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Preparing For A Successful Audition by Andrew Lesser

Burlington City Public Schools

tive setting, often employed to gain entrance to an institution or ensemble in addition to determine ranking within a specific group. Unfortunately, auditions are also situations that exhibit an enormous pressure on the participant and can often result in a mis- communication as to their true ability. We have often heard of auditions being referred to as “snapshots” of a performer’s technique, and does not always reflect true ability in the short span of time an adjudication generally takes. However, it is also considered one of the only means of a fair and unbiased evalu- ation that can focus on the core ability of an individual performer. Many auditions, spe- cifically for performing ensembles including both student honor groups and professional organizations, are held as “blind” adjudica- tions. These auditions eliminate any bias by preventing the judges from seeing the can- didate, usually by placing them behind a screen. The candidate is only known by their adjudication number, and no other profes- sional or personal information is disclosed. Other auditions, such as part of a college or university entrance application, must be held with the judges’ full knowledge of the individual. Sometimes, due to proximity or as part of a preliminary round, the organiza- tion may require a recording to be presented before the individual can progress. However, in these cases, it will eventually become nec- essary to take part in a live audition at a loca- tion determined by the organizing entity. In either case, the preparation for any kind of live audition is universal and can be refined so as to maximize the candidate’s advantage.

A Preparation is Key

It may seem like an obvious statement, but preparation is truly the key to a suc-


s we are aware, auditions are a necessary assessment to evaluate quality musicians in a competi-

cessful audition. However, it is the way in which we prepare that can separate success and failure. For any adjudicated perfor- mance, it is necessary to begin practicing a minimum of six months in advance. For Re- gional and State honor bands, for example, requirements such as a repertoire list are nor- mally released in the spring for an audition scheduled in the winter. For a professional organization, this time may be shorter as it is generally understood that prospective candidates would already have studied the required material previously. Regardless, it is imperative to begin studying the necessary repertoire as soon as it has been released, in addition to all rudiments and basic skills if required. Once all materials have been ac- cumulated, it is vital to know exactly what requirements will be asked during the audi- tion. In many cases, an entire piece is not necessary to be learned, and only a single movement or section will be required. To not perform the proper research and prac- tice music that judges will not ask for poten- tially wastes an enormous amount of time and energy. Acquiring the correct publisher’s edition of all musical repertoire is also man- datory, in addition to reviewing the accepted performance standards of all basic skills and rudiments. As an adjudicator myself, it is frustrated and disappointing to disqualify a candidate who does not prepare according to the audition instructions, especially if they possess great ability. If there is any confusion as to exactly what is required on a audition, the organization will most likely provide contact information so correct information can be obtained.

More than Just Practicing The art of practicing is such a universal

statement, yet the act of practicing is highly individual. Some people need complete


quiet in order to practice effectively, while some function better with extraneous noise. Some perform better depending what time of day it is, or based on a specific location they prefer. While we are most effective in environments in which we feel comfortable, auditions are not generally a comfortable situation. In fact, many adjudicators inten- tionally make the audition process more un- nerving to ascertain the performer’s ability to react to pressure. To effectively prepare for this, it is helpful to mimic the conditions of the audition itself. If the audition is to be held in a school or auditorium, it is benefi- cial to seek out areas to practice where these conditions can be simulated. When I was a high student preparing for my regional au- ditions, I would often stay after school and practice in an empty classroom, instead of my home although it would be more conve- nient. As a college student, I would schedule as much time as I could to practice in the school’s recital hall or concert auditorium when preparing for a competition or evalua- tion. In this way, I felt that the audition site became a home field advantage, instead of a completely foreign and unfamiliar area. In addition, it is also helpful to practice at the relatively same time when the audition is scheduled, if that information is disclosed. Performing in front of people also serves multiple purposes. First, it offers the unique opportunity to experience an environment where others are listening and critiquing your performance. Generally, it is more ben- eficial to perform for colleagues and those who are educated in the specific repertoire so that they can provide authentic feedback and offer constructive criticism. In the ab- sence of an audience, however, an excellent substitute is to record yourself and analyze the performance later. Though our analysis will be decidedly subjective, as are our own harshest critics, it does provide insight into


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