Auditions. Thoughts from the other side.

By Nathaniel Anderson_Frank  -  27 February 2016

If you are lucky enough to be invited to audition for an orchestra, treat it like an opportunity. You probably don't like auditioning; you may dread it and see it as an awful chore. And you're safely in the vast majority of musicians for feeling this way. But whatever your past experiences may lead you to believe about yourself, take this next audition as a chance to change that thinking. (For more on how to cultivate a growth mindset check out Rachel Robert's brilliant article). 

An audition is your chance to shine, to stand out from the pack and show the panel your very best as a musician. The preparation for this begins right now, this very instant, in your own head. Ask yourself, do I really want to take this audition? Is this a job/position that interests me enough to invest my time and energy in preparation? These may seem like self-evident questions but many people float along from one audition to the next without really knowing why they're doing it. It's fine to say you're taking an audition 'for the experience'. The best experience though is the result of a very conscious commitment. You are creating your own process here.  

So, once you've decided to take the audition commit to the date – you're not pulling out this time! Acknowledge that you will have to carve out of your diary the time required to prepare. Is that date ideal for you? Maybe/probably not (audition dates rarely are). But if you have decided to treat this as your opportunity, then make it happen.

People often ask for advice about particular orchestral excerpts – style, tempo, phrasing, fingerings, and articulation. These are all vital considerations on the long road to audition success, certainly, and I am always happy to advise. But amidst this multitude of trees never lose sight of the forest: you are coming into that audition room/studio/hall to showcase your artistry.  Your technical ability, your experience and understanding of the instrument, these are tools to be used in the service of making music.  An audition panel is essentially just an audience, albeit a slightly critical one. The people sitting behind that table want to be impressed, emotionally touched even, like a paying punter at a concert. 

If this seems unbelievable to you, trust me: sitting through a stretch of nine or ten-hour audition days as a panellist can be pretty tiring, at times even slightly stupefying. We're waiting for someone to walk through the door and really wow us. We want to hear playing that causes us to sit up and put our pens down. Technical precision? Impeccable intonation and unassailable tone quality? Absolutely, if you please! But never forget your artistry.  After all, it's why we're all here, right?

About Nathaniel Anderson_Frank

Leader of the Piatti Quartet, Nathaniel is also a first violinist of the Philharmonia Orchestra and a guest leader, soloist and chamber musician.

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