The competition these days to get into an orchestra is fierce. It
is not unusual to have 50 players try out for a single position in
an average orchestra, something paying in the range of $25-30,000/year.
A prestigious orchestra in the United States can draw up to 300 people.
Faced with these numbers, audition committees try to eliminate as many
as possible in the opening rounds. Here's how improve your chances
of winning that first job.
Careful preparation is essential for success. You must have a plan. Choose
from the following suggestions whatever seems helpful to you. Come up with
a strategy, and write it down!
Learn everything you can about the excerpts. Go to the music library and
listen to them in the context of the entire piece. Use a score to find out
what is going on in the rest of the orchestra. Read the program notes to
get a sense of the composer's intentions. Remember that you have to convince
a majority of the audition committee that you are experienced, and have performed
these works many times, even if you haven't.
Practice multiple repetitions of the excerpts to program your "automatic
pilot," and simulate the stress of the audition. Practise at different
tempos. When you get tired, practise the excerpts down the octave.
Play mock auditions, making them as realistic as possible. Reserve a large
room, and ask several friends, musicians, or teachers to come and be the
committee. Dress up in your audition clothes. Assign a personnel manager.
Have your "committee" make notes for future reference.
• Mentally rehearse the audition. Visualize yourself playing
• Record yourself a lot! See how close the actual performance comes to
the mental image.
• Draw the excerpts from a hat and play in random order. Get yourself
ready for anything.
• Whenever possible, play the excerpts with a section.
I'm drawing on my experience here of listening to dozens of brass auditions
for our orchestra. Believe it or not, to get past the first round, you
don't have to be great! So many people crack up in the first round that
if you can basically play the music on the page, without missing too many
notes, and with decent intonation and rhythm you will probably get voted
to the next round.
It's in the final rounds that your advanced musicianship must be displayed.
Here the committee is listening for more subjective things, like phrasing
and sound quality. So few brass players phrase that if you do anything
at all you will sound great! You can't predict what kind of sound they
are looking for, but here's a tip: never, never play too loud ! If you
lose control you are toast.
If you are asked a question by the committee, or asked to play something
a certain way, listen carefully and make sure you do it. If you don't understand
the suggestion ask for clarification. Do what they want, even if it means
sacrificing something else in your playing. Just do it!
If the music director comes down to conduct you through an excerpt, play
from memory and look him/her right in the eyes (this happened to me I
did this and won the audition).
Focus on the strong aspects of your playing and work to bring them across.
Have an "ace in the hole."
Be realistic. Don't give up if you don't get anywhere the first few tries.
It takes a while to achieve that special "audition awareness," and
to learn to cope with the stress. Playing an orchestra audition is possibly
the hardest thing you will ever do.
Used by permission. Copyright © 1998-2003 by Music