Undergraduate Auditions

Each year, Bienen School faculty will listen to thousands of the nation’s most promising young musicians to determine who will be selected for admission to Northwestern University.

Step-by-step instructions for auditioning for the Bienen School of Music are outlined below.

1. Register for Your Audition

In most cases, a performance audition is required. If your program requires a recorded “example of musicianship,” or if you are unable to attend an on-campus audition and want to submit a recording for your final audition, these recordings are due by February 1. If your desired program requires a performance audition, you must register for the audition by dates below.

Register for your Audition

Important Audition Dates

Registration Rule
October 15, 2019
Audition Registration deadline for Early Decision applicants
December 1, 2019
Audition Registration deadline for Regular Decision applicants*
February 6-16, 2020
On-campus music performance auditions

*Composition applicants for Regular Decision have until February 1, 2020 to upload the required portfolio. However, if you wish to apply to both the Composition program and to a performance major, you should register for the performance audition by December 1, 2019 and then submit a second registration for your Composition portfolio.

2. Prepare for Your Audition

See Audition Requirements

We recommend starting early by taking the audition requirements to your music teacher. Prepare for your audition by bringing musical selections that best showcase what you do well.  It is better to beautifully perform a piece that requires moderate skill, as opposed to a mediocre performance of a very difficult piece.

For prescreening recordings and final audition recordings, it is not necessary to have them made in a professional studio. The most important aspect is that the sound quality of your recording is excellent, so find a good microphone and play your recording for multiple people before you submit it.


Voice applicants are required to submit prescreening recordings with accompaniment. For on-campus voice auditions, an accompanist will be provided for you. You must bring your own music for the accompanist to use. We recommend making photocopies of your music and neatly organizing your selections in a three-ring binder. Please do not place music in plastic sleeves, as this causes glare for our pianists. Do not use staples on your music. Do not send music in advance; bring the music with you when you arrive for your audition.

Jazz Studies applicants require prescribed combo instrumentation, as described on the Audition and Program Requirements page. A backup track should be used only as a last resort. 

Classical instrumental prescreening recordings and auditions must be unaccompanied, with the exception of flute applicants, who are encouraged to submit prescreening materials with accompaniment (flute auditions will be unaccompanied).  If you are performing a required excerpt that includes measures of rests, it is not necessary to count out the rests—you can move on to your next entrance.

3. Audition on Campus or by Online Recording

Audition On Campus

To be considered for an on-campus audition, you must register online by December 1, 2019 and upload any required prescreening recordings. If you are invited for the final round of auditions, you will receive notification after your Common Application has been submitted. This notification will include information on how to schedule your audition. Applicants whose program does not require prescreening will be contacted with information on how to schedule an audition.

Do not book your travel arrangements until you have received official, written confirmation from the Bienen School of Music. Information for parking, hotel accommodations, transportation, and on-campus events will be sent with confirmation of an on-campus audition.

Early Decision Auditions are held on an ad-hoc basis during the month of November.

NOTE: Applicants applying via QuestBridge to the Bienen School must submit prescreening by October 20, 2019 and complete their performance audition (or upload a final recording) before November 25, 2019, regardless of whether applying Early or Regular Decision.

On Campus Audition Checklist

Audition By Recording

February 1, 2020
Final recording due


If you cannot complete an on-campus audition, you must upload a recording to use as your final audition. If you are not planning to visit campus for the live audition, upload your final recording by February 1, 2020.

Recorded Audition Checklist

Prepare for your audition

View Audition & Program Requirements