FAQ - National Student Auditions

Revised 9-1-2021


May Chapters require two pieces instead of three for high school singers in their auditions?

High school age categories and younger in Chapter auditions may require two or three selections as best serves the needs and tradition of the Chapter or District. Region and National Auditions will require three selections in High School Categories.

May Chapters require two pieces instead of three for first and second year post high school categories in their auditions? Many post high school singers begin voice study with a new teacher and have only been taking voice lessons with their current teacher for four to five weeks.

All post high school categories remain at three or four selections as written in the student audition regulations. Perhaps a combination of two new selections and one older piece is the solution for first year post high school categories.

Operetta is listed under the definition of aria but musical theatre says golden age, so is an operetta aria perhaps from a Sigmund Romberg or Victor Herbert show allowed in musical theatre categories?

An operetta aria may be used as one selection in the musical theatre categories.

Is it possible to use a score during the performance of an oratorio aria for reference only during a NATS Student Audition?

All repertoire must be performed from memory with the exception of Oratorio, Mass, Requiem, and Cantata Arias. Singers may hold music scores for these types of arias as is traditional performance practice.

In light of the 12-minute requirement for 4 selections and 10-minute requirement for 3 selections, may we have permission to make judicious cuts of: piano introductions, piano interludes, piano music after the vocal solo is completed, verse or verses of selections, internal cuts of opera arias as historically and successfully made on many professional recordings?

Classical Repertoire:
Piano introductions, piano interludes, piano music after the vocal solo is completed, and internal cuts of opera arias are allowed as is common performance practice. Cuts of verse or verses of selections are not allowed. In the case of strophic pieces, all verses should remain that are traditionally included.

Musical Theatre Repertoire
As found in common professional performance practice, cuts in piano introductions, piano interludes, piano music after the vocal solo is completed, and dance breaks in musical theatre selections are allowed. In the case of numerous verses, some verses may be cut.

May students sing for comment only in student NATS auditions at the Chapter and District level?

As the regulations state: Any student may register to sing for comments only and participate in the preliminary audition round.

May songs from Disney movie musicals be used in the musical theatre categories?


Can any of the pieces found in the 24/26/28 Italian Songs and Arias books be used to fulfill the aria requirement for the lower college division? Can only those marked aria/arietta? Can none of them? 

If the singer is in one of the High School or post high school Lower Classical Categories, ANY repertoire found in the 24/26/28 Italian Songs and Arias books may be considered as art songs AND/OR as operatic arias, regardless of origin. If the singer is in post high school Upper or Advanced Classical Categories, ANY repertoire found in the 24/26/28 Italian Songs and Arias books may be considered as art songs ONLY, regardless of origin. Any comparable literature found outside the 24/26/28 Italian Songs and Arias books, regardless of composer, will be considered only as the composer originally intended, either as an aria OR an art song.

May any operatic aria be used for the “aria or art song” repertory requirement in the post high school lower categories, especially for first year post high school categories? Or is there a list of acceptable arias for younger singers?

There is not a list of arias for singers of any age. The aria choice is made by the teacher and student. The choice of appropriate arias and art songs should be made based on the vocal development and maturity level of the singer.

What is the present definition of musical theatre repertoire for NATS auditions?

Repertoire is selected from musicals including film musicals, revues, operettas, musical theatre song cycles, and stand-alone musical theatre songs. Only one of the required selections may be an operetta aria or a stand-alone musical theatre song. The singer is expected to select musical theatre songs from varied styles of music including bluegrass, blues, calypso, country, electro-pop, folk, gospel, jazz, legit, operetta, pop, pop-opera, rap, rhythm and blues (R&B), rock, soul, etc. The selected repertoire will engage the singer’s ability to access a variety of vocal colors to communicate character and story (see musical theatre rubric). The audition will showcase the full spectrum of each singer’s vocal and dramatic abilities.

Must musical theatre repertoire be performed in original keys?

Published transpositions of musical theatre songs are permitted, but singers are expected to retain the composer's intended style of music and to convey the essence of the character portrayed in the larger work. Performances not fulfilling these requirements may result in lower scores from adjudicators.

In which categories may "Simple Song" from Leonard Bernstein's Mass be used in student auditions?

Bernstein’s Mass is a theater piece for singers, players, and dancers and is sometimes performed in oratorio style and other times as a fully realized production. “Simple Song” is therefore cross over repertoire that can be used in both classical and musical theatre categories. In classical categories it is an oratorio aria and not an art song. In musical theatre categories it is a song.

Are students allowed to change repertoire between the Region audition and the National audition?

The same repertoire that a student performed at the region audition MUST be performed for the national rounds. (i.e. No repertoire changes allowed.)

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Can you clarify the processes for complying with the NATS Copyright Policy?

General Policy
NATS has adopted a no-infringement policy.  NATS opposes copyright infringement, and encourages the use of authorized copies of music scores by its members and their students.  It is unethical for members to infringe upon copyright laws.  

Competition Policy
NATS requires our competitors and their pianists to agree to abide by our Copyright Policy by requiring the use of authorized scores in all of our events.   The general Copyright Policy will be referenced in competition registration documents.

NATS will require competitors to assure NATS that their music scores (and those of their pianists) are authorized copies, and that they will indemnify NATS from damages for use of unauthorized copies.  All NATS members, their students, and pianists make themselves responsible for penalties associated with infringement of the copyright policy by the duty of their indemnification to the innocent non-infringer NATS.

Obvious Infringement
NATS will prohibit competitors who are obviously infringing upon copyright from taking part in our events, and thereby NATS does not become a contributory partner in infringement.  Auditions chairs are solely charged with this responsibility.  Because of the difficulties in determining which tablet copies of scores are authorized and which are infringing, and because of the ubiquitous use of tablets today, NATS no longer performs this investigative role so long as (i) the infringement is non-obvious, and (ii) the tablet owner certifies it is an authorized copy and agrees to indemnify NATS. 

If auditions chairs notice a pianist using a tablet obviously containing photos of a score (or a pianist using obvious unauthorized photocopies of a score), then the auditions chair will not allow the performance to proceed with those obviously infringing materials.  The intention of the NATS Copyright Policy is not to thrust audition chairs into an investigative role as copyright investigators.  The approach audition chairs should take is “If the infringement is obvious, performance cannot be allowed; if infringement is not obviously occurring and the performer tells NATS they are using an authorized copy, then NATS will not investigate further and performance will be allowed.”

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May I use my iPad during my audition?

Yes, but only for collaborative pianists.

Use of Tablets by Collaborative Pianists

  • The use of iPads and tablets as musical scores for collaborative pianists during all levels of NATS auditions has been approved and are held to the same standards of copyright as any other musical score used for auditions.
  • For clarification on appropriate use of tablets please visit the NATS Commonly Asked Copyright Questions for Teachers, Accompanists, and Students document located in the NATS Copyright Resource Center.
  • As long as the singer and pianist affirm that they are in compliance with the NATS Copyright Policy, the pianist may use a personal tablet to display a stored electronic version of sheet music. However, obvious copyright infringement will not be allowed, and may result in disqualification from the competition. Adjudicators are not copyright investigators. This is solely the job of the auditions chairs. If auditions chairs see Obvious infringement (whether in digital or paper form), they are compelled to do something.

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What is the current National Student auditions category numbering system?

The regulations document has the details about the numbering system. Please send any questions to NSA Coordinator 

Are the regulations and logos posted online so that we can link to them from our website?

The regulations are posted on the website.

Can NATS entities add categories to their auditions that the National Student Auditions does not presently include in their audition? 

NATS entities are encouraged to explore categories that accommodate their adult students in auditions either combining or splitting them by experience or educational background. The current examples of non-NSA Categories are:

For example avocational singers might be in one group. Those singers with music degrees or professional experience in another group. In entities with smaller numbers of adult singers, those groups might need to be combined. Singers who have participated in the NSA Advanced Categories should not participate in Avocational Adult Categories.

To provide the best audition experience for children, teachers should take care to choose repertoire that considers the variables of age, musical ability, training, and appropriate subject matter for each young singer. NATS recognizes that repertoire taken from current popular culture, folk songs, etc., and historical performance practice of children singing classical repertoire by composers such as Bach and others, is all within the realm of possibilities.

The NSA committee encourages NATS entities to share their non-NSA category options with the committee to assist NATS entities with new ideas regarding possible new audition categories of singers.

What is the best practice for implementing time intervals in an audition schedule?

Audition schedules should include a one or two-minute interval between performance times for singers to enter and leave the room and accompanists to move from room to room. 

Performance Time




8 minutes

1-2 min

9-10 minutes

Singers to enter and exit room and accompanists to move from room to room.

10 minutes

1-2 min

11-12 minutes

12 minutes

1-2 min

13-14 minutes

15 minutes

1-2 min

16-17 minutes

If our Chapter cannot provide three adjudicators per category, what are our options?

Adjudication Panel - NATS student auditions normally have an adjudication panel of three NATS members. If there are insufficient numbers of NATS teachers/members available for an audition category, a panel of two adjudicators can suffice. It is also conceivable that outside adjudicators who are familiar with NATS procedures, philosophy and adjudications rubrics might be utilized as adjudicators for NATS auditions.

Are NATS members allowed to participate in student auditions?

NATS teacher members who meet the requirements of a student audition category — age and years of study — may enter student auditions through the NATS member with whom they are currently studying, but they may not enter themselves in the audition. If they enter their students in the audition, they must be available to adjudicate a category as well.

How is a singer’s length of study determined in NATS student auditions?

Length of Study in Selection of Appropriate Category of Entry

Total voice study with a voice teacher (NATS Member or Non NATS Member) either in an independent studio or collegiate/conservatory program or in any combination of them is a determining factor in post-high school categories only.

Post-High School Study:

  • Lower: any one or two years of post-high school study, all as an undergraduate.
  • Upper: any three to five years of post-high school study, all as an undergraduate.

Counting years of study begins with the first day of post-high school study—meaning the first year of study is in progress. For example, a student in in an undergraduate program in their fifth semester of voice study is in their third year of study. Any reasonable portion of a year will be counted as one year—even if the singer stops taking weekly lessons during a portion of that year, excepting if the singer is ill and unable or forbidden to sing during that time for medical reasons.

Years of study NSA Chart 


Anything past zero to the end of
the first year


First Year Lower


Anything more than one to the end of
the second year


Second Year Lower


Anything more than two to the end of
the third year


Third Year Upper


Anything more than three to the end of
the fourth year


Fourth Year Upper


Anything more than four to the end of
the fourth year


Fifth Year Upper

How flexible are the NATS Student Audition Regulations for Chapters and Districts?

Chapters and Districts may adjust the regulations by: 

  • combining categories with low numbers of entrants:

o High School Treble and TBB
o Post High School Lower TBB and Lower Treble
o Post High School Lower Treble Lower TBB and Upper Treble/Upper TBB
o Advanced Treble and TBB

  • maintain the minimum singing time and raise the total time upward to accommodate scheduling purposes by adding a 1- or 2-minute window between singers. For example:

o increase high school categories with an 8-minute singing time to 9 or 10 minutes
o increase lower post high school categories with a 10-minute singing time to 11 or 12 minutes

  • subdividing categories with large numbers of entrants—see examples in regulations.
  • adding non-advancing NSA categories to their offerings—Commercial Music (CM), Adult (both classical and musical theatre), Children (both classical and musical theatre)
  • including special awards for singers that are traditional to the Chapter/District/Region, Singer of the Year, Most Promising, etc.
  • changing the number of rounds in the audition, the number of singers forwarded to semi-final/ final rounds and the numbers of prizes awarded to the singers.

Chapters and Districts must conform to:

  • Standardization of branding, name recognition and audition logos
  • NSA Categories, numbering, length of study, ages and repertoire selections
  • Audition terminology and scoring practices including the use of NATS rubrics
  • The minimum singing times may be increased but not decreased

If there are not enough entrants in a category, e.g. we have three Upper Musical Theatre TBB entrants, are we allowed to combine them with another category and have combined Upper Musical Theatre Treble TBB?

The categories can be combined with a category the closest in age, years of study and repertoire requirements. The category numbering system and other requirements should be retained. Both categories could be adjudicated by the same group of adjudicators.

What are the Site Procedures for all student auditions?

Audition Site Procedures for all National Student Auditions

  • Each singer entered in the same category is allotted the same amount of time to perform. Singers select their first song or aria to perform. The adjudication panel requests subsequent selections until the audition reaches the time limit or the singers performs all repertoire entered. Time begins when the singer begins to announce their first selection.
  • Time continues to run between selections. In preliminary rounds, each adjudication panel chair should expedite a rotation cycle among the panel members for subsequent repertoire selections. Repertoire selections should be made without delay because time continues to run between selections.
  • During the audition, selections are to be sung in their entirety as prepared by the student and required by the NSA regulations, WITHOUT edits from adjudicators. Examples of prohibited edits are requesting a singer start at the B section or suggesting a student skip a prepared recitative and start with the aria or stopping a student in the middle of a piece to move on to the next selection.
  • Repertoire is heard as the time limit allows. If exceeding the audition’s time limit, all repertoire will not be heard. An audition reaching the time limit will end when the time limit is reached even if a selection is in progress. Teachers should inform their students of this possibility.
  • When an adjudicator or time-keeper calls or signals “stop,” the audition is completed and will end.

The NSA regulations state “Singers in all classifications will sing one song of their choice and then songs  selected by the adjudicators within the time limits.” Does this mean singers should sing for the full time limit, e.g. 8 minutes? We typically hear two pieces in the post high school lower categories and three in the upper, but if I understand this correctly, we are to have them sing until time or repertoire expires, whichever is first, correct?

Yes, singers should use the entire time limit unless the total of all selections is less than the time limit. You have the option for a shorter total time limit if you want to limit the number of selections in that way.

Is there any problem if students are under time in any category? Must repertoire fill the time provided?

The minimum/maximum in time limits is in the regulations to accommodate entities that may already have shorter or longer time requirements in their categories. Teachers and students should be encouraged (but not required) to select repertoire that fills the time parameter assigned to a particular category. Each singer should use the entire time limit unless their repertoire does not fill the entire time. Audition personnel can keep the audition on time by assigning nine minute intervals to eight minute singing time slots. There should be no penalties assigned to time limits.

Are semi-finals and/or finals required at the Chapter/District auditions? 

At the Chapter/District auditions, semi and final rounds are not required. See Options in the NSA Regulations:

Most Student Auditions have preliminary and final rounds. Larger enrollments may require semifinal rounds or split categories. Live auditions with a large number of singers in a category may be divided into two or more groups for the preliminary round.

OPTIONS: Depending on the structure and size of the auditions the following options are possible:

  • Preliminary round: All singers will be scored with comments. (Scoring will not be used in comments-only categories)
  • Semifinals (where necessary): All singers will be either (A) scored with comments OR (B) ranked numerically with or without comments.
  • Finals: All singers will be ranked numerically without comments.

No Semi-final Round: Occasions may occur where scoring indicates that no semifinal round is necessary in some categories (small numbers of entrants, small numbers advancing to the next round).

Do Chapter and District auditions need to use the same age limit eligibility dates for singer categories as the National Student Auditions?

The singer category age limits for the National Student Auditions are as of the dates for the Region Auditions. The singer category age limits for Chapter and District auditions can vary from the NSA and Region Auditions as long as their respective Region Auditions are not progressive to NSA. If they do progress to NSA then the Regional Audition eligibility dates would apply.

Are all NATS entities using the same official logos and titles for their student auditions?

Yes, the logos are on page 4 of the document and will be available on the NATS web site. Standardizing the name of auditions organization-wide will assist in the branding, name recognition, and consistency of auditions and will assist singers and teachers when they relocate.

  • Chapter and District auditions shall be known as: “NATS National Student Auditions: ______________Chapter”
  • Region auditions shall be known as: “NATS National Student Auditions: ______________ Region”
  • National auditions shall be known as: “NSA National _____________Round”

Who should teacher members contact for issues regarding the age/years of study or gender identity constraints of singers in student auditions?

Those teachers should contact the NSA Coordinator  .

Are Chapters, Districts and Regions required to include the Hall Johnson Spiritual Category in their auditions during conference years?

There is no requirement to include this category but all entities are encouraged to include it in their offerings to student singers.

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Can the prize awards for categories reflect the current practice of our Chapter?

Yes, as stated on page 10 “Monetary prizes and other awards will be developed at the discretion of the entity holding auditions.” There is one regulation pertaining to ties in categories:

“Ties: Should there be more than one first place winner, the awards for the first and second places will be pooled and divided equally among the winners. All will be called First Place Winners. This policy holds for ties in all the places. In the event that there are more than five finalists, a certificate of "Honorable Mention" will be awarded to other finalists.”

On page 24 of the NSA Regulations Document it says, "All Student Auditions and National Student Auditions must use the same scoring system, enabling scoring data comparisons across all NATS Regions." Must all NATS entities adhere to the scoring system as well? Does this mean the scoring system only applies to Regional levels and above?

All NATS regions means all entities within NATS regions — Chapter, District, Region, and National auditions. Therefore all student NATS auditions will use the same scoring system.

Our Chapter usually has less than 200 entrants in our auditions, so we never hold semifinals. Our practice has been to advance all worthy contestants who score two scores of 90 or higher or have an average score of 90 or higher. Under option 2 it says "the agreed upon number of singers based on scores will advance to the final round." Who agrees on the number? Can the chapter decide how many should advance to finals, e.g. all those who score two 90s...etc. or the top 7 singers with 90s or average of 90, etc.?

The Chapter should decide the number finalists for the audition. This number can be the current practice that the Chapter has used in the past using the new scoring system.

Based on our chapter's use of rubrics, they may be difficult to sell to a skeptical crowd. The question will be “What are the general standards for each category, or are we to use the one standard provided for all categories, in which case we may not have any finalists in the high school or lower college divisions as they are very unlikely to meet even the 80-89 descriptors?" How is it possible to modify that specific criteria based on a category without a category specific standard? It is like comparing an apple to an orange.

The rubrics define a national standard with common definition of terms and standards and would be progressive as singers age both physically and musically just as the repertoire and time limits progress in the category charts. The rubric is not the score sheet — it is for reference — to inform teachers about common definitions and reference points — educators use assessment tools all of the time and an audition is an assessment of a performance. In vocal performance we do compare apples to oranges — no two voices are alike and no two sets of adjudicator’s ears are alike but we must have a meeting of the minds: common understanding of terms-especially in pedagogy-this is not something to fear or mistrust. Some NATS entities have been using rubrics for more than ten years—the adjudication of those auditions has improved.

On page 26 it states under “Adjudicating Standard”

“The national standard is stated in the first column of the adjudication rubric. The language describes the qualities an ideal singer will have. As adjudicators hear singers they should compare the singer’s performance against the general standard for the category they are adjudicating. One way this could be addressed would be to add the clause “for a xxx category singer” to each standard.”

What is meant by “NATS members who register students to audition are expected to serve as adjudicators as necessary to run successful auditions. (Regulations Document page 5)”

There are NATS entities (chapters/districts) that have established policies regarding adjudicating -either requiring a member who is not in attendance to find a substitute and/or pay an absentee fee. Some entities limit the use of the absenteeism or the number of students the teacher may enter when they are not present. NATS entities should develop policies that best suit the needs of their auditions and their membership.

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May students re-record videos between the Region audition and the National Audition?

Videos may be re-recorded between the region audition and the national preliminary round, but the repertoire must be the same.  (Be sure to label the videos appropriately - see Video Submission Guidelines page. And if a student chooses to use the same videos from their region audition, make sure to change the video title, etc. to reflect the National Preliminary Audition and not the Region.)

May students re-record videos between rounds of the National audition?

The videos that are submitted for the national preliminary round, will be used for all subsequent national rounds that may be held virtually. (i.e. No re-recording will be aloud between National Prelim, Semifinal, and Final rounds.)

How old can video recordings be and still be eligible for use in the National Student Auditions?

Videos must be recorded within the current audition cycle. The current audition cycle runs from August through the National Final Round. (i.e. August 2020 through 2021 National Final Round.)

Have additional repertoire or copyright questions?

All questions specific to the rules and regulations, copyright, or about repertoire and requirements, should be directed in an email to the . Please include your name, chapter/district and audition category.

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