All students applying to any program in School of Music must audition for entrance. Auditions are designed to give prospective students and their families the most personal exposure to the University. Students meet with music faculty, perform their audition, and can meet with representatives from Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Life, and the Dean of the School of Music. Campus Tours are also available.

You can choose to attend a one-day audition, or take advantage of an overnight stay and dig deeper into the Cairn University School of Music experience. Students may attend a recital or concert rehearsal and spend the night in one of the Cairn residence halls with current School of Music students. Let us know if you are interested in an overnight stay and our admissions staff will create a special campus visit experience just for you: Visit a class, have lunch with music faculty, tour the campus, and meet with financial aid and admissions representatives.

If students are unable to attend one of the audition days listed, individual arrangements may be made through the Music office.  For those who cannot audition in person, a video may be submitted. Contact for details.

Music Scholarships up to $6,000 per year may be awarded to students who successfully pass the audition and exhibit outstanding performance ability and potential. The scholarship award will be applied annually toward Cairn tuition. Funds will be awarded up to 9 semesters based on a minimum 2.5 GPA per semester, enrollment as a full-time music major and active ensemble participation. To qualify, applicants must meet Cairn’s entrance requirements and audition before May 1. If scholarship funds remain available after May 1, additional scholarships may be awarded.

Upcoming Audition Days

  • November 22, 2019
  • January 31, 2020
  • February 21, 2020
  • March 27, 2020
  • May 1, 2020

Audition Requirements

Worship and Music

Audition Rooms: What to Expect

Audition rooms are equipped with a piano, a drum set, guitar and bass amplifiers, speakers, a CD player, and music stands. A standard drum set with cymbals for drum set auditions is provided.


What to Bring to Your Audition

If you require accompaniment for your prepared piece, you may bring an accompanist, a play-along CD, or an iPod. Cairn can provide an accompanist, but this must be requested.

You must bring your instrument to the audition if you play acoustic or electric guitar, brass, bass, hand percussion, a string instrument (including the mandolin, and banjo), or woodwinds.

Drummers, bring your sticks as well as a practice pad to use in the warm-up room, as many warm-up rooms will not have a drum set.


What to Play at Your Audition: A Prepared Piece (For Percussion Auditions, See Below)

Prepare a piece that you are comfortable with and which displays your strengths as a musician. It should be approximately 3-5 minutes in length, in any style, which demonstrates your instrumental or vocal proficiency and your overall musicianship.


  • A tune from a well-known artist or band (any style). This can be a worship song.
  • A standard or jazz tune (which may include blues and rhythm changes) with your own improvisation.
  • A composition from the classical instrumental/voice repertoire. This could be a movement of a sonata, concerto or étude.
  • A transcription of a well-known artist’s solo

What to Play at Your Audition: Percussion

Drumset Auditions: You will be asked to play selected examples from the following list of grooves/techniques:

  • 4/4 Swing
  • 3/4 Swing
  • Rock
  • Funk
  • Shuffle
  • Bossa Nova
  • Samba
  • Trading fours and eights in 4/4 Swing, Shuffle, and Rock grooves
  • Brush technique


You will be asked to improvise in order for us to assess where you are in your instrumental development.


The examples range from basic to complex in order for the asjudicators to gauge your reading ability. You will have 15 minutes before your audition to warm-up on your instrument and review the reading material before being asked to play the examples in the audition.

Ear Training

You will be asked to participate in call-and-response exercises. The audition team will play short rhythms and melodies, which you will either sing back or play back on your instrument. You may also be asked to identify intervals and chord qualities. The adjudicators will also assess your ability to match pitch during this portion of the audition.

  1. Perform two contrasting works from the classical repertoire (Memorization required)
    Suggested repertoire:
  • A two or three–part invention or a prelude and fugue from the Well–Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach
  • An allegro movement from a sonata by Mozart, Haydn or Beethoven
  • A larger work from the Romantic period (Debussy, Schumann, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, etc.)
  • Be prepared to play any major or harmonic scale at a moderate tempo, four octaves; hands together
  • Demonstrate sight-reading ability
  1. Perform two contrasting works from the classical repertoire (Memorization required)
    Suggested repertoire: Copland, Quilter, Britten, Caldara, Schubert, Fauré, Brahms, Handel, etc.
  2. Demonstrate sight-reading ability
  1. Perform the first movement of a standard concerto or solo piece of choice
  2. Perform a contrasting movement from a standard concerto or solo piece by a different composer of choice
  3. Be prepared to play three octaves of chromatic and major scales up to four flats and four sharps (harpists are not asked to play scales)
  4. Demonstrate sight-reading ability
Woodwinds and Brass
  1. Perform the first movement of a standard concerto or solo piece of choice
  2. Perform a contrasting movement from a standard concerto or solo piece by a different composer of choice
  3. Be prepared to play two octaves of chromatic and major scales (tongued and slurred) up to four flats and four sharps
  4. Demonstrate sight-reading ability
  1. Perform two prepared snare drum solos
    • from the N.A.R.D. Rudiment Solo Book or equivalent
    • from Cirone’s, Portraits in Rhythm or equivalent
  2. Perform a snare drum concert roll: pp<ff>pp over 16 beats.
  3. Perform a prepared mallet solo from the book Masterpieces for Marimba by MacMillan, or Intermediate Mallets by Whaley, or equivalent.
  4. Perform a timpani solo (for example, a four-drum solo from The Solo Timpanist by Firth, or equivalent).
  5. Be prepared to play any two octave major or harmonic scale on the xylophone
  6. Demonstrate sight-reading ability (Snare Drum and Mallets)
  1. Perform two contrasting works from the classical repertoire
  2. Be prepared to play any two octave major or harmonic minor scale
  3. Demonstrate sight-reading ability

In addition to passing an audition in one of the above areas, application for entrance into the composition program is made in one of two ways:

  1. Submission of a portfolio of original compositions prior to the audition
  2. Demonstration, during the first two semesters of study, of a working knowledge of music theory and a strong interest in the creative process

Additional Notes:
All accompanied pieces must be performed with an accompanist (no accompaniment tracks permitted). All applicants should provide their own accompanist, unless other arrangements are made with the School of Music. Applicants requesting an accompanist must send one copy of all music with the audition application. Applicants must bring one reference copy of all music to the audition.

All applicants will be given a music theory diagnostic exam. A piano proficiency test is not part of the audition for non-piano students.

Applicants will normally be informed of audition and music results within three weeks of the audition.

Please note that acceptance by the School of Music does not constitute acceptance by the University, or vice versa. You must be accepted by the University in addition to passing an audition.

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