Music Under New York Auditions

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May 4, 2008
By Posted in Music Under New York | 6 Comments »

The annual Music Under New York audition attracts a lot of media – many newspapers and TV news shows have reported on it.

MUNY audition

One reputable newspaper reported that:
“…was among 200 people who applied for this spring’s auditions, about 70 of whom were selected to play Thursday before a panel of 40 judges that included music industry professionals and transit employees. The judges were looking for perhaps 20 people to add to the subway soundtrack’s current roster…”

Actually, it was 230 people who applied, 55 of whom were selected to audition in front of a panel of 20 judges. 25 to 30 people will be chosen to join Music Under New York
Of course the exact details in reporting on the Music Under New York audition are not important, but it just makes me think how many details newspapers get wrong in other subjects, and we believe everything they say because they are a reputable newspaper…

Musicians who have passed the preliminary audition, which is by recording, are invited to audition live at Grand Central Station. The usual venue for the audition, Vanderbilt Hall, was unavailable due to construction, so the audition took place at the North East balcony instead (which is actually where I auditioned more than a decade ago).

John was the first person to audition. He plays North American native flutes. He is part of a duo called ‘Night Dancers’, but his partner was not available to audition, so he auditioned on his own.

Night Dancers

Rob Knopper played ragtime xylophone next, followed by singer Natalie Gelman who accompanied herself on guitar and played an acoustic folk rock song.

Natalie Gelman

Gibran Soul played R&B guitar.

Gibran Soul

Samantha Margulies sang followed by Roman Mul who played accordion. He is from the Ukraine. He was a music teacher there for 25 years, but now that he lives in NYC, he has to work as a construction worker to support himself. This kills his arms, which is bad for playing music and he is very unhappy with the situation. He auditioned last year, but was so nervous that he didn’t make it into Music Under New York.

The Dirty Boogaloo played Soul/Jazz.

Dirty Boogaloo band

Valerie Crawford sang; Nobuko Miyazaki played the flute; Joe Taylor sang accompanying himself on guitar. The Drones, a didjeridoo and conch duo who already play in the subway were supposed to audition at 10:25 but the didj player didn’t hear his alarm clock and overslept… Lucky for them there was an opening after lunch (3 people didn’t show up for their audition) so they were able to audition.

The Drones - Conch & didjeridoo

Balla Tounkara played traditional music from the West African nation of Mali (“Kana Wa” which means “Stay With Me”), on the kora, a 21-string instrument made from a huge gourd wrapped in cowhide, with a wooden neck and handles.
There is one kora player in the subway and there was another one but he passed away.


Hiromitsu Kitsuda played jazz guitar, Steve Booke played exotic meditative music on guitar, And Hugo Barakona played harp. ‘Down Yonder in NY’ a concertina and fiddle duo, have played in the subway once, when they couldn’t find a rehearsal space.
Zahraa sang, followd by ‘Tin Pan’, a New Orleans Jazz & Blues band, which I particularly enjoyed. ‘Maruo’ sang with keyboard accompaniment, Dan Stevens played finger/style acoustic blues and Leah Coloff snag Elvis Costello’s “Green Shirt” while accompanying herself on cello.

Leah Coloff - cello singer

Sean McCaul, who already plays vibraphone in the subway, played followed by the duo ‘Sour Grapes’ who auditioned last year, too. They had a cool washboard gizmo.

Sour Grapes, with Larry Ruhl and Ellen Iovino

Tara Hack was probably the most inexperienced singer at the audition. Her Dad, who is a train conductor, encouraged her to warm up before her turn. Kirtis Scott, a singer song writer, and Mr. Scott (I guess his father?) who accompanied him on keyboard were very sweet; and Keni Burgess, who auditioned last year, played bottle-neck blues guitar.

Keni Burgess

Mark Foley calls himself the ‘One Man Blam’ – he plays guitar and harmonica, with bells on his foot. Kip Rosser came all the way from PA and played a medley of pop tunes on the theremin. He was lucky to get a battery operated theremin when those were still available.

Kip Rosser - theremin

Remy Francois, who has been playing guitar and singing French songs in the subway for about two years had auditioned last year, too. Sweet gentleman from Haiti, he always wears colorful tail-coats. Jami Jackson sang R&B and then the audition broke for lunch.
I discovered that the M.C. for the audition, Bob Holman, runs the Bowery Poetry Club where I performed last week. Small world :)
Neffe Kragh – Muller and her jazz ensemble opened after the break.

 Neffe Kragh-Muller

‘La Strada’, an Indiefolk orchestra followed, with ‘Loose Interpretations’ – a female a capella group right after that.

Acapela group

Ray Starr sang a country song accompanying himself on guitar.

Ray Starr

Nicholas Wells sang with a guitar, Enrique Wells, who came really early and had to wait his turn for hours, sang a Peruvian folk song, Colin Huggins came with 4 friends who helped him lug…an upright piano to the audition! Heidi Burger, a singer/songwriter, auditioned for the 4th time (!). Heidi already performs in the subway, and she is also a stunt-woman! A real trooper.

The Mariachi duo ‘Halcones de la Sierra’ followed, with Gillian Harwin, a singer/song-writer next. Gillian dressed as Wonder-Woman, which certainly helped as an attention getter.
Steve Zelin did comedy songs while playing guitar, Billy Rogan played finger-style tap guitar, and ‘Movimiento’ – a latin fusion group lead by singer/violinist Mireya Ramos got huge applause.
‘Sidetrack’ was a trio of singers who danced.

Side Track

H2O Flow were a pop/R&B duo, followed by Jerry Dixon who bills himself as the ‘NYC Piper’. He has been playing at parks mostly and wants to play in the subway on account of the hardships of winter outdoors. He arrived early and went downstairs to practice. He almost didn’t make it back in time for his turn… He entered with a traditional bagpipe march and then played a nice medley which of course included ‘Danny Boy’.

Bagpipes - Jerry Dixon

A Cantonese quintet, which spoke no English at all played next, followed by Ohene Cornelius (blusy soul sonic). The Baby Soda Jazz Band, whom I have seen in the subway often, made everybody tap their toes.

Baby Soda

Theirs was a tough act to follow, but the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who have been playing in the subway/streets of NYC for about two years now, had no problem wowing the audience. They just returned from a tour of London and their drummer forgot his drum set there…
Jafar, one of the musicians of Hypnotic, came to the audition directly from a sonogram his wife was having. They are expecting a baby girl in two weeks. He showed me a photo taken at 5 months in the womb – the baby already had a face and hair.

Hypnotic Brass Band

Last to audition were the ‘Ukaladies’ – four girls playing ukuleles and singing while one of them tap-danced and also played a toy accordion, followed by the ‘Stavince’ duo who sang.

So many talented people. I am looking forward to meeting them in the subway.


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6 Responses to Music Under New York Auditions

  1. Howlin' Hobbit on May 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Do let us know if the Ukuladies passed the audition!


  2. Matt Nozzolio on May 5, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Great rundown on the auditions, and thanks for correcting the newspaper’s math.
    One report that I saw interviewed Dan Stevens, a blues player from Conn. Did you have the opportunity to hear him?

  3. Shawn Grimes on May 6, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Thanks for the great overview. I wish I could have been there! Maybe next year.

  4. Chaz on August 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Hello! Real nice website! I have seen you in the subway several times and you are quite good – thanks! (I’m a 15 year LIRR’er!)

    My questions/comments have to do with someone I saw last night at Penn Station – Samantha Marguiles. I cannot believe how well she sings! Anyway… I was racing for a train and jotted down her name from a sign and THOUGHT she had a website, which I can’t find! After google searching and digging – the ONLY place she “shows up” at all is the brief mention here on your site.
    If you could – and thanks in advance if you can – do you know her website IF she has one? ANY info on her at all? I would like to buy a CD should she have one and maybe even see her again in the subway.
    THANKS A BUNCH – continued best of luck!

  5. Jacques Le Sesne on March 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I am intersted in applying for this program, and would like to know the process to how to go about it. Thank You

  6. Dale on April 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I’m just having a hard time with this one,”They just returned from a tour of London and their drummer forgot his drum set there…”??? Is this a new pocket collapsing drum set? “Hey has anyone seen where I put my drum set, I’m sure it is around here somewhere. I just had it and now it is missing.” The story must lose something in the retelling.

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