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Audition Procedure

All students must submit a pre-screening video on-line by the deadline. From that pool of students,  some will be invited to two days of in-person callbacks. Virtual callbacks may be considered and arranged for exceptional circumstances; requests must go through the Admissions Office. The auditionee will be disqualified if they do not return on the second day. Following callbacks, some students will be selected to continue on with family interviews. From those interviews, final decisions will be made.

*In order for students to match with Duke Ellington upon acceptance, they must have Duke Ellington selected as their #1 choice in myschooldc (

Students accepted into the Vocal Music program are also required to participate in a 3-week summer intensive program which serves as the springboard and foundation to their first year of study.

Please see below for the pre-screening audition requirements.  


If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above, please contact the Admissions Office at or call (202) 807-0538.


The pre-screening audition video must be submitted to the Vocal Department email ( by 11:59pm on Wednesday, February 1st, 2024. 


If a pre-screening video is not submitted by the deadline, the applicant must join us for a LIVE audition on Monday, February 5th at 2:35 pm. DO NOT SCHEDULE AN AUDITION IF YOU SUBMITTED A VIDEO.

By 11:59 p.m. on Monday, February 5th, students will be notified if they have been selected to return for an in-person, two-day callback session on Tuesday, February 6th and Thursday, February 8th OR Wednesday, February 7th and Friday, February 9th.

If called back, the VIRTUAL schedule is:
Tuesday and Thursday, February 6th & 8th, at 2:35 pm for last names A through 
Wednesday and Friday, February 7th & 10th, at 2:35 pm for last names K through Z

Vocal Music callbacks are expected to last until approximately 5:00pm. To be considered for Vocal Music at Ellington you must attend both days of callbacks. 

2:00 PM

DAY 1 (A - J)
DAY 1 (K - Z)
DAY 2 (A - J)
DAY 2 (K - Z)

What We are Looking For

Passion – A student must have a desire for singing and an 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 classical repertoire in multiple languages. Our program is mainly focused on classical music with small opportunities for exploration in other 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/Artistic Success – As Ellington is a college preparatory school, we are looking for students who can be successful in their academic and art classes. As we are a dual curriculum program, students must understand the importance of dedicated time to both art and academic classes. 


A Cooperative Attitude – Students must be able to work well with others in and outside of class. This includes students, faculty, and staff. 


Endurance – Students must have the stamina and capacity to successfully manage the longer school day, which is 9+ hours in addition to daily homework, daily practice, and performances. One must be a dedicated student who practices regularly and strives for excellence. 

How to

To prepare for your audition, memorize one piece from the list below and present your piece a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment). Please sing clearly with good projection. Students should dress their best in business casual or Sunday best attire. Typical attire consists of polo shirts, dress shirts, dress or khaki pants, skirts, dresses, cardigans, blazers, etc.


Categories-Below are the acceptable song choices for auditions. The number represents the level of difficulty. 

  • There is no benefit in choosing a more difficult piece. The overall goal should be accuracy, musicality, and expression in the piece chosen. 
    Songs prepared that are NOT on the approved list will immediately disqualify the applicant. 
    Submit a video file of you singing the memorized piece from below to the following email: by February 1, 2024. We encourage you to submit a pre-recorded piece so you can take your time, do as many takes as possible, and submit the BEST version of yourself! 


The subject link should reflect the following:  Vocal Music Audition Video 2024 

The body should reflect the following: Full Name, Current Age, Current Grade, Current School 


The earlier you submit the more time our faculty have to review! Students who submit their video recordings early may be notified of their audition callback status early. 

Category #1 Beginner 

Category #2 Intermediate 

Category #3 Advanced 

Amazing Grace 


(Entire 1st verse ending with “Blind but now I see”) 

Lift Every Voice and Sing 

(Entire 1st verse ending with “Til victory is won”) 

America the Beautiful 

(Entire 1st verse ending with “From sea to shining sea”) 

Climb Every Mountain 

Star Spangled Banner 

Art song in English, Italian or German

The Live
Audition Process

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

  • Present a musical selection chosen from the approved list (sung a cappella) 

  • 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 two-day in-person afternoon vocal music callback class. Students are required to attend all days of the callback class to remain a candidate for the Vocal Music department. Students invited for callbacks will be notified by the Admissions Office.

Having a Successful Audition

To present yourself in the best light possible: 

  • Dress appropriately – dress your best! Auditioners should wear business casual or Sunday best clothing. 

  • 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. 

Please note 504 and IEP accommodations are available, please contact us at with any questions or concerns. 

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