On Preparing for Auditions Vincent Cichowicz Perhaps one of the most important things to realize when it comes to taking an audition for a symphony orchestra is how great the odds are that you will not win. Simple mathematics suggest that upwards of a hundred people are vying for a single opening, so the odds are against any one individual. It is important to fully appreciate this because once you do, certain valuable truths become apparent. One is that to take an audition if you have not preceded it by the most thorough preparation, is to turn bad odds into impossible ones. Your preparation for an audition should start as soon as you decide to take it. Actually, your daily preparation should already be geared in this direction - that is to say, one continual preparation for all future auditions. Then when you learn of a specific audition you shift into a more concentrated and intensified effort. It is important to have a clearly defined routine, rather than a hit and miss effort. The kind of work you do is dictated by the demands which the audition process places on you. You will need an unusual amount of endurance. While one seldom has to play for more than twenty minutes at a time, it is non-stop playing of excerpts from the most demanding literature. So if youUre not already in the best shape, you must get there. This means forcing yourself to practice carefully and deliberately with frequent rest periods. It means taking the time for a meticulous warm-up every time you pick up the horn after a long break. You canUt afford to waste time recovering from the effects of unintelligent practicing the day before. Each day should include a healthy amount of really strenuous work but it shouldnUt be at the wrong time or too often. Each of us is an individual and it is important to find out what works for you. I feel safe in saying that the best way to build endurance is to practice many hours a day consistently. In my mind the individuality comes in as how you spread out the time. The old saying is RItUs quality, not quantity, that counts.S But I believe playing quality improves after a large quantity of work. Remember the obvious - you canUt afford to acquire strength at the expense of flexibility and sound. This is especially true, since one of the hardest things about an audition is the way you must switch back and forth between the various playing styles. Too often a player is overwhelmed by the list of required excerpts and starts working on those exclusively. This is the wrong way to go. You shouldnUt forsake other necessary parts of your daily routine. And when you encounter an excerpt you canUt negotiate, diagnose the problem in terms of general playing weakness rather than RHereUs another two bars IUll have to practice a 100 times a day.S That alone may not do it. This is especially important when the problem involves range or endurance. If you keep playing the Heldenleben, Zarathustra, and Mahler 5th style excerpts over and over when the problem is you donUt have all the power or range you need, you may one day wake up with an even smaller range and less power. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that weUre dealing with muscles, and while they shouldnUt be babied, they canUt be abused. In this connection, it only makes sense to avoid taking jobs that will tear you down. Free up your schedule as the audition nears. What good does it do to work for weeks and then take a demanding job the night before that leaves you stiff on audition day? In addition to the physical ability that is required, you must demonstrate a thorough mastering of the orchestral style of trumpet playing. This is not a requirement that can approached in weeks or even months. In connection with this, a very important consideration is always RDoes he really know these pieces?S Those listening to you will be asking themselves that question. In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to be accepted as an auditionee if your resume does not show considerable orchestral experience on a professional level. IUm not talking just about the big orchestras. Personally, I think it is ridiculous for a small, part-time orchestra to reject applicants due to a Rlack of professional experience.S More often than not, the word RprofessionalS does not apply to the group itself. But this should impress upon you the need to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the repertoire. It does not meanyou will have had to have performed everything on the list with an orchestra. It does mean that you will have to play the excerpts in a way that gives that impression. This is where most fail in their preparation. You cannot be content to have listened to most of the pieces or practiced most of the excerpts. You should have access to at least one recording of each piece on the list so you can study each one thoroughly. RThoroughlyS means knowing each composition so well that even under the pressure of an audition you cannot inadvertently play the excerpt in the wrong key or double up the time or do anything else that will shout out - RI have never played this piece with an orchestra!S Sometimes there will be a work listed that is not in the excerpt books. Then you must get a score or the trumpet part itself. This is a good idea anyway because the excerpt books are full of mistakes and they donUt always include everything you need to know. Most of the time theyUll use the actual part at the audition and anything that is on the page is liable to be asked. You should not prepare yourself for an audition with the idea that you will have a pretty good chance as long as they donUt ask for RthisS or Rthat.S DonUt leave anything to chance that you can control. As far as being able to show familiarity with each piece it is smart to own more than one recording. This is so that you will have an idea of the most widely accepted interpretations. This is most important as it concerns tempos. It is wise to steer a middle-of-the-road course here because unusually slow or fast tempos can wrongly suggest that you donUt know the piece. If youUve only heard one recording, you canUt be sure if the conductorUs tempos are unusual or not. (Ed.: If you know that the conductor has recorded the piece, get his recording.) It is important to understand auditions in terms of what they demand of you so that you can giveextra consideration to these areas. Some have already been pointed out. In addition, auditions require a more perfected sense of time than is usually required. In the orchestra you usually have at least one other voice to relate to and the conductor providing the basic time framework. At the audition you will play all alone and unless you have practiced with a critical eye to tempo you will be found to be deficient. Problems of this kind tend to be intensified under pressure. Provided that you are properly prepared in the other areas, the ability to perform at your best under stressful conditions is what it all comes down to at the actual audition. Individually, we are very different in the way we react to pressure. Some are more fortunate than others because they just naturally seem to do well when the demands are greatest. The key word is Rnaturally.S Those who do not do well under pressure have just not learned how to do something that comes naturally to others. This ability can be learned. It should help if you realize that the feeling of nervousness, unless it is out of control, is not bad. In fact, it is quite desirable. What we feel at those times is the flow of adrenaline, which is the stuff that great performances are made. It provides the extra energy that was never possible in non-stress situations. It also might help you to adopt the attitude that the only chance you have depends on your ability to go out there and do your very best playing...so, do it! Try and put the whole affair into a proper perspective. After all, the worst that will happen is that you wonUt get the job and that would leave you no worse off than you already are. There really is no RlosingS at an audition. Unless you ahve already decided that this will be your last audition if you donUt Rwin,S you will profit immeasurably from the experience. This is true even if you donUt play to the best of your ability. You will have a clearer picture of your weaknesses. It will, of course, feel better if you leave the stage having played well. Here are three books which can be extremely effective when it comes to learning how to be at your best under pressure: The Inner Game of Tennis - by Timothy Galway Psycho-Psybernetics - by Maxwell Maltz Maximum Performance - by L. Morehouse/L. Gross Here are a few miscellaneous considerations that I feel are important. Eliminate as many concerns as possible. You should be thinking of nothing else besides the audition on the day you have to play and for as long in advance of the audition day as possible. I have seen players come to an audition having taken work on the same day and spend the whole time worrying about whether or not theyUll miss their plane. You cannot expect to play your best unless you permit yourself to concentrate exclusively on the audition. You shouldnUt be worrying about other matters. If you have to travel a great distance, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time. Start quieting down your nerves long before you have to play. This is important. Running to catch a bus or plane will not help. For the same reason, I suggest avoiding standing around and talking to other candidates before you have to play. You should use this time to regain a calm state of mind and to remind yourself of a few key points that you feel are important to your performance. The time to be friendly is after the audition. DonUt try to play in a style that is not your own. Lately, I have seen a trend in this direction. Players try to figure out what kind of playing will please the audition panel based on a diagnosis of the trumpet style in that particular orchestra. This can be dangerous because there may be many factors that are not available to you. For example, who will make the final decision, the conductor, or the first trumpet? Or is it a decision made by a combined vote? Is the conductor happy with his current trumpet section, or is he looking for a darker or brighter sound? Even if you know for certain that the first trumpet player has the most say in the outcome and you know how he plays, you canUt be sure that his idea of what a trumpet sounds like isnUt at odds with the way he plays. But an even more important reason you shouldnUt play this game is that you are more likely to be convincing if you are playing the way that you feel is most appro-priate. If you are asked during an audition to play a section again and are requested to do it in a certain style, by all means be cooperative. DonUt try to second guess people you have never met. Be confident in your in your stylistic decisions. Make sure you have warmed-up the correct amount. The tendency is to over-do this and not have the strength left to play a clean audition. If you take your case out onto the stage, remove any mouthpieces you will not be using so you donUt grab the wrong one by mistake. Before playing the excerpt, make sure of the key that the trumpet is written. If the excerpt is in the middle of the page (or part) look back until you find the designation. The same applies to the key signature and whether or not the passage is muted. Take a few seconds to make these checks and to allow the blood to move back into your chops between excerpts. If you must change horns, it is perfectly okay to play a few notes before the excerpt. Just donUt take all day and try to impress them with your artistry, save this for the excerpt itself. (Ed.: It may also be wise to have RpracticedS your quick warm-up so you sound as good as possible at all times.) Some-times the person putting up the excerpts gives you the impression that heUd be happier if you didnUt take those few seconds before you play. Ignore him. These are a few things that I have learned from having taken many auditions. Depending on your own experiences, you will be able to add to these. Keep in mind that if you donUt win the audition, your work is not over. After you RrecoverS from the audition, sit down and dissect your preparations for and the performance itself to learn what you need to improve upon for the next time. Take pride in the fact that you gave it your best. ThatUs all you can demand of yourself.