Audition Tips, Part I

The process of auditioning can be very stressful, and a lot of young players routinely find auditions to be traumatic. In this series, I will try to outlines some strategies and procedures that have helped me, as well as my students, in audition settings. Many of these tips will be applicable to other situations, but in particular, I am addressing this to trumpet players auditioning for honor bands, college and graduate music programs, and ensemble placements. Having experienced and witnessed a substantial number of successes and failures in each of these contexts, I feel most qualified to speak to them. I will provide links to resources for orchestral auditions from writers with expertise in that area, below.

  1. Have a positive mindset.

A successful audition starts with the expectation of success. Auditions are, by their very nature, competitions. An inferior player with a superior mindset might very possibly do better than a superior player with an inferior mindset. Why? The confidence and inner calm that result from the expectation of success will allow the player with less overall ability to demonstrate a higher percentage of that ability in performance. By contrast, a mind wracked by nerves and the expectation of failure will result in self-sabotage and a lower level of performance relative to potential. A competent player at 90% is a better player than a virtuoso at 50%. How does one cultivate a positive mindset? That is a loaded question and can be answered from a variety of angles, but the short answer is: Earn it. Prepare for your audition diligently and intelligently, so that by the time the date arrives, you truly feel ready for it. Practice honestly, so that you have no delusions about your ability. A player who depends on luck or is out of touch with reality is likely to be disappointed when competing against a player who depends on skill and is keenly aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses.

2. Select appropriate repertoire.

Most auditions will call for you to play at least some music specified by the individual or committee hearing your audition. When selecting additional repertoire, carefully consider your choice by asking yourself pertinent questions such as these:

  • Will I enjoy playing this piece?

  • Will my audience enjoy hearing this piece?

  • Can I reasonably be expected to learn or dust off this piece in the time I have?

  • Does this piece showcase any of my strengths that the required repertoire does not?

  • Is there stylistic contrast within this piece, or between this piece and the required repertoire?

  • Does this piece match any specifications that might be required? (ex. NYSSMA level 5 or 6, includes triple-tonguing, lyrical vs. “technical”)

  • Is this a piece I will be able to consistently play at a high level well before the date of the audition? (Again, we want to rely on skill, not on luck.)

  • If the piece calls for an accompanist, are the demands of the accompanist’s part reasonable? Has my accompanist played the piece before? Will we be able to put the parts together in the amount of time available to rehearse?

By choosing a piece that fits the demands of the audition, that you will be able to play really well, and that you deem enjoyable for performer and listener alike, you are stacking the odds in your favor right from the start.

Stay tuned for Audition Tips, Part II, coming next week. In the meanwhile, you can have a look at the following articles geared toward auditioning for a professional orchestra.

Nikola TomicComment