The first time I met Sheri Sanders, I knew we would be in each others lives forever. Sheri is a trailblazer! She was the first person to create a program on how to teach people to audition for rock musicals, with her book/class Rock The Audition. Now, Sheri has built on the success of Rock The Audition and created Rock The Audition Online, an on-line training hub for all things popular music as it relates to musical theatre.
Sheri's talent is incomparable! Her dedication to her craft is unparalleled! Sheri's always been an inspiration to me. Her ideas are brilliant. Her heart is wide open. And she tells it like it is. Sheri's teaching style is no different. I still remember when I sat in on her Rock The Audition class in 2011. Sheri expects nothing but the best from her students, meaning, she wants you to show up, give it your all, and learn from what you don't know and build on what you do know. While Sheri is very direct with her message, it's always delivered with love and care, that is not easy to find in a teacher. So, now that Rock The Audition Online is global, literally, millions of people will benefit from Sheri's brilliance! It's Sheri's talent, dedication, love, and directness that makes her such a success!
1. The first time we talked, we discussed the launching of Rock The Audition. Now, because of the success of Rock The Audition, you have created Rock The Audition Online, which reaches a much wider audience and offers even more individual attention. When was the moment you realized, it was time to grow Rock The Audition? It was a few things. Even though Hal Leonard published my book, which was the very first one of its kind, people didn’t read it, because people don’t read books anymore. They’d skim and not watch the DVD, or they wouldn’t read it at all and just watch the DVD. And the contents were too valuable! Also, I would run around to all these schools and shake the place up for a day, or two days, and leave them with no tools to keep studying. Finally, I was cutting and arranging all this great music in all the classes I was teaching, but everyone else was left with music notes music, which is not specific to 16 and 32 bar cuts that sound great on the piano that compliment the singer. All these things together made me think, I gotta give people tools to keep and grow with! STAT!
2. What will someone get from Rock the Audition Online that they won't get from Rock the Audition? Well, Rock The Audition still exists. That's my training program. That's me, as a teacher of my technique. Its like Rock The Performance is the daddy, and Rock The Audition is one of the kids. Rock The Audition Online gives immediacy. Cut and arranged music and accompaniment and instructional videos on style and technique.
3. Why should someone subscribe to Rock the Audition Online as opposed to take your class? If someone can't afford a yearly subscription or an ongoing monthly subscription, how can they still benefit from the site? Everyone has different needs and my goal is to meet people where they are. If they just need a good song and a video on the Motown era for an audition for, say, Memphis, or Beautiful, and they are a strong enough popular music performer to watch a video or two and learn that way, it’s perfect for them. If they are someone who wants to subscribe to and have consistent new video content available to them to KEEP growing, and exploring new music, and want to play with styles, the subscription allows availability for preparation for all auditions and styles, for all of eternity. My training program is geared towards 3 audiences. Entire musical theatre programs (that's voice, dance and acting teachers and coaches and their entire programs), Private Voice teachers and Coaches, and professional musical theatre performers who want to study with me directly to build their individual abilities as musical theatre performers. It is the Rock Class I’ve been holding for 12 years. But cooler.
4. Since Rock the Audition Online is a digital platform, how do you keep the classes and instruction as personal as when you traveled around to schools and colleges? Well I hold the actual Rock The Audition Class….on-line! But this time, I've taken my book, and turned it into training modules with Spotify lists, video content, articles, and a discussion forum where we all study together. The on-line class is more valuable in certain ways than an in-person class, because everyone has a week to study a style, one style at a time, so when they show up to our on-line classroom, they are prepared, informed, inspired, and the level of work we do is superior because they already have all the info they need to be ready. The work is deeper, more personal, and I now feel like I’m a director fine tuning their performance - creating pliability and nuance. Working on-line through ZOOM is incredible because we develop their on their on-camera technique, since not only are rock musicals showing up on television, but we need to successfully ride the wave of self-taping for auditioning!
5. You are only one person and everybody wants a piece of Sheri. How have you handled the expansion of Rock The Audition Online while giving everyone what they need? How does having Rock the Audition Online allow you to have more Sheri time? This is a deep question. In some ways, it’s taken a toll on me. It’s made it hard for me to do the personal work I like to do, as creating something that doesn’t exist on this level has been impossible to do while I teach full time as well. Now that it’s gotten to the level it has, where we see what it is and where we need to improve, and where it is hugely successful, I am continuing to create space to turn my heart towards growing as a person. It’s clear to me one can't exist without the other.
6. What is one question you have not had a student ask you about the audition process that you wish SOMEBODY would finally ask? I think everyone has asked the questions! I think the thing I WISH students would do is trust that riffing the daylights out of a song is not what makes someone talented or competitive. It’s how you live in the style of the song, the music, the era, and what you bring as a person to the interpretation. No musicals have all that riffing, except Brooklyn. And ain’t nobody doing that musical!
7. In between transitioning from Rock the Audition to Rock the Audition Online, you worked your way back into acting. What made you want to perform on stage again? How do you think teaching in between your acting careers made you a better actor today? How do you feel returning to acting has changed you as a teacher? You ask the BEST questions. Yes, two summers ago I went back into acting. I’ve done Fiddler, NEWSical, Xanadu, and a reading of the great rock musical CHIX6. All while building this empire! I’m proud to say I think I am a pretty damn good actress. But I had to follow this calling...not just because I felt I was the right person to help heal what I think is a virus in the community, but I had to do some really major personal work around my worth to be able to live in the business as an actor. And that only could happen if I stepped away from the self-absorption of being an actress and focus out. I feel like I have value in the world now...so I don’t need to be "chosen" or "picked" to give me value. I also don’t get in my own way like I did, so my professional relationships are much healthier. My hope is to become a lean mean audition machine and all I do is come in and play as much as possible in order to serve the vision of the production whether I book it or not....Not serve my ego. That’s the gift that teaching gave me. I have to lead by example, and that will make me an even better teacher.
Childhood Sheri: "Wanna be Startin' Something" - Michael Jackson
Teenage Sheri: "Lets Wait a While" - Janet Jackson
Twenty Something: "Bells for Her" - Tori Amos
Now Sheri: The entire Sound and Color album of Alabama Shakes.
9. If you could Rock the Audition Online with any singer or performer, who would you choose? Oh my God! Singers like Kelly O'Hara, Sutton Foster, Tony Yazbeck. Incredible legit performers that would be SOOOOOO fun to play with in this way!
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent every day? Listening to what my body needs, so I can be in control of my OWN life and the choices I make that will ultimately be for the best for both my health and the health of whatever circumstance i’m in!
In 2004, Sheri Sanders created Rock The Audition: A Masterclass in Auditioning for Rock Musicals. Since then, Sheri has become the world's preeminent popular music repertoire coach, a Hal Leonard published author, and has taught at more than 50 musical theatre programs all over the country. She has instructed performers, their professors and coaches how to successfully interpret popular music. Her students have landed jobs on and off Broadway, on national tours, and have competed on The Voice, American Idol, and The Glee Project.
Now she has taken her book, Rock The Audition and created an on-line training hub for all things popular music as it relates to musical theatre.