Your audition is coming up and you’ve been preparing hard. You’ve honed your audition techniques and you feel like the role is in your reach. All that’s left is making sure you have the perfect audition song. You flip through your book and land on “Don’t Rain On My Parade” but you can’t stop thinking about Barbra’s performance even as you rehearse.
Ever been in that situation? You should consider going in a different direction for your next audition song. Specifically, you should look toward the present. “Don’t Rain On My Parade” is an incredible classic musical theatre song. But casting directors have heard it thousands of times. Instead, you should consider looking for a new song. Contemporary musical theatre writers are at work writing the next generation of future classic musical theatre songs, and they’re out there in the wilds of YouTube for you to find and start singing. You never know – you just might find your new favorite musical.
Why New Work?
When you audition with new work, you have a chance to make the song your own in a way that you can’t with a standard. The team on the other side of the table won’t be able to compare your 16 bars to an iconic performance of the song because there isn’t an iconic performance – yet. You have the freedom to make bold acting choices and perform your own interpretation of the song. For an actor, that’s a thrilling situation, and with the right preparation, it should empower you to walk into an audition room with the confidence that you’ve made your audition song your own.
Auditioning with new work has benefits beyond the audition room, too. Searching for new work to audition with automatically helps you keep your finger on the pulse of new musical theatre, which can only lead you to seek out more exciting audition rooms going forward. Though you might not realize it because they’re often performed in concert settings, most of the songs you’ll be auditioning with come from full-length musicals. As you add more contemporary songs to your book, you’ll start to notice which contemporary writers’ work you’re drawn to again and again. And who knows what could happen from there?
A Word of Caution
So you’re on board with contemporary music. Where are you going to get your sheet music? As musical theatre catches up with the times and becomes more and more digital, the illegal sharing and trading of sheet music has become a bigger problem. And most of the time, the performers who engage in that practice are students or young performers who don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. But you should pay attention to where the sheet music to your perfect audition song comes from. When you download a song illegally, the effects ripple outwards. Without the income from sheet music sales, musical theatre writers might not be able to keep writing, or keep writing as much. And the more sheet music is stolen, the less sheet music is sold, and the resulting decrease in sheet music sales sends a message to sheet music publishers that there’s no market for musical theater sheet music. That cycle could ultimately lead to them choosing not to publish it at all – and then we all lose.
The good news is that many people within the theater community are taking steps to end sheet music piracy. You might have heard about the time that Tony-winning composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown corresponded with a young actress who protested his request to stop sharing his sheet music online. Brown’s blog post went viral and with good reason. That same year, the Dramatists Guild of America formed an Anti-Piracy Committee. Chaired by composer Craig Carnelia, the Committee has done some really exciting activist work, including a digital sit-in where musical theater writers emailed users illegally trading sheet music. This video is one of my favorite projects of theirs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPROpnf280U. When puppets tell you to legally download sheet music, you pretty much have to do it.
But this kind of activism is only part of the solution. That’s where you come in.
How To Audition With New Songs The Right Way
It’s amazing that you’re interested in performing or auditioning with contemporary sheet music. By supporting new work – by singing it to casting directors and voice teachers and audience members – you are helping ensure that musical theater continues to develop as an art form. Here’s how you can make sure that years from now, there will still be new musical theatre for you to sing:
- Buy sheet music legally. MusicNotes, Hal Leonard, Sheet Music Plus, and NewMusicalTheatre.com are just a few of the websites that legally sell musical theater sheet music, and all four feature contemporary writers. Many writers also sell sheet music directly from their personal websites, so if you’re already thinking of writers whose work you want to sing at your next audition, that’s a great place to start.
- Spread the word. When your friend asks for help finding an audition song, send her the link to buy the sheet music of the song you suggest. When you see a post on social media asking for someone to share some sheet music, share your new favorite YouTube video
Show your support for new musicals by taking a stand against sheet music piracy. The entire musical theater community thanks you.
NewMusicalTheatre.com is a digital sheet music company. Founded in 2009, the site sells music by Kerrigan-Lowdermilk, Pasek & Paul, Adam Gwon, Joe Iconis, Nick Blaemire, and many more contemporary musical theater writers. Visit NewMusicalTheatre.com to check out our catalog. You can also connect with us by reading our blog, The Green Room, and following us on twitter @nmtsongs.