The Hershey Audition Model

The Hershey Audition Model

There have been many P. A. announcing jobs posted on this website that have sent people into the audition process.  It’s our goal to help those looking to further their P. A. career with the proper tools to do so, while also helping those who are looking for the right talent.  A couple of months

There have been many P. A. announcing jobs posted on this website that have sent people into the audition process.  It’s our goal to help those looking to further their P. A. career with the proper tools to do so, while also helping those who are looking for the right talent.  A couple of months ago, we were lucky enough to get an inside look at the Florida A&M University audition process which brought announcing talent from all over the United States to Florida to audition to be the next voice of the Rattlers.

Just prior to the American Hockey League season, the Hershey Bears opened up a rare and somewhat exclusive opportunity to become the new voice of the Hershey Bears.  The Bears are a storied franchise who play in the largest arena in the AHL which is consistently packed with a very enthusiastic and passionate fan base.  I had the opportunity to be part of the audition process as an applicant, and found a very well-run and organized audition model.

A lot of auditions start with the mass gathering of samples.  People send them in from all over leaving a good number of tapes (yes, some still send tapes), CDs, mp3s, videos, etc.  It can be overwhelming.  In this case, the job was posted on the Hershey Entertainment website and was only published for about a day on before the job closed.  The way I heard about the job was through a friend who had an association with the team, and a representative from the team also encouraged me to apply.

This process was a little different.  Because of the little-known opportunity, heck we didn’t even know they were looking for an announcer, the Bears weren’t inundated with samples, but the samples they did receive were good quality.

After filling out the form online, I heard back from the person running the audition who I’d met at a previous visit to Giant Center and through my associations with the Washington Capitals.  Networking helps.

He called back and set-up an audition time which was two weeks from the call-back due to events in the building.  A couple of days prior to the audition, a sample script was sent over and you can bet it was poured over like the first bowl of cereal in the morning.  Every announcement was broken down, every name was looked up, going so far as to find the announcers of other AHL and ECHL teams who would have knowledge of the players.  I talked to a mascot who had knowledge of the players and for the Hershey players; found time to speak with John Walton, the radio voice of the Washington Capitals; and contacted someone I knew who works game nights.  Research helps.

Upon walking into Giant Center, I met up with Hank who would escort me to the pressbox where the audition would take place in the game operations room.  It was here that I would be blown away with their process.

After choosing who they would like to hear, they chose a few applicants to come for a live audition.  Pretty typical, until he said that those who wouldn’t be able to do a live audition would still have their audition played over the P. A. system at the arena so they could get a good idea of how everyone sounded.  On top of that, they would record those who did come to the arena to help them choose the final selection.  Recording the applicants to play back on the sound system later is a step above, very well done and impressive.  This should be the norm when it comes to the audition process.  You don’t know how someone is going to sound unless you put them on the system they’ll be announcing.

Hank also encouraged a personal style, not trying to sound like anyone but yourself.  It was ok to use a personal style when announcing, that you didn’t have to follow the script word-for-word.  You don’t typically hear that right before the audition which does help create ease of mind.  There were several judges involved in the selection process and they were sitting in one of the suites inside Giant Center, listening the same way a fan would be listening.  One of those judges was Bryan Helmer who had just been named as the Bears Vice President of Hockey Operations, along with those on the game operations staff.

The sample script included something that should be on all sample scripts.  The visiting teams.  The Bears process included players from their two biggest rivals, Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  This is where talking with other announcers and personnel was important.  Not only did they want to hear what you would sound like with Hershey players, but also how you addressed the visiting teams.  This is another key element to the Bears process that went above-and-beyond.

Another noticeable difference during this process is the live audition is also a private audition.  Meaning the only people that can hear it are the judges, the sound operator and you the announcer.  During some auditions, you may be able to hear the other announcers which can throw you off your game or you wind up psyching yourself out.  That kind of pressure is different from in-game pressure so by eliminating that, the Bears were able to allow the applicants to be comfortable and go with their style.

The script included P. A. reads, PSAs, goals for both Hershey and the visiting teams, three stars of the game, and a crowd pump.  There was a good variety to give the judges a chance to hear how it all would sound in a game situation even though the arena was empty.  After going through everything it was time to do something we’ve never experienced during an audition, except on TV.  Meet the judges and get immediate feedback.

To a professional announcer, we want to know the good and bad right away.  A good, professional announcer is always working on getting better and that feedback beyond, “good job” is extremely important to us.  The judges had nothing but good things to say, then the interview began.  It was a little intimidating at first because you’re standing there with several others firing questions at you about a job you would love to have and trying not to sound like a goof.  But that’s any job interview in reality.

Questions ranged to knowledge of the organization, brand, league and more.  They had my resume that highlighted many experiences with hockey so there wasn’t much to talk about there as they knew I had the knowledge of the sport.  It was a great opportunity to hear more about what they were looking for, and to hear about anything that could have been better.

Having the interview after the audition also allows the announcer to be more relaxed.  If you’re in an interview and your mind is on being behind the microphone, the interview may not go well.  Most announcers come in focused to announce.  Throwing an interview before can knock them out of their routine and not give you the best audition.

We encourage people to always send follow-ups when auditioning.  Most of the time it consists of “Thank you for the opportunity, I would love to hear your feedback, etc.”  I will tell applicants that they can expect to hear feedback almost never because sometimes the judges aren’t listening that close or they have people in mind already.  The Bears had already given their feedback so the follow up was thanking everyone for their time and the opportunity with the hopes of seeing them do well and coming to a few games this season.  Never burn your bridges.

It took a little longer than they’d expected to come to a decision.  Thursday turned into Friday which turned into Saturday without a response.  Finally, Saturday night while DJing a wedding, the call came in.  Hank was very straight forward and honest telling me that they chose someone else and that it came down to me and two others.  The information he provided me after was honest and you could tell it was a hard decision.  And honestly, it really is.  They’re looking for someone long-term so they’re examining every minor detail to ensure they get the announcer they want.  They found the announcer they wanted.

Hank’s call spoke volumes to the integrity and importance the organization put on this position.  Not only is this call important to open or close the book for the prospective announcer, it also provides you with an opportunity to get a real response and see the real person behind who you’re calling.  Are they disappointed?  Do they really care?  Do they sound angry or upset?  Do they go off on you?  While people don’t like getting or giving bad news, the giver can be on the receiving end of some awkward comments.  The giver can also get an affirmation of their decision.  The applicant can also get a warm feeling from it, rather than from a form letter or email.  This is a very classy move.

After this process, yes I was disappointed, but felt lucky to have had the opportunity because it’s the Hershey Bears!  I had images in my head of posting a picture of a Hershey bar and microphone sitting on a Hershey Bears bag from their store on social media to make the announcement.  There’s no way I could be upset because this process was the best audition process I’ve been part of, either as an applicant or as a judge.  The Bears really showed and taught me a lot with this model that they’d never had to do before and were hoping not to again.

So when an email came in a month into the season asking if I’d be interested in announcing a game, I was very quick to jump on it.  Not only is it professional hockey, it’s the Hershey Bears.  The team is legendary for their success on the ice, their buildings, the fact they play in the Sweetest Place on Earth and have such a history behind them.  This is the pinnacle of minor league hockey.

To recap the Hershey Audition Model:

  • Announce the job opening to who you want to apply.  If it’s a general opening, then make sure one person, or one email account is responsible for accepting applications and auditions.
  • Pare down the list of applicants to who you would like to come in for a live audition.  Select only those who have a good chance.
  • Contact the applicants, honestly.  Thank all, but especially those who applied but weren’t accepted.
  • Set-up live, private audition times.
  • The judges should be a good selection from the organization and those with knowledge of the position and game operations.  They’ll provide a well-rounded view from the business side along with the game operations side.
  • Record all of the auditions for later playback, this allows you to listen to everyone all at once.
  • The script should include visiting team(s) goals and penalties.
  • The script should include common in-game situations such as offsetting penalties.
  • Following the audition, a live meet-and-greet with the judges to provide feedback and interview the applicants.
  • Listen to all of the applicants before going back and listening to all of them together.
  • Contact each finalist to inform them of the decision.

Using this model, there will be some instances you are put into an uncomfortable position.  That position will be well worth it and allow you to choose the right applicant.

Jarrod Wronski

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