Front Ensemble Audition FAQs

Revised: November 2016

Q: How will the auditions work?
A: You will have a chance to warm up on your own to get comfortable on our instruments. We will then begin working on exercises together.  You’ll also learn an ensemble piece so we can assess your work in an ensemble setting.  On Sunday, we will listen to you individually to evaluate your sound quality and technical facility.  You should also prepare 2 – 4 minute solo on marimba, vibraphone, or xylophone for your individual audition.   Your ability to work with others, adapt to changes, and modify techniques will be considered as well as your prepared repertoire.

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
  • Understanding of basic theory, i.e. major and minor scales, arpeggios, and chords

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

  • Major and minor scales in octaves
  • Major and minor scales in sixteenth notes alternating sticking

Four-Mallet Technique (We use Stevens Grip)

  • Major chords ascending and descending chromatically
  • Two-mallet fundamentals played with inner mallets
  • 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 let you know how you’re doing in the audition process, give you a rating, 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 set until January or February.

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: We hold weekend camps once per month starting in January. In May we start rehearsing every weekend, except Mother’s Day. Beginning the second weekend of June, we begin our All-Days. Our tour begins mid-June and ends the second Sunday of August. Basically, you’ll be with Pacific Crest everyday from early June through mid-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: Activities with your school music program come first. Period. After the last day of school, however, you must commit completely to Pacific Crest. Once offered a spot, you will compare the PC calendar to your academic calendar and let us know about your conflicts.

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.