Finally – some good news to round out my first year of auditions. (There will be more soon in the Fall of 2018, but for the 2017-18 season, that was all for me!).
In late April I had two auditions for title chairs, and in both of these I made it to semi-finals. And then at the beginning of May I took my last audition of the season for a section spot, and made the FINAL ROUND. The screen came down and everything, and I was one of the last four violists being considered for the job.
Many new challenges arose as the result of advancing, and I discovered that stamina and nerves are completely different to manage when dealing with multiple rounds, sometimes in one day. And the multiple sessions of waiting that goes along with playing multiple rounds!
First of all let’s review the updated practice tactics that led to these advances. I formulated my list of excerpts so that I had a “front line” of excerpts that I had seen in almost every preliminary round so far. These I worked on until I felt ultra-confident that I could play them all under pressure, at 2am, with the lights out, through thunderstorms and crying babies, whatever situation that could possibly be thrown at me. I think this was an important part of the preparation process because it gave me a little security that I didn’t feel that I had before. It was highly likely that one or more of these excerpts was going to be on the preliminary list, and knowing that I had at least part of what the panel was going to hear prepared to the best of my ability helped manage the vast selection of excerpts that might have otherwise seemed overwhelming if considered equally. Obviously I did spend a lot of time preparing the rest of it, but I felt that even the subtle shift in mentality helped my confidence going into those first rounds.
The list I compiled was handwritten and extremely messy, (and what’s more, I’ve since lost it, so there goes my visual aid). But basically what I did was to write down every excerpt for all three of the auditions and mark the first-priority excerpts with a star. These were Mendelssohn Scherzo, Mozart Haffner, Shostakovich 5 and Don Juan. I used simple x’s to indicate the next layer, which included Beethoven 5, Brahms Haydn Variations (V, VII and VIII) and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6. Everything else made up “the rest” and included excerpts that were on only one of the three lists, like Mahler 4 and Mahler 10, as well as Ravel Daphnis and Mother Goose.
The other thing I did to prepare for these auditions was LOTS of mocks. I played for a couple of violists, and a french horn player, and a trombone player. I played for the conductor of our school orchestras at the Shepherd School (Larry Rachleff). I even played a couple of excerpts for a pianist. I received feedback on so many different aspects of musicianship from so many of my friends and colleagues, whose opinions I deeply respect, and all of them provided me with not only practical criticisms, but encouragement in my quest to improve and eventually be successful in winning a professional playing job. If you have friends or teachers who are willing to hear you play, do take advantage of it, and be willing to return the favor. Real practice for real people with real opinions is such a valuable part of any preparation, even if it feels nerve-wracking or potentially embarrassing at the time. You have to be willing to put yourself out there in the real audition, so practicing that aspect of auditions in front of your friends (or anyone really!) is only going to help you do that.
Just do it. Ask nicely and take advantage of the advice people will give you, because whether you agree with it or not it is a valuable opinion. Do it when you feel prepared. Do it when you feel unprepared and uncomfortable. Do it when you feel tired or in a bad mood. Do it whenever you can, even if you only have ten minutes for one or two excerpts. Gather all the information you can about what kind of impression you make with different musicians. Learn not to let criticism affect you personally and hold onto your joy and freedom of playing even while you seek to improve.
This is a wonderful and challenging journey. The only chance we have to increase our likelihood of success is to just keep going!
Until next time,