A Chance Worth Taking: Audition for the Chorus!

Caitlin Gleason '18


Do you ever ponder those rare, strange, wonderful moments in your life where simply by chance your life drastically altered its course? I often do, and one moment in particular which resonates with me especially this time of year is when I decided to audition for the Cornell University Chorus.

I had sat next to a member of the chorus on my first day of classes freshman year, and she would later become the chorus president. She asked if I was interested in music.

“Well, I’ve played the piano for years,” I’d shrugged coolly. I’d always dreamt of joining an a cappella group at Cornell, but knew I was severely inexperienced in performing and singing. These groups were not for the novices. Yet, she eventually convinced me that having spent only one year in high school choir was reason enough to audition for the chorus. 

I showed up to the audition blithely unaware of what I was getting myself into. I had never done high school theater, had neither accolades nor All State appearances to write home about, and considered myself most comfortable singing in my shower.  But if I had not taken a chance that day—if I had not auditioned for the chorus that afternoon—my college experience would have been so different.

Had I skipped that audition, I would have missed out on touring South America for a full three weeks, singing at Beth Garrett’s inauguration, and becoming musical director of an a cappella group that I swore I only got into by force of sheer luck. Had I skipped that audition, I would have missed out on learning the numerous colorful Cornell alumni songs, performing at Carnegie Hall on my birthday, and working with Grammy-nominated, world-renowned composer Roberto Sierra. 

My advice to anyone considering auditioning for the Cornell Choirs is to simply do it. There is no archetypal chorus member, and there is no such thing as a perfect audition. But more than that, there are many things that make you a valuable member besides solely being musical. Your ability to sight-read is equally as important as your resilience, cooperation, and eagerness to learn. So get out there and sign up. Practice. Don’t drink milk before your audition (I did). And most importantly, stay humble and remember to enjoy yourself because singing is such a gift. Music is a means through which you can make people feel. Music is the universal language through which humanity can connect, an empowering and yet vulnerable power, and it is such a privilege to make music with these incredible, talented people.