Want to be in the Tabernacle Choir? Applications opened June 1

Find out more about the annual 4-phase audition process from Tabernacle Choir managers and former choir members

Michael Maliakel, one of the guest artists for The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s 2023 Christmas concert, had grown up watching the choir’s Christmas specials and appreciated the choir’s singing.

“I had known the level of artistry of the choir,” he said during the press event. Maliakel, who has been portraying the title character in Broadway’s “Aladdin,” added, ”They are known for that around the world.”

During time with the choir at Christmas, he also learned about the choir’s audition process.

“I did a lot of pro choral singing in New York, and it is probably more rigorous than those auditions,” he said of the sight singing and other elements of the Tabernacle Choir audition.

Special guest Michael Maliakel performs with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square during their annual Christmas concerts in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The application and audition process for the 360-voice Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square opened this year on Saturday June 1, and will close Thursday, Aug. 15. The application guide and link are available on the choir’s website at The annual four-phase application and audition process stretches up to 10 months, and auditions are open for all voice parts

The all-volunteer Tabernacle Choir performs in about 75 scheduled performances each year, including the weekly “Music & the Spoken Word” live broadcast and other concerts, tours and recordings.

Choir managers Grant Jex and Syndy Lambert, and Alison Barton, choir executive assistant, all have been choir members and talked with the Church News about the audition process. Jex sang bass for 15 years, Lambert sang second soprano for 20 years, and Barton sang first soprano for 10 years.

“Don’t be afraid or intimidated,” Jex said of the application process..

Lambert added: “Follow your heart.”

Barton said: “Make the whole experience prayerful.”

Who can apply?

Applicants must be a members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good standing, between 25 and 55 years old on April 30, 2025, when choir service would begin, and currently reside within 100 miles of Temple Square.

Choir members must also commit to the time for rehearsals and performances, be in good physical and mental health for consistent participation and not have auditioned more than two times in the past.

Choir members are released at age 60 or at 20 years of service. It’s anticipated that choir members would serve at least five years.

The choir members have a variety of musical backgrounds. While many have music-related degrees or been professional musicians, many don’t have those credentials, Barton said.

Jex said the misconception of needing a degree or more experience is what prevented him from trying out for several years.

“They don’t want 360 opera singers,” Jex said. “They want people whose voices blend.”

Barton recently talked to someone on the phone about auditioning and recommended being able to sight-read and knowledge of musical theory.

“You need to be able to sight-read really well,” said Barton. “The choir sings 300-plus pieces a year. You need to be able to keep up with that.”

In determining the number of available spots, choir officials do look at the needs of each of the sections and whose service may be ending in the next year. But the number of people isn’t usually limited to a specific number of spots, and the directors will bring in all those who are qualified during the audition process, Barton and Jex said.

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The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, with conductor Mack Wilberg, front center right, and assistant conductor Ryan Murphy, front center left, pose for photos prior to their second concert from the SM Mall of Asia Arena in metro Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Phase 1: Application and recorded audition

The first phase is submitting the electronic application, including a digital photo and digital voice recording, during the June 1-Aug. 15 application period on the choir’s website at

A recommendation from a local Church leader will be requested after the application is submitted.

Read through all of the instructions to be sure to include all of the different recordings, Barton advised.

Barton, who plays piano and has sung in many choirs, said that in talking with other choir members and others who have applied, “everyone has their own least-favorite phase.” It’s the one that went less than smoothly.

For her, it was creating digital recordings. Then, it was a two-minute recording — and it took her eight hours. “I was so nitpicky about myself.”

She wanted to redo it as some of the last notes felt off.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Barton said. “Really do your best.”

People don’t need to go to a recording studio or other professional setting. Barton did hers in her living room. Jex did his on a handheld recorder. Lambert auditioned when submissions were on cassette tapes.

Barton said to listen back to your audio recordings to make sure audio is clear and loud enough.

Jex said many people may feel that way about their recordings. When the directors listen to those recordings, they can tell in 30 seconds or so if it was a “whoops” or if it’s habitual, he said. They can also usually sift through any issues with equipment as long as the audio is clear.

Jex said he auditioned three times, before three times was the maximum number of auditions. He had played in bands in high school and college and did take private voice lessons.

“It was nerve-wracking,” he said of applying and then waiting. The first two times he auditioned, he didn’t make it past the application phase. He was sent letters with specific things he could do to improve — and everything mentioned was teachable.

“The things that they told me to work on got fewer and fewer,” he said. Getting a personalized letter helped encourage him to work to audition again.

Those who advance to the next phase will be notified by email in early September.

Phase 2: Music skills assessment

The next phase is a music skills assessment, which has three parts, and Jex and Lambert administer it.

Auditioners are required to get at least 80% to move to the next phase, Jex said.

First two parts are aural. The first is where auditioners hear chords and intervals and are asked if they are major, minor, the root and key tone and others.

For Lambert, she worried about the test during her audition.

“The test I worried about, but you’re supposed to be worried about tests, right?” Lambert said.

She was taking it in the Church Office Building and struggling with one of the key tones. She heard a car horn from outside the building that helped her with identifying it.

The second part is listening to a melody and then hearing it again and identifying if there are any differences.

Jex said: “It can be five to six measures long. And then they repeat it and you have to say was the note different or the rhythm different.”

Jex added this can be considered the hardest part of the test.

The last third is a written theory test.

Auditioners can study for the written test and, if needed, can listen to chords to help learn to distinguish minor and major chords.

The test is designed to push the auditioners’ limits to see what they know.

“That’s a big stress day,” Jex said. Jex and Lambert do what they can to put people at ease and invite choir members to come to help, including to share their own experiences and testimonies. “We try to make it something that’s not just this big, scary thing,” he added.

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The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform during their annual Christmas concerts in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Phase 3: In-person audition and interview

The in-person audition is with director Mack Wilberg and associate director Ryan Murphy.

Barton said the directors and the music team are all cheering for the auditioners.

The audition is designed to push the limits of each singer.

Jex’s in-person audition was with then-director Craig Jessop and Wilberg. He was nervous leading up to the audition. (“You know that feeling where you want to throw up?”)

“When I walked into the room, I just felt an overwhelming sense of peace and support,” Jex said. Jessop told him the directors were praying for him and wanted him to do well.

When Jex finished the in-person audition, he called his voice coach and said, “That was just terrible.” His voice coach reassured him that each in-person audition is tailored to each singer to see the full range of his or her abilities.

Barton said she doesn’t know of anyone who came out of the in-person audition feeling things went well.

“It is nerve-wracking,” Barton said of the in-person audition.

Jex added: “But you never know if you don’t try.”

Singers will also meet with a member of the choir presidency, either before or after the in-person audition to get to know them and ensuring the choir fits with their life, Barton said.

The in-person interviews and auditions are usually in late fall.

Assistant director Ryan Murphy leads The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square as it rehearses in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 4, 2024. Twelve global participants joined the choir for the evening rehearsal in advance of the April 2024 general conference. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

Phase 4: Choir school and Chorale at Temple Square

The next phase is participating in the 16 weeks of the Chorale at Temple Square on Tuesday evenings, with a few Saturday rehearsals, and choir school on Thursday evenings, Barton said. It typically begins in January and a 100% attendance is required — with accommodations for illness.

The chorale is directed by Murphy and includes the first-year and second-year choir members, along with other volunteers from the choir. They learn choral masterworks, such as Gabriel Fauré's “Requiem” or Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.” The concert earlier this year featured Edward Elgar’s “Variations on an Original Theme” and Mack Wilberg’s “Requiem.”

“You really work on the nitty-gritty,” Lambert said of the chorale. “You don’t have time for that in the choir.”

Choir school is the equivalent of a master’s course in vocal performance and is led by Cherilyn Worthen and Rebecca Wilberg, with support from the organists, Barton said. It includes sight-reading, music theory, rehearsal techniques, vocal blending, listening skills and choir policies.

Choir school concludes with an exam, and the chorale puts on a concert with the Orchestra at Temple Square in the spring.

On April 29 and 30, 2016, the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale perform in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. | Debra Gehris

Time commitment

The choir leadership is aware of the time commitment for choir members and the effects that has on singers’ families, Jex said. Before auditioning, singers need to make sure their family members understand and are supportive of the time commitment.

There’s at least 10 to 20 hours a week of rehearsals and performances. Choir rehearsals are typically on Thursday evenings for two and half hours and early Sunday mornings before the weekly “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast. There are also other rehearsals as needed after “Music & the Spoken Word.”

When preparing for concerts or tours, other rehearsals are scheduled on other days.

For general conference, there is a Tuesday rehearsal. The week of the Christmas concert, there are rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the concerts are typically Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the “Music & the Spoken Word” on Sunday.

Choir members are expected to have a minimum of 80% attendance to be eligible for events, Jex said.

The choir is touring more frequently now, twice a year for about a week each, rather than every couple of years. Tours are not mandatory, and many choir members have to juggle time off for work to go on tour, Jex said.

During the first year, there are the chorale rehearsals Tuesday evenings and choir school Thursday evenings. These members begin singing with the Tabernacle Choir after the spring chorale concert.

Second-year members are also part of the chorale and have the Tuesday evening rehearsals and the Thursday rehearsals, along with the Sunday rehearsals and performance.

Being part of the choir is a calling, so choir members usually don’t have callings in their wards.

Also, choir members typically memorize their music. For new members, that means initially memorizing all of the music, Barton and Jex said.

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Attendees light up the arena with cellphones as The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in Mexico City, Mexico, on Sunday, June 18, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Deciding to audition

“I think everybody has a moment” when they decide to audition, Jex said.

For Jex, it was when he was 14 in the 1980s. His father was a barbershop singer, and when the international convention was in Salt Lake City, “they dragged me to it.” He attended “Music & the Spoken Word” where Vocal Majority was singing with the choir.

“They did an incredible rendition with the choir of ’Love at Home,’ and that was life-changing for me,” he said. “And at that point I thought ‘Wow, this is something incredible that I would love to be a part of some day.’”

His father never auditioned and regretted it. Jex said he didn’t want to have that same regret.

His first audition, he wanted to see how he did. With the feedback, he was able to improve.

It wasn’t a lifelong dream for Barton to join the choir. Barton went to the Pioneer Day concert in 2012 with Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins, and Jenkins asked the choir who had Welsh roots and many people raised their hands. She then asked the audience members.

“I raised my hand. And then I turned to my friend next to me and I said, ‘Should I apply for this?’” Barton said. He said yes, and so she did. She only had a couple of weeks to pull her application together and submitted it a few days before the deadline.

Lambert’s mother was a choir member for many years, and Lambert would go early with her mother to the Sunday rehearsals.

“I grew up with a choir, and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do,” Lambert said.

“I’ve loved the choir since I was little,” said Lambert, whose musical background is in piano performance. She did study voice with one of her mother’s friends in the choir.

Then, those auditioning had to be 30 years old, but the year she turned 30 the choir didn’t accept applications. When she applied the following year, she made it through the stages of the audition process.

After the in-person audition, she went home and told her mother. “She says, ‘Well, now it’s up to the Lord to let you in.’”

Her mother’s service in the choir ended in May 1993, and Lambert began singing with the choir in 1994. At the time she had young children.

Because her mother had been in the choir, her mother, father and also her husband understood the time commitment.

Guest artist Katherine Jenkins performs with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during July 19, 2012, dress rehearsal for Pioneer Day Concert. | R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News

More advice

“There’s a time and season for being a member of this organization,” Barton said.

Barton, Jex and Lambert have known people who were incredibly qualified who initially didn’t make it in, but things came up in their lives that would have made choir participation difficult. Then the choir came in right after that.

“If the choir becomes part of your path, the Lord knows exactly when to have you be there,” Barton said.

Jex and Lambert in their role as choir managers meet with the singers each year, to check in on their experiences in the choir.

Lambert said, “We want to see how to help them sustain them in their calling.”

Through those interviews they’ve seen how much people give to the organization and the choir, even through struggles. “It’s inspiring.”

Jex said while there are many challenges, “it’s worth every minute of it as a member of the choir.”

Barton said, “Your life will change in really good ways.”

Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square members make their way toward the SM Mall of Asia Arena during one of their world tour in the Philippines concerts in Manila on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square put on a concert at Quadricentennial Pavilion of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines, on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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