Here are some basic auditioning tips, no matter what the ensemble level:
1. Dress appropriately.
Believe it or not, what you wear can mean almost as much as how you perform to an auditioning judge. While you’re certainly not going to wear a formal tux when you audition for a local wind ensemble, wearing jeans automatically undermines your credibility and commitment as a performer. Most auditioners want to feel that you are dedicated to the position you apply for - make them believe that you take the audition seriously by wearing slacks, or a long skirt, with a nice shirt. A word of caution - if you get nervous easily when you perform, wear nice pants: even the longest skirt will show your shaking legs!
Of course, try to avoid the other extreme: don’t wear clothing that distracts from your performance. Keep jewelry, make-up, and clothing colors to a minimum. Keep your hair combed and simple. You may love that bright pink, sequined flamingo shirt, but think of it from the auditioner’s perspective first. Dress conservatively and appropriately. Also: wear shoes that you feel comfortable in! Ladies in particular should try to wear a pair of black, flat-heeled shoes. There’s nothing worse than tight-fitting or overly-high-heeled shoes when you’re trying to concentrate on a difficult piece.
Arwen (for girls): Dressy, black v-neck shirt and black slacks, with simple (nothing flashy) jewelry. Black has always been a classy, conservative outfit for musicians, though simple, solid colors work well, too.
Justin (for guys): Nice collared shirt and slacks, and a tie, depending on the occasion.
2. Choose a professional accompanist.
You’ve worked hard at your pieces; you deserve someone who accompanies for a living, or at least has extensive experience. Trust me, and this is from personal experience, it’s painful to spend so many hours in practice only to have your accompanist screw up terribly at a performance exam because they couldn’t handle the repertoire, or worse, they “got nervous.” (I’ll certainly never make that mistake again) A professional will never make mistakes (well, at least very rarely), and will in fact work around your tempo and will minimize your performance errors. Though the price is higher, it’s nice to know that your performance probably won’t bomb if you change your tempo suddenly or even skip an entire bar of music! (I’m not saying to do that at a performance, of course!) Even if you’re not taking private lessons, call local teachers and find out who they recommend. Better yet, if there’s a school of music nearby, call there and find out who they use for accompaniment. Remember to give your accompanist plenty of notice before the performance, and meet with them at least once beforehand to rehearse.
3. Warm-up before you perform.
Make sure you have at least half an hour to an hour before your performance to achieve the tone you want. Warming-up makes an incredible difference not only in your sound, but also your range, tuning, and embouchure flexibility. Just as a track-athlete’s performance would be compromised if he didn’t stretch beforehand, it is vital that you play your instrument long enough to produce a thick, rich sound. You should set a specific warm-up routine into your everyday practice that includes an overtone series, scale patterns, and long tones, that you can use before an audition. The purpose is not to exhaust yourself, however, so try not to play until your facial muscles are over-exerted.
4. Select your music with care.
Finally, we come to music. When selecting music for an audition, remember to choose pieces that you can perform well and expressively. The best balance of audition pieces would be something like a classical concerto and a graceful French work. Try to select pieces that complement each other through your ability to tackle contrasting styles, challenging technical passages, as well as exhibit sensitivity to tone color and musical markings. It’s risky to perform avant-garde pieces, such as modern 20th-century pieces. Tastes vary so much on newer works, that you never know what bias an adjudicator may have against a particular modern composer or work. Often, it’s better not to find out. However, if you simply can’t stand anymore Bach, and are confident of your skill and interpretation of a piece, then go for it. But try to temper the “modern” flavor of your audition with a classical work, to show that you are able to perform the standard repertoire with ease.
5. NEVER show up late.
If you show up late for an audition, brace yourself for disappointment. Depending on the ensemble, you may be told not to bother even performing. Though this would most likely not happen at a less-than-professional level, it is nonetheless a black mark on your performance before you have even played a single note. Auditioning committees often have dozens, or even hundreds of applicants, and they have little patience for someone who doesn’t appear to their audition on time, or worse, not at all.
First of all, make sure that you figure out where the audition site is well ahead of time, and not just the building - know the very room! Imagine your panic 5 min before your audition when you’re still running the hallways searching desperately for the audition room……not realizing that you’re in the wrong building. Ouch. Help out your accompanist by giving them specific directions ahead of time as well.
And last, but not least, BE PREPARED. The more prepared and comfortable you are performing a piece, the less chance that nerves will take their toll.
By Arwen and Justin