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Vocal Music

What we are looking for

  • Passion – A student must have a desire for singing and the eagerness to learn the technical aspects of the art form. Students must be willing to adapt to a scientific and holistic (healthy vocal technique) approach to singing. Students must have a willingness to learn to sing in multiple languages and varying genres.
  • Vocal Potential – Students must have a clear ability to match pitch (good intonation and tonal memory), a good sense of rhythm and a suitable vocal range.
  • Performance Potential – Students must have a willingness to explore all possibilities of the art form through expression (taking chances) and vulnerability.
  • Academic Success – As Ellington is a college preparatory school we are looking for students who are able to be successful in their academics and arts classes.
  • A Cooperative Attitude – Students must be able to work well with others in and outside of class. One must be a dedicated student who practices and strives for excellence.
  • Endurance – Students must have the stamina to successfully manage the longer school day, which is 9+ hours in addition to daily homework, daily practice and performances.

What to bring/how to prepare

To prepare for your audition, memorize one piece from this list and arrive in business casual attire.

  • Lift Every Voice and Sing (Entire 1st verse ending with “Til victory is won”)
  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • Caro mio ben (in Italian)
  • America the Beautiful (Entire 1st verse ending with “From sea to shining sea”)
  • Climb Every Mountain
  • Amazing Grace (Entire 1st verse ending with “Blind but now I see”)
  • An Art song in English, Italian or German

The audition process

During your audition for the Vocal Music Department at DESA, you will:

  • Present a musical selection chosen from the list above sung a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment)
  • Be tested in aural skills via vocal exercises and pitch matching

Upon completion of the initial auditions, the Vocal Music faculty will select a group of students to continue the audition process by participating in a 3-day afternoon vocal music callback class. Students are required to attend all days of the callback class in order to remain a candidate for the Vocal Music department. Students invited for callbacks will be notified by the Admissions Office.

Have a successful audition

To present yourself in the best light possible:

  • Dress professionally (business casual)
  • Say your name clearly and answer questions completely.
  • Prepare your piece well (make sure the piece is memorized) and sing with confidence
  • Be ready to talk about yourself, your past musical experiences and your goals for the future. Give these ideas some thought.


  • All departments offer Audition Workshops in December and January to help students prepare for their official audition. Students who participate will be able to learn what to bring, review the audition procedures, learn how to build a portfolio, present their work with confidence and prepare their work for the audition. Visit for more information and how to sign up – workshops cost $10. This fee can be waived for special circumstances, please email if you would like to request one.
  • Auditions are the first week of February 2020 – immediately after the application deadline! Make sure to visit our website to review the audition schedule. Auditions are open call for all students who successfully apply via MySchoolDC. You must view your audition date and time based on your art department and the first letter of your last name.