Auditions for High Schoolers

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by Manny Laureano, Aug 26, 2005.

  1. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Dear High School and Junior High Players,

    Many of you remember that I am the director of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and am currently in my week of auditions. I know that many of you everywhere are getting ready for fall auditions.

    May I share with you a few hints based on observations from the last few days and frankly the last 17 years worth of auditions?

    We (audition committees all over the world) know you're nervous, we really do. Do us a favor and smile when you first enter the room. You'll receive a smile in return that sets you at ease and helps make you feel more comfortable. "Good morning, afternoon, evening" works nicely,too. You see, people have different ways of showing their nerves and the most off-putting one is that sick-to-my-stomach look that comes off as unfriendliness, boredom, or surliness. The fact is you aren't feeling any of those things but that's how you come off, right off the bat. This is going to sound stupid to you but do it anyway: practice smiling.

    If you don't understand something that is said to you by an adult, do not say "What?". Say "Excuse me?" "Sorry, I didn't catch that." Don't say "What? to an adult. Save it for your peers.

    Girls: leave the skirts/pants that are designed to show your navels and the acompanying too-short top at home. Wear something suited to a performing young artist, not Britney Spears. We have no interest in the details more related to a physical exam by your doctor.

    If you make a mistake please be of good cheer. We truly are looking at an overall performance, not a nick or chip here and there. You're playing for professional musicians not your peers. We have a completely different agenda and you are in safe territory with us. We don't count mised notes. We're listening for how well-prepared you are regarding the requirements for admission to the program.

    If you receive an instruction from the committee, repeat it back silently or quietly to yourself, think about what you have to do differently, and execute. If you don't understand, ask for clarification politely. "I'm sorry... I'm not sure what you want."

    Leave your case in the waiting room. Just bring your music, mutes and any forms you have to turn in to the committee. We have a lot of people to hear and all the opening and closing eats up time. With 30 people or more at 10 minutes each, it's easy to get bogged down and we appreciate your help in keeping us moving along. If we ask you how your summer was, we're trying to keep you loose. One sentence in reply is plenty of information. Your grandpa's hernia operation would be fascinating to hear about under slightly different circumstances.

    Say "thank you" when you're finished. It's a nice acknowledgement of the time it took to hear you and actually much appreciated.

    We are pulling for you. You know, you remind us of us when we were kids and we enjoy hearing you, the new group of kids that want to play music. That's a cool thing for us to hear.

    So, the bottom line is:

    Be pleasant, prepared, polite, well-dressed, and flexible. We don't care how much money your folks make, where you live, what you look like, or who your teacher is. We care that you are ready to play and someone who loves to do so.

  2. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

    Mar 7, 2005
    Rochester, MN
    GREAT comments Manny!!! If you don't mind, I think I'm going to be printing this off and handing out to each of my students. Probably some of the best audition advice I've heard yet.
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Manny, I could have used that post last month. :oops:

    Out of sheer inexperience and nervousness, thinking back to the audition experience I subjected myself to last month, I did a fair number of the no-nos you just described, (I was 21 when I took my last audition prior to this one) although it was my playing that was ultimately my downfall.

    This is great general audition advice and while it will probably be a great revelation for high school kids, a good many adults could benefit from that advice too.

    This post of your is another for the archives. Thanks! :-)
  4. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    I dunno, Patrick... I just can't picture you wearing a bare midriff!!

    But then again, do I really want to?

    Seriously, thanks for writing. Hope it's food for thought.

  5. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    No, it wasn't my bare midriff or my too short skirt! :lol:

    My faux pas were:

    1.) Not smiling and saying hello when I entered the room - I was so nervous I had to strive to keep from bolting out the door, inanely blubbering "Eighth notes? Sixteenth notes! ...SYNCOPATION!!!!?...Gah!!!!" :stars:

    2.) I certainly wasn't of good cheer when I chipped notes or made mistakes. :bash:

    3.) I was so mortified by falling apart in the audition room in front of 20+ people that I don't recall saying "thank you" at all, although I did apologize to the audition coordinator for wasting their time, which was probably not the right thing to do or say, but under the circumstances, I felt it was warranted. :noway:

    This is a very cool topic that you have brought up. Not only is it necessary to prepare musically and hopefully mentally, but there are certain other things that have nothing to do with music that can be equally as important.
  6. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Manny- I wish you could get this out to ALL students preparing for state solo festivals as well.

    Maybe I'll post this outside the door of the rooms I judge in. I can't count the number of times I've heard "sorry" or grumpy looks due to nerves or dissatifaction with one's playing. I actually had a french horn player tell me "Just give me a zero now". Truth be told, she wasn't all that bad.

    Maybe we could add "Sit up tall (those who sit), head over the spine toes forward on the floor. Spit the gum out. It really does not add to a respectful attitude."

    I would like to print and share this with at least my students and some of the other directors I work with at festivals.

    On the flip side, I would like adjudicators to remember that these ARE only kids, that they are INCREDIBLY nervous, and that we need to be humane in our treatment (including any use of humour), not matter HOW tired we are or how many times we have heard the same solo over again. I have also seen judges not do this. Not a positive experience for the kids involved.

    Great topic.

    Pat...Bare midriff and short skirt? eeeeeeeewwwwwwww...THERE's an image I'll be trying to shake off... ;-)
  7. Jarrett

    Jarrett Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Richland, MO
    It's actually really interesting to think of those days when I was trying to prepare a piece for those auditions.. I remember thinking that was the most important thing in the world at the time... Oh how time changes ones priorities. :)
    Great tips Manny, I honestly would never have thought about some of those...
    However, I heard a story from one of the instructors I know at the Armed Forces School of Music that this reminds me of. Long story short, a female Marine tried to convince him to pass her on a lesson by removing her clothes right after he announced he was recommending dismissal. My friend was a little embarassed and confused and said he stood outside the room with another instructor for a good 15 minutes before deciding how to go about getting the female to get dressed and get out of his office :)
    Betcha didn't have THAT problem (or did you?)
  8. Clarino

    Clarino Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 9, 2003
    Sheffield, England, UK

    Also, please bring your instrument. It would help us greatly if we could hear you play. :-P

    Seriously though, great advice Manny, I'll remember as much as possible next time I take an audition. Thanks.
  9. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    When a certain young guy, got the job with our local band here in NY, I was in the final rounds. The first round was in a theater that was freezing. The finals were on stage at the orchestra's home auditorium. It was at least 100 degrees on stage.......or it seemed that way. When the personnel manager walked by I asked the question....."What's next, the flood, Jimmy?" He shook his head and kept walking. I played great that day, but my big mouth.................

  10. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Forte User

    Oct 11, 2004
    Farnham (a place too smal
    Manny - superb post.

    This is basically what I tell any of my students that audition for any group (especially the ones where I am going to be on the audition panel) and it is nice to see that I am thinking along the right lines.

    On a purely musical theme - I always advise them to play a piece (or pieces, if applicable) that they can really play well, don't play something that they might struggle with. When I am sitting on a panel I find that there is nothing worse than hearing a student attempt a piece that they can't really play.
    Play something slightly simpler, play it musically, let us hear how great you sound. If you can wail up to a double C, double tongue faster than Wynton, yet can't play a simple melody, in tune, with beautiful tone - you won't be playing any solos, trust me.

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