On today’s blog I will be discussing a topic I’ve been dealing with a lot in the past month, the dreaded auditions. First off, no one likes auditions, they are stressful, and nerve wrecking. Having a successful audition is very critical to your success as a musician. You will have to audition for school ensembles, college admissions, and for bands. I, myself, have had several college auditions in the last couple of months and would like to share my tips for having a successful College audition.
When auditioning for a college or university try to make a visit prior to your audition day. See if you can sit in on a class, talk to or email teachers, establish a good rapport with the faculty, and prepare for your audition day (where you will park, which route you will take, etc). I understand some of this might not be possible due to a long list of colleges/ universities, and time constraints, but do your best to accomplish this. I know some people will say visits are pointless and all that matters is if you can play. While playing is the most important aspect ( Don’t forget about those grades!) leaving a good impression and representing yourself as a professional will certainly help more than hurt. No one, especially a good college or university jazz program, wants to deal with a trouble maker. By establishing a good rapport you at the very least let them know you will not be a problem.
Prior to your audition (preferably months in advance) find out the repertoire you need to have prepared. Double, triple, quadruple check to make sure. Trust me, I speak from experience, nothing is worse than preparing for an audition and finding out you were misinformed and have to cram an extra sonata, or an extra uptempo tune, or harmonic minor scales, etc. Just double triple check to confirm and be ready for any curveballs that might come along the way. They might ask you to solo again over a tune, sight reading will be required, maybe ask for a 2-5-1 progression in a certain key you just never know. I’m not saying all of this to intimidate you I’m just trying to show all the possibilities of what might happen.
Now that you are aware of the repertoire you need to have prepared, it’s time to practice. I do not have a definitive answer to the age old question of “How long should I practice?”. It’s really a matter of where you are skill wise and how productive you are when practicing. I say 2-4 hours is solid but 2-4 hours of actual practice no TV, no conversations, no distractions. You need to be fully dedicated to practicing seriously. You must practice daily, early, and often. Excuses are just that, excuses. What is possibly more important than your future as a musician? Are you really letting a sitcom, movie or sporting event, jeopardize your future? Put in all the time you can, and at least by doing so you can except your results because you worked as long and hard as possible.
This is it, the day you have overanlalyzed and hyped up in your mind for so long. So here are a few tips to survive the day. Try to keep a normal routine and treat this day as any other day. For example, I start most mornings waking up around six , playing for a couple of hours, and then listening to sports talk radio before heading to school. My routine the day of my audition was fairly similar. I played one hour just to go through my songs once more (I drilled through them heavily the night before) and I also did not drink my morning coffee. I just did not want to be jittery and nervous so I opted to not drink any caffeinated beverages. If its part of your routine and you don’t believe it will alter your routine then by all means have a cup. Remember these are just my thoughts and experiences. If you talk to ten musicians about auditions you will probably get ten different answers.
This is the day is where those campus visits pay off. You should know which way you are taking, where you are parking, and where the music building is located. Make sure you leave early you never know what might happen. On my way to auditions I have had wrong turns, a train passed by stopping traffic, and a frantic search for a visitor parking lot. If you leave early these circumstances will just be an inconvenience instead of a nervous breakdown. Also, when it comes to attire, wear a suit. On this there can be no debate! I know it can be pricey if money is an issue search local thrift shops, look for sales, or get a hand me down resized. You need to have a suit either way you look at it for future auditions, gigs, and job interviews.
Before you enter the school and perform remember to relax. Being nervous and stressed out can only hurt your performance causing you to tighten your play, force dumb mistakes, and dwarf creativity. You want to be as relaxed and calm as possible so you can play your best. Remember that last sentence, play your best. Remember you are not Charlie Parker, Art Tatum or John Mclaughlin, but that’s okay. If you were a master a musician you could just start gigging immediately they do not expect you to be perfect. They are looking for potential and someone well enough to fit in and contribute to the program. Just play with passion and accept where you are at skill wise the day of the performance. So if you have followed my advice I cannot guarantee admission,but I can guarantee you on your audition day they will have already talked to you via email or on your campus visit, you have worked rigorously on your repertoire, you are well dressed and on time. Now go in there and kill it!
Regardless of how you think it went take a deep breath and celebrate. You made it, you survived to live and tell your story. Perhaps your solos were just okay, you made mistakes, and man that sight reading chart was a dozy! That’s okay if you’ve accomplished most of what you worked on the audition was a success. Remember this is a learning experience, if you have multiple auditions this will only make future auditions better Evaluate what went right and wrong and make adjustments. I’m sure you did well so congratulations and,as always, thank you for staying in the Jazz Loop.