Schumann Scherzo excerpt

Quick Guide to Audition Preparation

Orchestral auditions can be daunting. Faithfully adhering to a short planning list can greatly help one’s chances for success:

Philosophy of Auditions

  • Audition to win, not to learn to play auditions.
  • Immerse yourself in preparation; the list is your life from the moment you know what is on the list until the audition is over!
  • Prepare to play beautifully (and well-informed musically) as opposed to perfectly.
  • Learn whole pieces and scores: know where your part fits in the score.
  • Quality of sounds, type of articulation, bow strokes, reed choices, breathing, fingering choices, phrasing, etc. should reflect ensemble sensitivity at all times.
  • Use conventional bowings, phrasing, and breath choices and make them sound wonderful; don’t reinvent the wheel.

Preparation Strategies

  • On Day One, make the list into a book.
  • Learn the whole list, not excerpt by excerpt. Work the whole list every day. Neglect nothing!
  • Listen to recordings, study the score…know the music, not just the notes.
  • As early as possible in the process begin testing yourself with run-throughs. Measure the work toward the audition day by what happens in the run-throughs.
  • As early and often as possible in the process, play run-throughs for others.
  • Record yourself as often as possible. Use a video to observe and correct.
  • Use a metronome often and for everything.

The Audition Itself

  • Schedule enough travel time so you don’t find yourself playing hurry-up all day.
  • Travel as comfortably as you can afford to.
  • Watch your body chemistry:
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Drink enough water
    • Eat sensibly (keep snacks on hand)
    • Avoid sugar, excess caffeine, chocolate, etc.
    • Consider beta-blockers
  • Warming up
    • Slow and steady! Don’t wear yourself out…if you are to prevail it will likely be a long day!
    • Ignore the practicing of the other applicants
  • When you play:
    • Do not make extraneous noise of any kind.
    • Play exactly what is indicated, no more, no less.
    • Make each excerpt a beautiful gem that has been seamlessly extracted from the score.
    • Leave “space” around each excerpt; do not hurry!

Making the Cut

  • Once out from behind the screen, acknowledge the committee
  • Do not sign a contract at the audition!

The Mental Game

  • Set the tone in the practice room for success at the audition. This includes preparation for the unexpected, including nerves and last-minute changes to the plan!
  • Maintain a psychological “bubble” at the audition. Avoid long heart-to-heart discussions with old friends. Be courteous to friends and colleagues but maintain your personal distance.
  • Fully utilize the process! At best, an audition is an opportunity to improve one’s playing. A self-improvement attitude makes the audition a victory regardless of the outcome.

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