Church Easter Program Scheduling & Auditioning
February 21, 2018
Picking the right date for your Easter program is probably THE most important step. If your team plans on investing hours of time and energy into a production, it’s important to choose the right date. If you schedule your production during a big community event or other scheduled production, you set yourself up for low attendance. Your goal is to maximize your production’s impact and honor your team members’ dedication! Be aware of potential local, regional, or even national scheduling conflicts.
Once a date is finalized – it’s time to set the rehearsal and practice schedule. The key for all practices is clarity. It’s very important to ensure that team members understand the level of commitment their role will entail. Be sure that everyone is aware of the time commitment involved BEFORE trying out. Those who want to be involved but can’t commit the time required may enjoy helping with other behind-the-scenes aspects of the production.
It’s also important not to waste your team’s time. At first, you should separate drama practice from the musical side as much as possible. This allows for efficiency and prevents one group from potentially distracting another. Only when both groups have “mastered” the material will combined practices be beneficial. Lastly, do at least two dress rehearsals of your production. Use the information gained from the dress rehearsals and modify any aspects as needed.
Rehearsal / Practice Schedule – Check for conflicts!
- For large drama performances, schedule at least two dress rehearsals
- Hold separate music and dramatic practices initially
- Be clear to all participants from the beginning which practices are mandatory and how many of the others should be required
For key parts in larger productions, it’s important to have multiple performers available. If you’re doing several performances, try to use different leads for the performances. If an illness or emergency arises for one, the other can handle both performances. This is most important for leads and those with difficult vocal passages.
This is also very important for certain instruments. Drummers and pianists can be difficult to replace at the last minutes and in many programs, they’ll drive the music portions of the program. Have an additional drummer and pianist familiar with the music in advance!
Planning for Copyright Clearances
If your program won’t be held during a religious service, it’s NOT EXEMPT from performance licensing. The CCS PERFORMmusic Facilities License allows churches and non-profit ministries to legally play or perform more than 25 million songs from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC for non-exempt activities such as special programs and concerts. The license covers church premises, which may include satellite or campus locations that are under the licensee’s legal and financial umbrella. If it is a ticketed event, an additional performance event license is required and can be easily obtained at Christian Copyright Solutions.
If you want to stream your program, WORSHIPcast Streaming License is the only church streaming license that covers internet performance rights for these same 25 million Christian and secular songs. The easy online reporting tool allows you to browse and select the songs you stream so your fees help support your favorite songwriters.
- List of vocal solos with requirements (SATB, male/female, age range)
- If you think many people will try out for one role, use a uniform audition rubric sheet to rate the auditions (keep this private for your selection purposes only)
- List of drama leads with requirements (gender, age range, abilities)
- A quiet and private audition space.
Give more than one audition time if you’re expecting a large turnout. One after a weeknight service and one after Sunday services should allow those with scheduling conflicts to still be involved. Recognize red flags early! There are many people who have the best of intentions when signing up but don’t have the stability in their schedules to fully contribute to your team. If you see they’re not able to come to pre-audition meetings or have to re-schedule their audition times, be aware that the issue will probably not be solved by giving them more responsibility, pressure, and obligations.
If you’re posting parts and auditions, a great place to start (if your service format and pastor allows) is to make an announcement during several of your services. Make sure the visuals team has the details to prominently display them on announcement slides and the church bulletin.
For auditions to go smoothly, you must be prepared, begin on-time, and set an example for how you’d like the entire production to go. Auditions should be kept short and to the point. Five or ten minutes per person should be more than enough time to run through key parts several times. Also, prepare a statement to read to ensure that everyone understands what the time requirements and responsibilities will be. It’s also important that everyone agrees to these requirements before the audition begins.
For many, it may be their first audition in any setting. Let them know that it’s okay to be nervous and that perfection is not a requirement! If time allows, spend a few moments talking with and getting to know the person auditioning. This will give you some brief insight into their personality and communication style, but more importantly, it can help relax someone who’s nervous.
New Vocalists – For those who have not previously been a part of the worship team, your audition should serve to familiarize yourself with his or her overall skill level. There are countless different approaches to vocal appraisal but here are a few specific skills to look for:
- Matching pitches
- Simple scales
- Find ranges
- Mimicking simple melodic lines
- Ask for their “small voice” and their “big voice”
- Sing a verse or chorus from a worship song they know (acapella)
- Finally, have them sing selections or the most difficult parts of the role they’re auditioning for.
Seasoned Vocalists – If you’re already familiar with a vocalist’s abilities, don’t waste time matching pitches or running through scales. Jump straight into the parts they’re trying out for and then decide whether or not they’ll make a good fit.
Many churches that will be performing a sacred work (“high church”) will need to retain professional musicians to complement their current team. If this is the case, nearly any professional orchestral player from a local or regional symphony orchestra (almost every town has one nearby) will more than qualified for an Easter production. If they’re professionals, they’ve probably played your sacred works before! It would be considered inappropriate to require a live audition for a professional orchestral musician. If you are concerned about a difficult part, send them a copy before speaking with them.
For non-professional players or younger members, the following is a checklist for auditioning:
- Have them play the same passage several times, listen for consistency
Praise Band Instruments
- Tone / Clarity / Pitch Stability
- Play any difficult solos or passages from the program’s musical
A great “pocket” drummer can smooth out a lot of wrinkles in a music performance, but picking the wrong drummer can wreak havoc throughout the entire production. Below is a checklist of some important things to look for in a drummer (in order of importance):
- Steady tempo.
- Tasteful fills/turnarounds (check that they’re not dragging fills)
- Ability to change dynamics (ability to play volume from 1-10, not 10-10)
- A light-handed, soft-playing drummer is a confident and comfortable drummer!
Rhythm Section (Bass, Guitars, Keyboards)
Take time to explain what you’re looking for in a bass, guitar, or keyboard player. Let them know the goal is a team environment and a team sound. It’s a big advantage if a musician has experience playing in a group and not just solo. Here are a few things you should check for when auditioning rhythm players:
- Ability to sight read chord charts
- Comfort level with their instrument
- Any difficult solos or passages from the program
Drama / Acting Roles
If you’re short on experience in theater, consult with other colleagues in your area. It’s very common for music and creative arts directors to bring in outside judges for the audition process. No matter how discerning you are, having another set of eyes and ears will always bring a broader perspective on a performance.
Here are some tips for running a smooth drama audition:
- Have all actors for a role audition the same parts for comparison (compare apples to apples)
- Allow actors to select an additional passage that they feel resonated with them personally (optional)
- Don’t be afraid to coach during the audition. If a performer needs to change something in his/ her delivery, don’t be afraid to teach them. This will also show you their ability to take advice and follow instructions. It’ll also show you how quickly they can change/improve aspects of their performance.
- If you think they would be a better fit for another part, give them a chance to read lines for that character/part (even if they have to read from the script).
Ending the Audition
If done poorly, the end of the audition can be an awkward and disappointing experience for all. If someone is obviously not a good fit from the beginning, don’t stop them early or cut their audition short. Show courtesy and love to see it through to completion.
We hope this information has been helpful. Don’t forget to start from the beginning and read about how to follow the correct copyright protocol before your performance and finding the right production for your particular church. If you have questions regarding copyrights and your Church please contact us at 877-394-5566 to talk to a copyright expert. Or log onto our website and chat live now.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.