What I Learned from My First Professional Auditions
As the midterm point of this semester creeps up, I can’t help but look back and be amazed at how I have managed to prepare and follow through with two professional auditions. I’m even more surprised that I did it in the span of a month and a half (with both preliminary rounds being two weeks apart!) As I continue my practice regime for my final graduate recital at Baylor University and doctoral auditions on the horizon, I wanted to stop and reflect on what I have learned from taking a risk and auditioning for professional ensembles. I could write pages and pages of reflection, but here are a few main points:
You May Never Feel Ready
Now before you say, “I ALWAYS feel prepared for any audition I take,” I want to congratulate you on your superhuman skills. Yes, it is crucial to prepare well for any audition we take. However, from the student perspective, we may feel a bit hesitant to take the leap because our playing may not feel secure/refined/professional enough. I felt this way and more about my playing when my friend ( a Baylor Bassoon Graduate Assistant) texted me the information about the Austin Symphony Flute 3/ Piccolo 2 position. I was in the middle of teaching at a band camp back home in Tennessee and felt simultaneous excitement and dread. It was exciting that there was an opening so close to Waco, but also dread that I felt grossly under prepared when I looked at the excerpt list and the laundry list of aspects to still improve in my playing. Vacillating for a week or so, I decided to fully commit to the process of audition preparation, even if it was a shorter timetable than I was comfortable with. The same thought would regularly cross my mind, “If not now, when?” I could not sit on the sidelines forever, waiting for the “right time” when my playing felt “good enough.” The more I work, the more I know that nothing will ever feel like the “right time.” I’ve only encountered that “right time” feeling once so far in my academic career, and I think that was born more out of naivety than anything (although it did pay off). Often, we simply have to dive in, head first, into unknown territory.
The Devil is in the Details
As part of my audition preparation process, I recorded myself more than ever. I’ve always been nervous to listen back to my own recordings, but it’s amazing what we can learn from become an audience to our own performance! Consistency of sound, tempo, and articulation are fundamentals of instrumental performance. They might seem elementary, but they can be challenging when we are asked to perform difficult music. Orchestral excerpts are all etudes in their own way, stretching the limits of our physical and mental stamina. Because the professional music field is so competitive, panels are looking for consistency in a person’s playing and musical expression based on the musical time period and the context of the excerpt within the orchestral work. And it’s this detailed consistency that creates a beautiful and compelling musical performance.
If You Fall, Pick Yourself Back Up and Keep Going!
Real Talk: I did not advance in the Austin Symphony or the Air Force Band auditions. There is a level of disappointment that comes with not succeeding after investing hours of work into an excerpt list or recording session. However, one phrase keeps coming to mind every time I feel down about a perceived setback with auditions or performances: “Nothing is guaranteed.” There is a place for all of us in music, but that does not mean that every place available is ours. Our best bet is to be about the work in front of us, dust ourselves off from a setback, and try again. We learn so much from every audition we take, and if we apply what we learn, then our abilities grow and launch us into the next opportunity.