Celebrating the Anniversary of

Mormon Tabernacle Choir auditions


Because my father was organist at the Mormon Tabernacle and accompanist for the Choir I've had a great appreciation for it since childhood. But though I love to sing, the thought of one day joining it never entered my mind. Only when my brother Tom joined did I think, "Wow - I'll bet I could do that, too!" Another motivation was to be nearby while Dad served his final couple of years at the Tabernacle Organ (he retired in November of 1991).

I took voice lessons for a year before auditioning and felt very honored and fortunate to be successful on my first try. Though singing in the Choir takes a lot of time and effort, it is a joyous experience that is like no other. I plan to serve my entire 20 years - if my wife and children don't get fed up with me being away so much!

1. Complete an application.

Applications are accepted only twice a year. To obtain one, call the Choir office (801-240-3221) during the first week of January or July. Prerequisites are that one must be a "Temple-worthy" (see below) member of the LDS Church and commit to participating in at least 80% of rehearsals, broadcasts and concerts. This is no small pledge because the Choir meets on average 140-150 times a year. One must also be at least 25 years of age and no older than 55 (though maximum age is 60, prospective members are asked for at least a 5 year commitment).

2. Prepare an audition tape.

Providing the application is acceptable, instructions will be sent on preparing a short audition tape. This consists of some vocal exercises, one verse of a hymn, and demonstration of loud and soft singing techniques. The Choir staff will review the tape and either invite the applicant to continue the process or provide feedback and suggestions on how to improve and try again in the future.

3. Complete a musical skills inventory.

The Musical Skills Inventory is designed to measure a person's innate musical ability. This test is administered at the LDS Church Office Building. It has been a number of years since I took it, but I remember the following elements: i) Listen to a short musical passage followed by 3 pitches. Indicate which of the 3 pitches is the key tone of the scale for that key.
ii) Look at a few measures of music while listening to it being played. Identify where a wrong note was played.
iii) Same as ii, except identify a rhythmic error.
iv) Listen to short passages and identify them as major or minor key. There was undoubtedly much more that escapes my memory, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what's involved. Skills like this cannot necessarily be taught but are a good indicator of whether a person will be able to quickly learn and master a never-ending stream of new music each week. Applicants are now also given a multiple choice music theory test. The application materials will provide information on study materials to help prepare for this test.

4. Complete an in-person audition.

Now comes the most intimidating step: facing choir conductor Craig Jessop and associate conductor Mack Wilberg. They are wonderfully nice and gracious and will do their best make you feel at ease. But, hey – who wouldn't rather slam their finger in a car door than face an audition before such a distinguished group? This audition is in most respects similar to the taped one, however this time you'll be required to do some sight reading. One of the two pieces you'll sing will have been provided to you in advance. The other (thankfully easier) one you'll need to sight read. If you are successful you will receive an invitation to join the next session of the Temple Square Chorale. Unsuccessful singers are given suggestions for more work and improvement. Luckily, if this is the case you usually don't have to repeat steps 1-3 before trying again. However it will usually be suggested that you take vocal lessons before another audition.

5. Complete a three month session in the Temple Square Chorale.

The Chorale is a training choir to help singers improve their skills both in technique and theory. At the completion of the session it will be determined if you are ready to join the Choir or if further training will be necessary.
UPDATE: In the Spring of 2002, I wrote an article about what it is like to audition for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The article appeared in the online LDS Magazine, "Meridian". If you would like more detailed information about the audition process, including what to do to prepare yourself, this two part article should be very helpful. It was written specifically to assist those who would like to audition: Pointing the Way: What Would It Take to Join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

* Temple worthiness in the LDS Church means a commitment to support Church leaders and follow the commandments of the Savior, such as the Ten Commandments, the Word of Wisdom (abstention from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee) and the Law of the Tithe (contribution of 10% of one's income to the Church). This may sound rather daunting to those outside the Church, but as members it seems a small sacrifice when one considers the tremendous blessings the Lord has given us.
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