Before I begin, I want to take the time to explain that I have not yet won an orchestral audition, so if you think I am not properly qualified to write an article about proper audition preparation, please bear with me. I do not define success by winning the audition, but by finding a method that helps to make the most out of the audition experience.
I felt it would only be appropriate to write about this topic, considering I will be flying out to an audition on Wednesday of this week. My own preparation has been at the forefront of my mind, so it’s only kind to share!
As musicians, we tend to worry so much about our musical preparation that other aspects of the audition become secondary to us. As a young undergraduate, I would think, “As long as my excerpts are perfect, everything else will take care of itself.”
Well, now (at 25), I absolutely care about how I prepare myself for an audition outside of the music. Comes with age, I suppose? It might be because I feel much older than I actually am.
(or it’s my gray hair)
Give Yourself Time (or Don’t)
Plan to arrive at least 24-36 hours before your audition, ESPECIALLY if you’re planning to fly. This will hopefully give you a cushion to re-book flights if you get stuck in any delays, and still arrive in enough time to get yourself situated and get focused.
For me, I find that I function much better when I don’t feel rushed, but if I have too much time sitting idle, I get incredibly anxious. I like to bring other repertoire or work with me to pass the time before I head to the audition site, or even research what there is to do in the town I’m staying. A distraction is helpful for me on audition day; no need to get nervous or anxious until it’s time!
Note: it is incredibly poor form to practice anything other than your audition repertoire while you’re in the warm-up rooms at your audition. If you feel you need to play early in the day, only then would be a good time to play something else to relax your nerves. In your hotel room. Away from your potential future employer.
If you’re the type that gets incredibly anxious over being rushed, plan out your time in the days leading up to and days after the audition. Plan your meals, meditation, visualization, warmup, listening, naps (yes, naps, why not?)…whatever you generally do before your audition. Stick to a schedule!
Don’t Eat Like Crap…But Don’t Drastically Change Your Diet Either
It doesn’t matter what your friends say may help them, but the less change immediately leading up to the audition, the better. If you want to try eating a banana before your mock auditions to see if it helps you with your nerves, go right ahead. Want to see what cutting caffeine will do? Don’t do that right before an audition unless you know your body can handle it. Do your experiments at home in the weeks before.
Personally, I will drink multiple cups of decaf or a couple cups of half-caf per day, but when the audition day comes around, I do not drink coffee. My heart rate is already elevated and I wake up amped up, so I know I don’t need the extra stimulant in my system. Know your body! Know what you can and cannot handle and stick with it. No amount of bananas will likely make you win the job.
(Fruit is great, though…but I hate bananas. For real.)
On audition day, I do my best to avoid exceptionally greasy food because I tend to avoid that kind of food on a day-to-day basis. I don’t go out adventure dining, but I don’t stick to bread and water, either. Balanced meals that you’re used to eating will do the trick just fine.
However, if you’re used to eating McDonald’s on the regular...go pound those Chicken McNuggets! The point is…eat what you’re used to eating. There’s nothing special you need to do on audition day unless you find it absolutely necessary.
A last thought: Snacks. If you tend to get hungry every two hours like I do, bring snacks for yourself and make sure you’re fed. Pretzels are my favorite...I’ve found that a sandwich bag full of pretzels will hold me over for a few hours.
Explore Your Site
Scout out your audition site before you head to check in. Note parking places, familiarize yourself with public transit. If you couldn’t bring much of your own food on your trip, locate restaurants and convenience stores that are nearby. You may need a bite between rounds, if you have the time.
On audition day, just smile and be nice to everyone you meet even though you may be shaking on the inside. This doesn’t mean you have to “verbally compete” with your colleagues (otherwise known as trying to psych people out), but introducing yourself and asking how someone is will make you look calm, cool, and collected. Fake it til you make it…it helps me to fake being happy and excited when I’m nervous, because eventually I trick myself into being happy and excited.
Play the Music
This could have gone without saying…but technical proficiency is nothing without the music behind it. You are giving a performance; own it and show the committee what you have to offer. Every committee will be looking for something different, thus making the results relatively subjective. It’s imperative to stand by your product at this point and own the musical choices you’ve made.
Don’t Be a Sore Loser
If you don’t advance to the next round, quietly pack up your things and thank the personnel manager for the opportunity. You may be feeling all sorts of negative emotions right now, but wait until you get to the car to let them out. Once you’re calm, go through your recollection of the audition round and be 100% honest with yourself. Most of the time, you’ll find the reason you got cut.
Note: some orchestras will explicitly tell you that they won’t give comments, but in my experience, it doesn’t hurt to ask for comments in a respectful way. The worst anyone can say is no, and if they say yes, you’ll have a valuable resource at your disposal for your next audition.
Try to remember: you worked your tail off, you prepared the excerpts, and you spent the money to show up today. There are still a lot of flutists who are sitting at home, not taking this audition. You’re already ahead of them, and doing right by yourself to take this opportunity.
If you made it to the end, thank you for giving me a chance! There are an incredible number of resources out there to ease your preparation into a relatively fluid process, and discussion is welcome.