arrangements. There were none! Now when Musicnotes came into business, it was amazing for me because they had every song in every style I wanted to teach and it was all of a sudden so easy. My goal as an arranger is to make it suitable for musical theatre auditions! Fun, easy to interpret and play on the piano, in audition cut sizes, that highlights the singer’s voice, rather than competing with it.
Musicnotes: What’s the benefit of an audition cut arrangement vs. a regular PVG?
Sheri: There are many benefits, but here’s the first one; non-union audition cuts for legit musical theatre have to be “16” bars, and union cuts can be up to “32”. You have to do cuts at auditions–college auditions, regional theatres, professional regional theatres, community theatres, and even cruise ships. That’s the rule. Here are the benefits for the cuts I have created for pop/rock music: they are not from a musical, they are from the song writers life so there is no “arc” in the music — Pop music is meant to be sung at karaoke, with the windows down driving on the freeway, in the shower, or crying in your pillow. Now we have to act out these songs for rock musicals.
Musicnotes and Rock The Audition is the ONLY place that you will find my 13 years of expertise in the classroom, the audition room, I love getting performers on the stage and screen while still having my ear to the ground and to the radio. I’ve shaped “long” and “short” cuts with great emotional and musical arcs that sound amazing with just the piano, capturing the feel of what we hear on the radio, but still lifting your voice!
Musicnotes: How do these arrangements benefit someone as a performer vs. just as a vocalist?
Sheri: Popular music is open for interpretation. It’s different from musical theatre, because it’s on how the singer sees their own life and feels things. We are NOT the character in the song that’s in a musical. The character is you. So everyone gets to have their own feelings, dance in their own way, and express themselves as they truly are. This allows the performer to grow a strong sense of self, as they are influenced by the singers they listen to and the songs they sing. This sense of self is what puts you leagues beyond everyone else and makes you, you.
Musicnotes: How do arrangements set people apart from other performers?
Sheri: Coming in with a great arrangement that fits the style of the show you are auditioning for says, “I am coming in prepared, and professional. I care about your time, and I want to tell you a solid, brief, complete, clear story that communicates to you exactly who I am and what I can contribute to your production.”
Musicnotes: What’s the audition process like?
Sheri: Well there a few outcomes:
They like your “style” and they want to give you a callback because even though you aren’t right for the show, they think you are awesome and they may want to call you in for something else.
They don’t call you back or you never hear from them from another project. This is all out of your hands as a performer once you’ve auditioned.
Here is what’s in your hands. When you find out there is an audition, start preparing. Pick a great song, rehearse it with a teacher or coach, or even friends, to get it in your BONES. When you come into the room, be relaxed and sincere. Communicate the feel of your popular tune with the piano player, simply and with clarity, so they know how the song feels. FEEL is very different from tempo! Share your talent with a generous heart.
After your audition, checking back in and ask yourself, “How prepared was I? Could I have been more prepared? Could I have listened to music to make sure I sound and feel like I’m in the 60s, or the 80s, or aware of the Hip-Hop community when I rap? What do I need to improve upon?” Or maybe even, “I did great! That one goes in the books!”
Musicnotes: You’ve mastered the art of auditioning, can you share any tips or advice with our customers?
Sheri: Tip-treat it like its Sondheim. Care about it. If you don’t do the work and the research we have no idea who you are. Singing is not enough. Living matters more!
Big thanks to Sheri for her words of wisdom, you can browse through our growing selections of Audition Cuts at Musicnotes! You can also learn more about Sheri here!
Until next time, ROCK THE AUDITION!