Front Ensemble Audition FAQs

Revised: September 2018

Q: How will the auditions work?
A: The audition weekend will include evaluation both within the ensemble as well as individually. You will have the chance to get comfortable on our equipment before the process starts. We will work through exercises together and then an ensemble piece. For the individual portion you will be expected to perform a solo that showcases what you can bring to the group. Mallet players should prepare a 2-4 minute solo on either marimba, vibraphone or xylophone. Those auditioning for synth positions should prepare a 2-4 minute piano solo. Drumset auditions will include a solo excerpt of your choosing as well as playing through various styles and tempos. For auxiliary auditions we’d like to see a snare drum etude that showcases your rhythmic and musical abilities.

Q: How will I be evaluated?
A: During the auditions you’ll be evaluated in these areas (listed in order of importance):

  • Attitude towards learning & performance
  • Ability to make corrections and adjustments
  • Tone quality and technique using 2 and 4 mallets
  • Learning & mastering warm-up exercises & short pieces
  • Rhythmic interpretation and control

Q: How can I best prepare for the auditions?
A: Mastering the following skills will help you learn our exercises more quickly so you can succeed at the auditions. Speed is not important; accuracy, however, is critical.

Two-Mallet Technique

  • Scales in octaves
  • Scales in sixteenth notes alternating sticking

Four-Mallet Technique (We use Stevens Grip)

  • Major chords ascending and descending chromatically
  • Four-mallet independent strokes
  • Basic alternating stroke permutations

Q: I don’t play keyboards, but really want to play in the front ensemble. Do I have a chance?
A: There is a lot of variety in the front ensemble. If you have piano experience, we have a synthesizer position. If you are more comfortable with drumming and orchestral percussion, we have drum set and auxiliary percussion positions.

Q: When will I know if I made the line?
A: At the end of each weekend we will tell you how you’re doing in the audition process and let you know what your chances are of making the line. Some decisions will be made in December, but the line won’t be fully set until January.

Q: Can I audition on more than one instrument?
A: Yes. If you want to try an instrument different than you would normally play, or maybe you think you have a better chance of making the front ensemble on a different instrument, talk to one of the instructors to see what an appropriate choice might be for you.

Q: What am I getting myself into if I make it?
A: After the audition weekend, the percussion section attends the January Camp, and then is off until last weekend of April (after WGI Championships). In May we rehearse every weekend except Mother’s Day. The first week of June is All-Days. We move in to Spring Training the second week of June. We depart for tour in mid-to-late June. Basically, you’ll be with Pacific Crest everyday from the first weekend of June through the second weekend of August. This will be the most intense yet most rewarding performing experience of your life!

Q: What if I can’t make a camp because of school performance?
A:During the academic year, your school events take priority over Pacific Crest. You may miss up to four full camp days due to school conflicts. These may be taken as two full camps, four full days, eight partial days, or a combination that sum to four days. If you must miss more than four full days, please contact the corps manager. Communication is key to finding a solution.

Q: What if my school year ends after All-Days start?
A: If you are still in school during All-Days, we urge you to request the chance to take final exams early and/or miss the last days of school. You may request a letter from the Executive Director that confirms participation in Pacific Crest.

Please note that if your school year ends after the All-Days — and you must miss most or all of the early June rehearsals — you will be considered an Understudy. Understudies can earn their way into a performance spot later in the summer, but cannot be guaranteed a spot if missing that much rehearsal the first half of June.

Q: What if I can’t make the December auditions?
A: If you are involved in the Rose Parade or similar activity during the winter, and there simply is no way for you to audition in person, you must send us a video audition in advance of the Audition Weekend. Click the link below to learn more about submitting a video audition:


NOTE: We do not accept applicants based upon their video auditions. Once evaluated we will let you know if we want to see you in person at a future camp to complete your audition.