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Notes from a High School Musician: How to Survive an Audition

  
  
  

Today's post comes from high school musician and SHAR customer Emily Lamb. As young musicians, it can be tough to approach auditions with confidence and poise. Emily provides our readers with five no-nonsense tips on how to nail an audition. If you'd like to contribute to our blog -- as a Suzuki parent, high school musician, or on anything strings -- email me at joec@sharmusic.com.  

audition
Audition.
That word strikes fear into every single high school musician. Or so it seems. Being a high school musician myself, I can definitely relate. Sweaty palms, knocking knees, head spinning; I’ve experienced the whole shebang. You don’t want to mess up, or make a fool of yourself, or accomplish all of the above. All you want to do is be able to relax and do your best. Right?

So. How is that possible? Is it even possible to survive an audition without feeling like you were run over by a train?

Actually, surprising as it may sound, it is. For your reading pleasure, I have compiled a not-so-short list of steps that have helped me with my auditions. 

Sheet Music1) PREPARE.
This is probably the most important on the list. It doesn’t matter whether the music is easy, boring, tedious, or not fun to practice -- successful auditions are linked to adequate preparation. If you wake up the morning of your audition and think “Hmm. I think I might actually have to practice for my audition today. Now where did that music go?” you are already in the “I-don’t-care-about-this-audition” zone, and past the help of these tips. Start practicing at least a month in advance. That gives you plenty of time to work out any finger tangles or bow problems, and it gives you time to familiarize yourself with the music. Also, don’t just play through the thing start to finish over and over and over: figure out ways to have a focused and efficient practice. Be your own teacher! Record yourself and write down what you’re hearing. Whatever it takes to know the music, do it. Be prepared.

2) BE POSITIVE.
Think of this step as the power of positive thinking. In the days leading up to your audition, repeat to yourself a sentence or two that boosts your confidence. Think, “I will do great in this audition because I’ve practiced!” or make up your own, starting with “I will do great in this audition because …”. There are a couple rules to this, though. The taboo words that should never ever be used are “can’t” and “try.” “I can’t do this!” or “I’ll try to do my best …” are not acceptable answers. Be confident! Don’t compare yourself to other kids –- be proud of who you are as a musician.

3) ACT.
This is my favorite step. I’ve noticed that people are always more confident in familiar situations. How can you make an audition a familiar situation, you ask? Act it out! Wear the outfit you’re going to wear to the audition, including the shoes. Personally, I find the shoes most important to wear because I adjust my balance a little depending on the shoes I’m wearing. After you’re all dressed up, find an auditioning committee. Your parents, siblings, or teacher are perfect for this job. Friends can listen as well; you just have to make sure they don’t goof off while you’re playing to make it as real as possible. Try and have a “fake” audition five times or so. Then, when the real day comes, you’ll be used to it! Visualize yourself in the real audition – see yourself playing your song (and not messing up!). If possible, try to visualize yourself in the audition room.

4) PREPARE. (Um, part two. :))
This step happens the day before the audition. I find that I am always more relaxed when I don’t have to rush around getting ready, so I get ready early. Double check the location and time of your audition. Make sure you have directions printed out or an address for your GPS. Get your outfit, instrument, and any supplies you need out and ready. Also, eat a healthy dinner the night before and get plenty of sleep! It actually helps stabilize your system and (at least for me!) it helps prevent a nauseous feeling. Even better, avoid caffeinated drinks the day before. Arrive at the audition with plenty of time to warm up and get your bearings –- remember that being early is never a bad thing. If you get all the non-musical stuff out of the way early, you’ll be able to audition with nothing on your mind except the music.

LittleViolinist35) GET OVER IT.
Let’s face it. Sometimes there will be auditions or performances where everything goes wrong. You mess up a couple times, are late, get lost, or can’t find your music. On these days, the key is to keep moving. Maybe you didn’t do as well as you would like, but there’s always another audition, or another day to look forward to. Don’t be harsh with yourself because your F# was a little low or you tripped up the steps. It’s not the end of the world! Sometimes, mistakes are just as important as successes; try to learn from them instead of hating yourself. Just remember: Having a bad audition does not make you a bad musician.

One more thing. I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but auditions can be fun! Look forward to them. And if that’s not humanly possible, then look forward to what you’re auditioning for.

To all the students and auditionees out there –- good luck! Remember, you can do it! 

 

Comments

great tips. I have been a professional orchestral violist since 1969 (retired in 2006). In my first audition, for a youth All State Orchestra, (on violin), after practising the Vivaldi a minor concerto for a YEAR, I started: E A flat, A flat, A flat!!! I stopped, and said I wanted to start over. I got a place in the orchestra! Moral: It makes no sense to pretend you're not nervous. If you SAY you are nervous, right at the beginning, you can focus on getting over it instead of the pretending. And you may just get the judges a little bit on your side.  
 
Think about it: auditioning for a place in an orchestra has little to do with what you actually have to DO in an orchestra. In real life, you never play alone in an orchestra; you never get to choose your own tempo, dynamics, or interpretation.  
 
One time I auditioned for an Assistant Principal Viola place in an orchestra I already played in. During the audition, I just couldn't play in tune--I kept thinking "I will not only NOT get this job, they'll fire me!" At the end, my colleagues stormed over to me saying "Marilyn, you played SO well in tune!" I got the job! 
 
I have pondered this and my conclusion is this: When you are not nervous, "in tune" is a point at twelve o'clock on the dial. But when you are nervous, you experience that "point" as a wedge as big as a piece of pie from ten o'clock to two o'clock, as it were.  
Does this make sense to anyone else? 
 
May I leave you with this remark: The only "fair" audition is the one when you get the job!
Posted @ Monday, February 06, 2012 12:20 PM by marilyn
Thanks for the info, Emily. I particularly liked the part where you said to look forward to your auditions. Well, I'll certainly try! (I might get to door to the audition room and practically faint, but I'll just have to remind myself that I've been looking forward to it.)  
 
I'll be following everything you wrote here at my next audition!
Posted @ Tuesday, May 07, 2013 9:00 PM by Emma
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