For high school seniors who are interested in becoming music majors, this is the time of year that’s filled with musical preparation for upcoming college music auditions. Much excitement accompanies this process, and many students find themselves full of worry and trepidation. I would like to share some helpful audition advice to support you as you embark on the very busy audition season ahead.
by Dr. Michelle Stanley
Preparing For the Big Day
1. Practice, practice, practice!
While I’m not advocating cramming, I urge you to include practice in your day-to-day routine. This includes practicing your entire required repertoire for each school. Be sure to review sight-reading and scales as well. Don’t be surprised if an audition committee requests you to play something that you weren’t expecting. It isn’t the intention to trip you up, but rather to see where you are in your musical development. Not being able to do something doesn’t mean you don’t pass an audition. It simply informs the committee of where you are in your abilities.
2. Create your own audition committee
Often the scariest part of auditioning is performing for a panel of strangers who give very little feedback during your audition. Re-creating that atmosphere can help control your nerves on the day of your audition. Create an audition committee that will listen to you play through your music prior to your auditions. Pull in classmates, teachers, and friends to listen to you perform. The more strangers, the better! Have them ask you to play certain scales or different repertoire than what you have prepared. Act as you would at your audition. Practice smiling, thanking the committee, and playing your best.
3. The non-musical side
Often your audition begins the moment you walk into the room. Present your best self by being well-dressed, full of poise, friendly, respectful, and confidant. Mistakes are ok – even expected. How you recover, and how you perform overall, are what a committee will remember.
The Mental Game of Auditions
1. It’s all about your potential
An audition committee fully realizes that you are a developing musician who won’t be perfect in every way. If you were perfect, we wouldn’t need to teach you! We listen for potential. Does a student have the potential to be a great student and musician? We often think of your strengths and weaknesses and how they would work with our own teaching styles.
2. Fast fingers aren’t everything!
Playing fast and furiously is a small part of being a good musician. Perform with attention to intonation, integrity of rhythm, thoughtfulness, musicality, and beautiful tone.
3. “Oh no, they stopped me before I finished my piece!”
Don’t worry if a committee stops you early in your piece. It could mean that they could be interested in hearing more of what you have to offer or they felt that they have heard a full representation of your playing. Often there is a limited amount of time that they have to listen to each student and they need to hear as much as they can from you in a short period of time. Be sure to practice stopping in different places in your music and go on to other pieces as you review your repertoire daily.
4. You are the committee too..
While the committee may be assessing you to see if you are a good fit for their school, you should be assessing the school to see if it is the right place for you. Spend time touring the facilities, investigating the program, talking with other students, and most importantly, meet with the teacher that you would study with. If possible, get a lesson. Most teachers are happy to give you a free lesson as you research their school. College is a place where you are going to invest a lot of time and money, and you need to be happy with your choice.
5. The bottom line
The reason you are auditioning to be a music major is because you love music and
you want to become a better musician. Remember that love you have for music while you play. That excitement for music will shine through your performance and dazzle your listeners. Every college audition committee is interested in hearing you do your best. We are rooting for you to have an excellent audition!
Which school to attend?
When you finally have all of your offers from the schools you applied to and auditioned for, you have much to consider. After taking all the steps mentioned above (meeting the applied teacher you would work with, touring the school, talking with students), you should have a good idea about the ‘feel’ of each school.
You will want to consider other issues such geographic location, finances, scholarship offers and comfort with the size of the department and school at large, once you get a feel for each school. Make sure the schools you are serious about have all the degree program(s) you have interest in (especially if you are undecided about what you actually want to pursue). Will you study with a graduate student or the main faculty teacher in your area? What is the size of the studio you would be in? Will you be able to perform in the major ensembles the school offers?
Should you be lucky to get competing offers from several music programs, be sure to communicate those competing offers with each of the applied teachers. Sometimes an offer can be raised if you a school really wants you to attend.
Being a music major is a wonderful experience, full of strong bonds with faculty and students. This unique degree program is one that you will be a part of long after your degree is conferred. You choose to apply to each school through realistic and careful consideration. Choosing a school to attend a particular school is often a matter of following your heart to where you feel that you belong.