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Next Level Journals Strings Summer 2015

1211 HAVE YOU HANDED

1211 HAVE YOU HANDED THEM A REASONTO ELIMINATE YOU?• While most committee members look forward to being movedby an outstanding performance, at the end of the day, it’s aboutthe weeding out process, and pinpointing a select few to moveforward. Is your sound quality the kind only a mother wouldlove? Is your pitch centered or are you creating a new tonalityunknown to western music? Checkered intonation, unstablerhythm, unclear, undecided, or uncommunicative musicaldecisions are just a few elements that will leave you vulnerableto elimination. Prepare for perfection by not running away fromobvious problems. Tackle them head on in the practice room or, asmy daughter’s cello teacher (Brinton Smith, principal cellist of theHouston Symphony) puts it,“Stick your face in it!” If you are ableto play any passage perfectly just once, it means that you can doit again. They key is practicing to put the odds in your favor (referback to item #6).• Are you making peculiar noises while you play such aswheezing or heavy breathing? Your potential stand partner couldbe on the committee and will most likely not want to spend therest of his/her career sitting next to an incessant wheezer orgroaner. Internalize intellectual, musical,and technical goals,but externalize these ideas exclusively through your arms, notwith extraneous, nervous body movements or unearthly sounds,all of which will be distracting.12 SELF REFLECTION• Worrying about others is meaningless as it’s all aboutthe individual product. At any audition, it’s inevitable thatcommittees will hear countless renditions of the same work,presented with a plethora of playing styles. Your job should be tofocus on communicating your take on the works at hand with ahighly individualized, compelling performance. A quick personalstory: Years ago, I judged a concerto competition where notone, but two string players entered with the Schoenberg ViolinConcerto. I had never heard the concerto before but knew itto be an enigmatic work and wondered what kind of receptionit would receive from both the mixed panel of judges andaudience. Much to my delight, both Schoenberg performers,who presented compelling yet divergent interpretations, made itto the final round. Eventually, one of them won the competition,receiving a standing ovation from the audience.• Frequently, candidates taking orchestra auditions share acommon warm up area and are provided with an individualpractice space only prior to their specific audition time. Itis challenging to filter out the sounds of others warming upnearby. I have known people who have taken to noise reducingearphones or iPods to help stay mentally serene and tune outthe cacophony of 30 violinists simultaneously practicing AMidsummer Night’s Dream.• Someone who may sound like Heifetz backstage or through aclosed door may not necessarily be able to recreate that magicwhen it counts. Don’t be spooked by what you hear around you.

The only time that matters is when on stage.• Committee members will like what they like. You may beworrying unnecessarily about your nemesis who is playing in thehour after you. A committee may prefer one person’s sound overanother, or they may be equally enamored with both.There is arange for opportunity.• When taking orchestral auditions, beware the slippery slopeof temporarily reconstructing your playing towards a specificorchestra’s style. Individuals who solicit excessive amounts offeedback often tend to sound like musical patchwork quilts - aconfusion of varying, sometimes conflicting, opinions stitchedtogether. Be true to your own musical values. If a committeetakes to your playing, you may be asked to repeat an excerpt ina style more compatible with how the orchestra performs.13 LIFE AS A TRAVELING ARTIST• Avoid travel on the same day as the audition. Hitting theroad is exhausting and, particularly in the case of air travel, nolonger as reliable or friendly towards musicians as it used to be.After months of preparation, is it really wise to risk arriving to theaudition the day of, exhausted or unfocused?• It’s prudent to arrive early for auditions, leaving ampletime to find the hall/school and become oriented with thesurroundings. I know of situations where auditions were misseddue to getting lost, arriving late, and missing flights.14 MAKE FLEXIBILITY YOUR MIDDLE NAME• Normally not a morning person? Switch up your routine andrise with the sun. Welcome early morning practices; you mayhave to see that hour at one of your auditions. Wouldn’t it bebetter to make friends with it beforehand?• For any number of reasons, your normal warm up ritualsmay not be possible at the audition venue, so plan to do thembeforehand at home or at the hotel. Be able to function wellwith minimal warm up or on short notice; often, schedules canchange, so be prepared to play earlier or later than expected.• Carry power snacks and water. Long days are common andfood sources not always nearby. Also, take layers of clothes forpotential temperature fluctuations within buildings.