1415 YOU ARE WHAT/HOW YOU PRACTICE.• Sit silently for 5 minutes. It’s remarkable just how long 300seconds can last, sometimes moving at a seemingly glacialspeed. Much can be accomplished within that short span of time;yet, there is a tendency to squander large amounts of our daythrough frivolous distractions and unfocused practice.• If a passage doesn’t seem to be improving over time,re-evaluate fingerings or musical objectives, or both. Recognizethe stagnation and take steps towards positive change. The greatPolish violin pedagogue Tadeusz Wronski famously used to say tohis students “Garbage in, garbage out…..”• In a nutshell, practicing is about the confluence oftroubleshooting and wise decision making. In my home, thelid of my washing machine provides me with a list that readssomething along the lines of: “If this problem happens…checkthis.” I encourage my students to use a similar approach in theirpracticing by understanding the cause and effect relationship oftheir decisions/actions. If a passage is out of tune, then checkthis… Is your sound quality in Brahms causing eyebrows to goup? Then look towards the sound checklist for improvementoptions. By assembling a personalized laundry list that pairsproblems with potential corresponding solutions, practicing canbe far more efficient and productive. Nearly all obstacles havemultiple alternatives for improvements; fostering creative thinkingin the practice room is key. I encourage my students to hardwirereliable, creative solutions for the moment which can always bereassessed or redesigned for future performances.16 DON’T BE A GAMBLER• If the requirements call for learning an entire movement, dojust that. Trying to second guess how far a committee will listenis playing with fire; you can easily get burned.• Knowing that many auditions tend to hover around a brieften minutes, the temptation to focus on select, “standard”sections within lengthy movements or complete works is almosttoo irresistible. However, are you really willing to risk gamblingaway your entire investment (time and money) for a few lesshours of practice?Some interesting case studies:• A few years years back, a friend auditioning for a majororchestra was asked to begin playing Don Juan on thesecond page.• I was once present at an audition where the applicantwas asked to begin playing the Brahms Violin Concertoafter the cadenza.• A friend relayed the sad case of an orchestral auditionwhere a candidate was turning in a first class behind-thescreenaudition. Then, inexplicably, one of the excerpts fellfar short of the preceding standard. Thinking that it wasa lapse in concentration, the applicant was given anothergo at the excerpt but unfortunately, to the same end. Itbecame clear to the committee that the applicant did not
15anticipate being asked that particular passage in themovement. He was eliminated with the rationale thatif it was not important enough for him/her to learn theentire movement as required, he/she was not the kind ofmusician that was desirable to the orchestra.• While I was listening to an audition recording ofthe Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, the performancemysteriously cut off at the end of the cadenza. Thinkingthat the applicant was most likely using this performancefor other auditions as well, I wanted to alert him/herto the problem, deciding to put in a personal call. Notonly was the applicant surprised to hear from me, s/he was shocked to learn that I had listened to his/herperformance through the cadenza. Given the heading ofthis section, I’ll let you come to your own conclusions…As a postscript, I’d like to share one final musing. Forthose who choose music as a profession, we are allunited in one overriding sentiment - music is our life’spassion. In fact, I have always felt that music chose me.Take on the journey with hopeful optimism, believing thatthere is room for everyone in the profession at onelevel or another. Remove the word “audition” from yourlexicon and replace it with the more user friendly terms“performance” or “rendition.” View each opportunity tosecure a spot in the musical arena as your moment toshine and showcase your love for your art form. Whenmy students embark on their journeys, my parting wordsof advice are always the same: continue forward as youhave been all along. You don’t need to get ready; yourwork habits have kept you ready.