Acting in Plays, Singing/auditions


QUESTION: Hi. I'm in the 8th grade and I have to find a song for solo ensemble in March and a song to audition for high or low chorus in the fall for highschool. Do you have any options. I am an alto but i can sing some soprano parts.

ANSWER: Hi, Jakaela –

Thank you for the question.

When auditioning for any variety of vocal ensemble, the first thing to consider is your true vocal category. In the professional world, try telling a true soprano that, as an alto, you can also sing her part. And vice versa.

The circumstances at your schools may not be as stringent. Nevertheless, when it comes to the Soloist who steps out of an ensemble -- the Soloist will want to sing whatever they sing in the key that works best for them. It really helps when the song seems compatible with the Soloist’s own manner and personality. Taken a bit further -- when that Soloist goes out to compete for a major vocal award or sings their first complete recital – the singer and the material must be ideally matched.

Depending on the school, there may be more than one choral group. One of those groups might be the “Show Choir”, i.e., the one that goes out to the community, maybe with show tunes and popular standards. Below is a list of songs that are included in what is referred to as “The Great American Songbook”. They are enduring standards by popular American composers. Obviously, there are other categories of songs that choral groups perform including patriotic numbers, national and international folk songs, seasonal religious songs, Gospel, etc. I know a major choral director who wants the auditioner’s second song to be “America The Beautiful”.

You have plenty of time to choose the category of song that best suits you. The songs below are simple and effective. They have all been performed by ensembles and individual artists. The website will allow you to transpose them into the key that works best for you. Once you’re at the site, look for other songs and artists you know and love:

Bei Mir Bist du Schön – pop standard by Sammy Kahn
Consider transposing to A Major

‘S Wonderful! – from “Funny Face” by George & Ira Gershwin:
Consider transposing to C Major

What’ll I Do – pop standard by Irving Berlin
Consider transposing to C Major

It's Only a Paper Moon – pop standard by Harold Arlen
Consider transposing to F Major

I am a vocal coach to working singers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I'm also a music critic for – and – When you want to make an appointment, contact me at:

Below are links to my recent articles and interviews:

GREG FEDDERLY – A Comprimario Tenor Extraordinaire

Olivier Latry – Organist at Notre Dame de Paris, at Davies Hall, 10/12

A Conversation with Soprano Alexandra Silber – This week at Feinstein’s, 10/11-12

SF Jazz Center Goes Baroque - A Conversation with Countertenor David Daniels

Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne—A Daring World Premiere at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Opens 2013 Season with Boito’s “Mephistopheles”

Audra McDonald joins San Francisco Symphony in Opening Night Gala

Introducing Cheyenne Jackson and Alexandra Silber as San Francisco Symphony’s Tony & Maria in “West Side Story”

THE GERSHWINS AND ME – A Conversation with Michael Feinstein

A Conversation with Ted Neeley, Hollywood’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

On ‘Billy Budd’—A Trio from Merola: Alex DeSocio, Thomas Richards, Robert Watson

Lawrence Brownlee—On ‘Carmina Burana’, with the SFSymphony—Tuesday, July 30th

On “The Joyless Street” at the Silent Film Festival—An Interview with Matti Bye

Nathan Gunn Is ‘Yeshua’ in San Francisco Opera’s “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene”

Natalie Dessay on ‘Becoming Traviata’—French Soprano bids ‘Adieu’ to opera stage

‘Tales of Hoffmann’ Fizzles at San Francisco Opera

‘A Grand Romance’—A Spectacular CD from pianist Jeffrey Biegel

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'Drama Queens' – A Conversation with Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato

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A conversation with Joshua Bell, featured guest artist at opening of SF Symphony, 9/19

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Best regards,
Sean Martinfield

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for the response i go to mchenry middle school in mchenry Illinois Um i have no idea what kind of chrous they have I now at my school we have cadet chrous for the 6th graders the beginning just learning the notes and then there is concert chrous which is a little harder for 7th and 8th graders im in that one also im in select chrous where they have more challenging music for that one i auditioned on my own from les miserables and i got in but do you thin songs from wicked would be good or songs from movies or musicals at all?

Hi, again --

In the professional Broadway world and for a number of years, audition notices have specifically stated to NOT sing anything from WICKED or LES MIZ.


Audition panels are sick of it.

Your job as a potential chorus member is to demonstrate your musicianship no matter what you sing.

The song has not been written that will guarantee anybody a job.

Whatever you sing -- and you must be prepared to sing a cappella -- must stay in key and be absolutely on pitch from start to finish. It will prove that you know how to listen and that you can maintain your line when singing in close harmony with others, especially when performing a cappella.

Sing what you love and in the key that works best for you.

Work smart. Practice in front of a mirror. What you see is what we will see. Figure out how to control your presentation. A few days before the audition, sing your material in front of a friend you can trust.

Best regards,
Sean Martinfield

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Sean Martinfield


I am a professional vocal coach in San Francisco. I have published over 3300 responses related to vocal training - particularly as it relates to Musical Theatre, Pop/Standard, and Opera. I have 30 years of experience as a personal trainer to working singers and actors in the San Francisco Bay Area. I sang professionally for 20 years and know what it means to live the life of a musician. I can determine your voice category, i.e., Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Alto, Alto Belter, etc., and how to broaden and strengthen your range. Need an audition song for a Broadway Musical? I can assist you with your song selections and help you build an audition portfolio that demonstrates your vocal category and meets the requirements specified in the audition notice. I have created a vocal methodology, "The Belter`s Method". It will enable those in Cabaret and Musical Theatre to practice more efficiently because it focuses on the vocal demands of professional performers and will keep you performance-ready. If what you want is a better voice and more control over your career moves and choices, contact me at: I am also a music and cultural critic for and I interview internationally recognized musicians, singers, dancers, and recording artists -- particularly those who are now appearing or scheduled to perform in San Francisco.


As a vocal coach, I work primarily with singers and actors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. My students range from absolute beginners to working professionals, from kids to senior citizens. The vast majority of my clients come to me through recommendation. I know how to identify any singer's vocal category, i.e., soprano, tenor, alto, baritone, etc. I know how to muscle-up every singer's vocal range and to expand it beyond conventional definitions. I have developed a vocal methodology for those who want to know how to belt, THE BELTER'S METHOD. There are a number of major components to my work as a vocal coach. The first is to identify the client's vocal category and to strengthen and maximize the vocal range accordingly. Then it's about teaching a reliable vocal workout that will enable the client to gain better control of their musicianship. That includes scale work to expand the vocal range and to improve placement, breath control, and diction. Then we work on material for the audition portfolio, the immediate job or assignment, a recording session, etc. My task to is to better equip singers and actors who are hoping to or relying upon their performance skills and vocal endurance to maintain a career in the Performing Arts. My clients regularly appear in cabarets and musical productions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Some have worked in New York and gone on National Tours. For more information, Contact me at:


San Francisco State University – BA in Theatre Arts; graduate work in Theatre, Philosophy, and Comparative Reiligion. Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley – Graduate work in Ethics

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