Q&A: How to Prepare for a Cirque Audition

Email question received:

Hi Conrad,

I stumbled across your website when researching Cirque composers. I  am a student at Musicians Institute LA, and i have been invited to audition with cirque here in LA next tuesday. I am a keyboardist and guitarist (acc/elect) and was wondering whether you had any tips regarding how to make the best impression at the audition. I have picked 2 pieces on keys and one of guitar, as well as a piece of my choice.

I love the cirques music, feeling and message and i dearly hope to give the best performance that i can possibly give at the audition.

thanks
(name edited)

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Reply:

Hi,

Well first things first, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way.  As of this post I am not part of the audition team at Cirque and I certainly am in no position to speak on Cirque’s behalf. However, I am a musician with Cirque and all of us now working for Cirque had to audition at one point. So here’s my two cents worth.

I think it’s important you wholly be “who you are” at your audition. Don’t try to “be something”. Cirque likes authenticity in intention, motivation and performance. They will be looking for very specific things and you don’t know exactly what that is. They want the real essence of who you are so they can get a sense of what you can be. Which is part of the reason they audition worldwide to get that rare combination of colors.

I have heard of people preparing specific pieces for auditions and maybe they are sometimes used. But my experience for my audition was it was all improvisation and playing back parts by ear. There’s no way to prepare for something like that, you just need to relax and bring your best game. They may also ask you to play something of your choosing, so good to be prepared as you are.

I will give you a couple scenarios of musicians now working with Cirque:

  1. Player auditioned and was told on the spot they were the best player for that instrument that had auditioned in that town (a MAJOR music hub). Cirque said they would hire them on the next available spot. The player literally stood by the phone for months, eventually gave up, and two years later Cirque called with a job offer.
  2. Player saw a job opening on the Cirque website and submitted a video of improvisations on various instruments. Three months later Cirque called with a job offer.
  3. Player was contacted off their MySpace page and requested to submit a video. They were offered a job within a few months.
  4. Player was asked to submit a video. Cirque didn’t care for the performance and asked them to submit a new video with certain changes. New video was submitted and player was offered a job.
  5. Player submitted audition recording and was sent three more rounds of audition screenings via mail. Not hired, but Cirque said they would keep them on file. 3 months later player invited to do live auditions. Offered job on spot but player didn’t like job. Two years later player receives email to update artist information or be taken out of waiting list. Player updates files. 6 months later is given audition materials for show. Not hired. Four months later player is called and offered contract for a different show.

I think there’s only one thing to take from that information: There’s no “one road” or “one way” to Cirque. You would be amazed at the different stories of how people got to Cirque. But all the people I work with have one thing in common (the ones that last anyway): They all LOVE Cirque and it was there #1 choice for a job. Many said no to other big companies just for the chance to work with Cirque (they refused other big contracts just waiting that Cirque might hire them.)

And if you’re not placed right away just keep doing your career. Cirque has a good feel for when an artist is ripe and ready. And also, there are many elements that come into play aside from musical chops. For instance, in my current Cirque show one of the things they looked for was people they thought would be cool under pressure when going to a foreign country.

What to wear? To my audition I wore a full suit and tie (custom suit from Nordstrom no less). I’ve gotten a lot of ribbing for that: “What, are you crazy? You wore a SUIT to a Cirque audition? I would never hire you just for the fact that you wore a SUIT.” A close friend of mine wore a bright colored psychadelic monstrosity. But we were ourselves. I’m more comfortable playing in a suit. Other players wore the ethnic clothing they play when they perform their genres. Others in jeans and t-shirt.

I’ve met artists who knew they nailed their audition with Cirque but were never offered a position. And I know artists who thought they totally blew their audition and were offered contracts. So you never know.

In fact, that would be my one description of Cirque: “You never know!”

Break a leg and let me know how it goes.

For others reading and maybe thinking they’d like to audition for Cirque; you can visit http://www.CirqueDuSoleil.com for information on job openings, worldwide audition locations and dates, as well as instructions how to submit your materials to Cirque.

3 comments

  • cirque auditioner

    Thank you i really appreciate you getting back to me. I had the audition yesterday and unfortunately i didnt get it. I was a bit nervous as it was my first big audition, and i think it showed. It was with *name edited* who was really great.

    Although he did come to me at the end to tell me that while i wasnt quite ready for a 1st keyboardist position, (i am in my 2nd quarter at Musicians Institute LA), i had future potential becuase i auditioned on both Keyboards and Guitar. He mentioned possibly a 2nd keys for a show like Quidam.

    Anyway he sent me a link after the audition and asked me to record all of the ref tracks with me playing on guitar and keys so i could be evaluated for the future.

    So not total success, but not total failure either. I was very happy just to given a face to face audition and improved so much just by learning the material!

    thanks again and good luck for the show
    (Name edited)

  • Hi,I recently was invited to a live audition as a violinist.
    It seemed to go really well but I am a bit confused about the outcome. They said they were sending in my file but one of the audition panel expressed the opinion that he didn’t think I was quite suited to their current shows and needed some experience with improvisation. They then proceeded to take my photo and I had to give the one minute video presentation about me. As I was leaving the audition they handed me a congratulations letter saying I passed the 1st stage and was now on their list of possible candidates to use. Does this mean the audition was a success or not? does everyone who does a live audition get this letter?
    If that cirque musician who posted earlier reads this could you please provide an insight?

  • Hi “auditionee”,
    I wrote you a detailed email with lots of info for you. To answer your questions here: No, not everyone receives this letter. Was it a “success”? I would say yes, because now you are in the official Cirque files for consideration on future job openings. This means you might get a call to audition again (perhaps via mail) in one month, or it could be a few years, etc. It’s important to keep your contact info updated with Cirque. Also, if they say to work on your improv, then I would strongly suggest doing just that. Listen to soundtracks from other shows and you’ll hear a combination of world music, jazz and gypsy folk type music. Of course, every show is different.

    Cirque is usually very good at saying specifically what they think an artist should work on. The other part of the equation is Cirque is very good at matching up players with the different styles, so they will wait for a position that they think really suits your style.

    I’ve worked for Cirque almost two years now as a musician and assistant bandleader and I love it. It’s everything you might imagine: VERY intense and VERY rewarding. Hard work in all the best ways.

    Congrats and break a leg to both of you!

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