If you’re a singer looking to go to the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), you have options. There are 4 different conservatories at OCSA that concentrate heavily on vocals, although in different ways. Since the school is so competitive, I’d highly recommend auditioning for 2 conservatories, but choose the two that focus on the type of singing you’re most interested in and have some background in. Below are the 4 singing conservatories at OCSA, along with some tips about what type of music to prepare.
1. Musical Theatre, 7th Through 12th Grade
The most long-established of OCSA’s singing conservatories (and maybe of any of OCSA’s conservatories), Musical Theatre is highly selective and requires that you’re at least somewhat a triple threat (that is, that you can sing, dance, and act). For your audition, you’ll want to sing a musical theatre song, memorize a monologue, and make sure you’ve taken enough dance lessons to pass a basic onsite dance audition. This conservatory gives you a little bit of leeway in your voice type, because the world of Broadway music spans everything from a rock belt to a legit, verging on classical-sounding head voice. That being said, musical theatre vocals still tend to have a specific sound–more speech like with a specific kind of vibrato–so I’d encourage you to study musical theatre vocals before your audition.
2. Integrated Arts, 7th Through 12th Grade
Integrated Arts theoretically gives you the most flexibility when it comes to vocals. Because it draws from all the different conservatories, you can technically audition with a musical theatre piece, a pop song, or a classical piece (and I’ve had students get admitted with all three of these song types). However, if you go to one of OCSA’s preview nights and listen to Heather Stafford (the director of Integrated Arts) speak, you’ll know that she discourages students from auditioning with a pop song. In fact, because Integrated Arts has its own musical, it’s (all things being equal) probably best to audition with a musical theatre song. It’s very, very difficult to get into any OCSA conservatory as a junior, because spots will only open up if previous students drop out, and the only student I’ve seen do it got in with “If I Loved You,” a soprano song from the classic Broadway show Carousel.
3. Classical Voice, 7th Through 12th Grade
The least impacted of the vocal conservatories, Classical Voice is also the most specific in what kind of singing you need to audition with. Leave your pop songs and belty show tunes at home, because you’ll need a more head voice-dominant classical sound for this one. Come prepared with 2 complete pieces that show off this type of singing. It’s also okay to come in with non-belty classic Broadway, but if you can pull it off, I’d recommend classical art songs to show you’re more serious about the genre.
4. Commercial Music, 9th Through 12th Grade
The only vocal conservatory not open to OCSA’s junior high school students, Commercial Music’s vocal program has the fewest number of slots and is arguably the most competitive. Unsurprisingly, lots of students enjoy and want to sing pop music, and there are the fewest in-school opportunities for that–at any school, not just at OCSA. Come prepared with two popular songs, one off of a list that the OCSA website will supply and update annually and one of your own choosing. Even though there are lots of forms of commercial vocals, I would encourage you to learn how to belt, or at least figure out a strong well-connected mixed voice (even if part of it is headier), before showing up for this one. Commercial vocals tend to use a more relaxed-sounding, slower and less frequent vibrato than musical theatre and classical vocals, so make sure you’ve spent some time exploring pop and rock if you want to be competitive.