News from SLHSO
For students hoping to pursue a degree in music and continue their musical journey beyond high school, senior year comes a whole new category of stress inducers: auditions. From my personal experience with the process, I have written a simple set of guidelines on how to prepare for, practice for, and nail your auditions.
- Narrow down your options
The audition process is tough, so overloading yourself with too many will cause you unwanted stress and clutter in your schedule once the season rolls around. So instead of signing up for an audition at every school you’ve applied to, take some time to sit down with a calendar and research when each school’s audition dates are. You want to make sure that you don’t schedule an audition in Texas and another in New York on the same day. Pick a few schools (no more than 5) from your pool of colleges, and make sure that you won’t be spending excess time and energy auditioning at schools you aren’t actually interested in attending.
- Showcase your strengths
When you start deciding what literature to prepare, it’s not constructive to pull out the hardest piece of music ever written for your instrument and expect to get into your school of choice based on the fact that you played something flashy. Instead, look through your portfolio of repertoire you’ve already learned and find which pieces best suit you. From there, you can choose to learn something new based on those styles or re-learn something you have done really well on in the past. However, there’s nothing wrong with learning something new with the “go big or go home” mindset. Whatever your decision, make sure that you’ll blow the minds of whoever is listening with how well you know your music.
- Make practicing a priority
If you really are set on wanting to focus on music in college, it’s imperative to cut out anything that you know will hinder your ability to prepare for your auditions and make ample time available to practice. This one hits hard with me personally, as I had a difficult choice to make at the beginning of my senior year. I was already set on pursuing music in college, but was also very determined to succeed in my college-level calculus class, in which I was struggling. In the end, I chose to drop the class in favor of music, which not only removed the stress of my most intense class but also freed up an extra hour or two every day due to the absence of the homework and my ability to come home from school earlier every day. Ultimately, I had more time and energy to put into my auditions, and as a result did better than I had hoped to.
- Create audiences for yourself
One of the most daunting aspects of auditions is being required to play in front a group of professionals, most of whom you will not know at all (On a side note, it’s a good idea to take lessons with your potential professors during the year to get a feel for their teaching). To try and alleviate some of those nerves, it helps to periodically play your audition repertoire for a small audience comprised of some of your teachers, friends, or family members. Anyone who is willing to listen to you will do, especially if they have the knowledge to analyze your performance and give constructive comments and ideas. This will help you develop your confidence as a performer and hopefully break down some of your tension when you meet your panel.
- Ask Questions
When you finish your auditions, your panel will often wonder if you have any important, pressing questions that you want answered. Even if you have done lots of research, it’s nice to get information directly from the people you might be working with over the next stage of your education. Asking questions not only demonstrates to the panel your personal interest and commitment to your future, but might also reveal a vital piece of information that bumps that school higher or lower on your list of choices.
- Remember that it’s not just for them
Your auditions aren’t just for the professors to hear you, but also for you to get a feel for the school and make sure you fit in comfortably. Audition days usually have lots of opportunities to explore campuses, talk to students, and observe college as it naturally occurs. Of course, your first priority should be playing a successful audition, but you are encouraged to set aside time before you leave to take advantage of those opportunities and observe the personal side of your potential college rather than just the musical side.
- Make Connections
In the music community, it’s crucial to keep yourself involved in a network of people who can help you reach your goals. When you take your auditions, be prepared to introduce yourself to lots of people—they will likely have a lot to offer in the future, even if you don’t study with them. Everyone who you will meet on a college audition day can potentially help you reach your goals as a musician, so start creating your network now, and by the time you graduate, you’ll have a running start on everyone you’ll be competing against.
by Paul Zmick, Class of 2015