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Audition Information

Department Audition and Tarr Full-Tuition Scholarship Competition

As a member of the National Association of Schools of Music, the Music Department at Carson-Newman University holds a Department Audition as an entrance requirement for prospective music majors. The department audition has two basic parts: 1) solo performance in your primary performance area (keyboard, voice, instrument) and 2) music theory placement exam. See below for more information on the specific audition requirements per performance area and material covered in the music theory placement exam.

In addition, every year we hold our Tarr Full-Tuition Scholarship Competition. The dates of the coming year's competition are Friday, January 29th, and Saturday, January 30th, 2021. The competition will also serve as your department audition. You may come on either of the two days to audition and compete for the full-tuition scholarship opportunity in your performance area. Vocalists submitting video recordings for the competition (please see information below under voice audition requirements) should submit those by midnight on Thursday, January 28.  If you are unable to participate in the full-tuition scholarship competition, please make arrangements to schedule your audition time for early in the spring term. Information regarding the Tarr Full-Tuition Scholarship Competition can also be downloaded (pdf).  Click here to see a sample schedule of an audition day at Carson-Newman.  The actual schedule on the day you come may be slightly different.

At Carson-Newman, faculty mentoring relationships are important and cherished. Because of our commitment to your educational success, members of the music faculty take an active role in helping you schedule your department audition. Once we have received your contact information through the Music Department On-Line Audition Form, a faculty member will contact you. You are encouraged and welcomed to contact your faculty representative as often as you need for questions and assistance. We are happy to be of assistance to you in this process.

Other Scholarship Opportunities

In addition to music scholarship opportunities for students who choose to major in music, we also offer some scholarships for students wishing to continue their music experiences without majoring in music.  Scholarships are available for concert and marching band, choir, orchestra, and keyboard (piano or organ).  For more information about music scholarships for students not majoring in music, please contact the following faculty members:

  • Concert and Marching Band: Mrs. Pat Bivens, pbivens@cn.edu
  • Choir: Dr. Eric Thorson, ethorson@cn.edu
  • Orchestra: Dr. Richard Scruggs, rscruggs@cn.edu
  • Piano or Organ:Dr. Ryan Fogg, rfogg@cn.edu

It is also very beneficial to use the Net-Price Calculator to help make informed decisions about costs for attending. Students interested in auditioning should Apply to C-N, and complete the  Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), listing Carson-Newman's Code of 003481, so that we may send you an official financial aid award letter.

Audition Requirements by Instrumentation

(Professional Dress Recommended)


A total of two selections (3 for performance majors) by memory representing two or more of the following categories:

  1. A selection of J.S. Bach, from Two or Three-Part Inventions, Well-Tempered Clavier, Suites,Partitas, etc
  2. A movement of a sonatina or sonata by Clementi, Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven.
  3. A work from 19th century repertoire by such composers as Chopin, Schumann, or Mendelssohn.
  4. A selection from 20th century composers such as Shostakovitch, Kabalevsky, Bartok, Barber, Debussy, etc.


In light of the challenges to singing in public created by the pandemic, vocal auditions for acceptance to the music department for the fall 2021 semester will use video submissions. Students who want to be considered for a music scholarship will also need to come to campus for an in-person interview and theory test. Virtual scholarship interviews will be allowed when travelling to campus isn’t feasible.

Audition requirements:

Prepare two contrasting solos, one classical in nature, to be performed from memory with accompaniment. One foreign language piece preferred. Folk song arrangements are acceptable. The second selection may be from the musical theatre repertoire. A contemporary Christian song is acceptable.

Examples of appropriate songs found in collections for auditioning students include but not limited to:

• 24 Italian Songs & Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries, published by G. Schirmer (available in Medium High & Medium Low vocal ranges)
• 26 Italian Songs & Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries, ed. by Paton, published by Alfred (available in Medium High & Medium Low vocal ranges)
• First Books of Solos, ed. by Boytim, published by Hal Leonard (available in Soprano, Mezzo/Alto, Tenor and Baritone/Bass Volumes)
• First Book of Broadway Solos, ed. by Boytim, published by Hal Leonard (available in Soprano, Mezzo/Alto, Tenor, and Baritone/Bass Volumes)

Please submit your vocal audition videos by clicking here.

Creating Your Best Audition Video
The following information and short video will help you create an excellent audition video.

• External microphones will produce better results than internal microphones in a laptop, phone, or tablet.
• An Ethernet connection provides the most stable internet connectivity
• Watch your entire video before submitting to make sure all audio and video elements work and meet your expectations.
• When using piano accompaniment be sure both parts are balanced. An external speaker/Bluetooth speaker works well for piano accompaniment.
This short video provides good information on tips for best audition and performance videos.
• If you don’t have access to a pianist to accompany you, https://www.appcompanist.com (Available for iOS and Android) provides on-line accompaniments for a reasonable price that you can easily manipulate to fit your particular interpretation of a song.


A total of two selections representing two of the following categories:

  1. One prelude and fugue from eight Little Preludes and Fugues by Bach
  2. An organ composition of a contrasting nature.
  3. A hymn similar in difficulty to “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” or “Faith Of Our Fathers.”

A piano audition may be substituted by a student who has no previous organ study.

Woodwind or Brass Instruments

Selections from each of the following categories:

  1. All 12 Major and chromatic scales for the full range of the instrument.
  2. An etude or a solo selection demonstrating, both technical and lyrical skills, as well as musical level of achievement.
  3. Sight-reading.


Required Audition Material:

Keyboard Percussion: (Carson-Newman will provide a 5 octave Musser synthetic marimba with adjustable height for audition.) Prospective students need to prepare:

  • two-mallet or four-mallet solo to demonstrate technique and musicianship, 
  • twelve major scales and chromatic scale full-range on the marimba,
  • sight read at the marimba.  

Snare Drum: (Carson-Newman will provide a Yamaha Grand Symphonic Rosewood (GSR 1450) snare drum for audition.) Prospective students need to prepare:

  •  a concert or rudimental solo or etude to demonstrate technique and musicianship,
  •  the 40 PAS rudiments, to be played slow-fast-slow
  • the multiple bounce roll should be played soft-loud-soft
  • to demonstrate sight reading in a concert style. 

Timpani: Carson-Newman will provide 4 Adams timpani (32”, 29”, 26”, 23”) with tuning gauges for audition.) Prospective students need to prepare:

  • a solo or etude to demonstrate technique, musicianship, and tuning ability on timpani.  

 Optional Audition Material:

Multiple Percussion: Prospective students may choose to perform an etude/solo on any combination of percussion instruments.  Please verify in advance that any needed instruments will be available.

Drumset: Prospective students may choose to perform a solo or other material to demonstrate time-keeping and stylistic proficiency on drumset.  Please verify in advance that any needed sound equipment for play-along tracks will be available on the audition day.


Selections from as many of the following as possible:

  1. Any three-octaves-scales with arpeggios (two octaves for Double-bass).
  2. One Etude or Caprice
  3. Any concerto, solo or concert piece that best represents playing ability at the time of the audition.

Memorization is recommended but not required for strings audition.


BM degree:
1. Major and Minor scales, first position
2. Chords - Major 7th, Dominant 7th, Minor 7th, Half-diminished 7th and Diminished 7th
3. Repertoire: two classical pieces in contrasting style and or tempo. For example,
-Fernando Sor
-Ferdinando Carulli
-Matteo Carcassi
-J.S. Bach

4. Optional third piece in a jazz, rock, blues, or other modern style

BA with Emphasis in Worship Leadership or guitar as a secondary instrument:
1. Two contemporary worship pieces of the student’s choice - one in simple meter (4/4) and one in compound meter (6/8)
2. Traditional Hymn
3. Optional fourth piece in classical, jazz, rock, or blues

Music Theory Placement Exam

Carson-Newman University is an NASM accredited institution. Our association with this accrediting body ensures that our music programs provide appropriate academic rigor and musical preparation for students. As such, C-NU Music Department requires audition for acceptance into the department for all students.

As part of your audition experience, you will be administered a theory placement exam. The following checklist provides critical subjects to review and study to best prepare for the theory placement exam.


Entering freshman music majors must be able to:

❏ Identify by letter name any notes of the treble and bass clefs

❏ Identify and correctly write key signatures of any major and minor key in treble and bass clefs

❏ Notate major and harmonic minor scales in treble and bass clefs

❏ Demonstrate understanding of meter and time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4 & 6/8) particularly,

  • identify and label the beats in a measure
  • identify beat note, division and subdivision of beat note
  • read and notate simple rhythm patterns using notation values including sixteenth notes

❏ Recognize by hearing (aurally) major and minor triads

❏ Recognize by sight (visually) keys on a standard piano keyboard particularly,

  • identify Middle C
  • identify Bass F and Treble G (above and below Middle C)
  • identify all remaining notes in their octaves

Two helpful, free online resources are www.musictheory.net  and teoria.com (not products of Carson-Newman University).

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