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Audition Advice for music students and their parents

akapiratequeenakapiratequeen 1042 replies35 threads Senior Member
Starting a new thread to make all the great advice shared on the "journey" boards easily searchable for future applicants. Please chime in with your best advice. So far:

Be aware that auditions take many forms. Most will specify the material they want you to learn, or give you a range, on the music school websites. Be sure to reach out and ask directly if you want to make changes -- some schools are fine with it but others are not. Some will require prescreen videos before you even get in the door.

A few examples of the audition process at specific schools, ranging from ten-minute solo performances to all-day extravaganzas:

*Eastman School of Music asks you to allow nine hours. This includes: Introduction and faculty concert. Theory test. Ear training test. Warmup time. One-on-one audition which may or may not incorporate the pieces the student has been asked to learn. (Especially true if you have done a prescreen video. Be prepared to duplicate it but don't be surprised to find you don't get through much of it.) One-on-one interview with prospective advisor or admissions representative. Group lesson (classical) or group jam (jazz) with other applicants.

*BU and NYU/Music Ed both take 10-20 minutes. Show up, warm up, do the pieces they've asked for, maybe answer a couple of questions (why do you want to come here? Where else are you applying?). Set up campus tours separately if you are interested.

*Ithaca College, among others, takes about half a day. Intro/sign in, welcome by deans and admissions people, 1-2 student/faculty performances, then short theory/ear training test and audition period. Coffee for the parents in a lounge but you will be done by lunchtime. Jazz applicants should expect to do both a jazz audition (3 tunes) with a student combo and a modified classical audition (1-2 pieces) unaccompanied.

*Berklee is organized and gets you in and out. Sign in at the specified time and wait in an auditorium with other applicants. You will be called out and escorted first to a warm-up room, then to an individual audition in front of a panel of 2-3 faculty, and finally to a short interview with an admissions counselor. You will play scales and warm-up materials plus one piece that "you feel represents you well." The whole process takes about an hour, although allow extra time in case they run late.

A few other tips:
*Most schools listen to all audition results and make one set of offers. So it doesn't matter if you audition in Week 1 or Week 3. Choose the dates that are most convenient for you, when you are likely to be well-rested and at your best.

*The exception to this rule is Early Action (non-binding) or Early Decision (binding) auditions/applications. As the name implies, these auditions take place early (usually in December) and you will be notified in late December or January if you got in. If possible, try to do one early action audition, preferably at a school that isn't top of your list, to get through the nerves and get familiar with the process (as well as, hopefully, get one admission in your back pocket).

*Experienced parents also recommend applying to at least one school that does not require an audition. The degree in this case will be a BA in Music, not a BM (almost all BM degrees require an audition). The audition process is chancy no matter how talented or well-prepared you are, and it helps to know you have 1-2 choices that are not based on the number of slots available in a given studio in a given season.

*The audition process can be expensive and logistically difficult, so choose your priorities wisely. How many flights or long drives do you want to do in the middle of winter? How many hotel stays can you afford? Start stockpiling miles and hotel points early if you can. Also, book hotels immediately after learning your audition dates, preferably at large chains where you can change or cancel with little notice if necessary.

*Start thinking about when you want to go. Most schools offer several weekends of auditions in late January, February and/or March, so space them out if you can (or combine if they are within a couple of hours of each other and don't overlap). This isn't true across the board, but some parents have found that students hit their strongest auditions in the middle of the arc--after they are past early nerves but before audition fatigue sets in. If possible, schedule top choices in the middle of the pack.

*Some schools (Oberlin comes to mind) offer discounted or free transportation and hotels to applicants with need. Check with music departments if this is an issue for you. Alternately, most schools accept video auditions if finances or logistics make travel impossible. Parents suggest making the effort to actually go to the top schools on a student's list and deciding the rest on a case-by-case basis. Keep in mind that in-person auditions do more than impress the school -- they give students their first true impression of what life at that school will be like.

*When traveling, allow extra time whenever you can. Auditions are almost never canceled due to weather, so you may be delayed, have canceled flights, or run into a storm that causes a 3-hour drive to double or triple. For morning auditions where the drive is over a couple of hours, arrive the night before. It's not worth blowing an audition to avoid a hotel room for one night.

*Keep your student rested. Pour on the sanitizers to keep germs at bay. Vocalists can take advantage of nifty in-room humidifiers and steamers. Instrumentalists may want to bring a mute for practicing in hotel rooms, and/or ask the hotel if they have a place where they can practice (unused conference rooms, ball rooms and restaurants as well as fitness centers have all served as practice rooms).

*Reach out to individual faculty and studio heads. Some will set up sample lessons during the audition weekend, others will not. It never hurts to get your name out there.

*After the auditions, students should follow up with thank-you emails to any faculty who put special effort into their audition or who they especially liked. It's not necessary to write to everyone on your panel, but if the head of the jazz program spent 45 minutes hearing about your hopes and dreams it couldn't hurt.

*Expect your students' (and your) opinion of the schools to change during the audition process. Remember that you, your student, and the school are all looking for the right fit.

*Keep in mind that auditions are a marathon, not a sprint. You may start with an early action audition on Dec 1 but do the final audition March 10. (Most are in late Jan. to early March, and more and more people seem to be finishing up by mid- to late-Feb.). This is especially hard on kids who watch their non-music friends declare preferences in December through February while they are still waiting for offers.

*After auditions come another period of waiting. Some schools notifying people within a couple of weeks of their final audition date (late Feb-mid-March) while others wait until the end of March. Technically, all notifications are due in by April 1. The student then has a month to weigh offers and attend accepted student days, if desired, before committing to their school by May 1.

I hope this is helpful, and that others will chime in with advice that I have missed. Good luck and happy auditions to all!














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Replies to: Audition Advice for music students and their parents

  • HereWeGoAgain2018HereWeGoAgain2018 249 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Fantastic compilation! Thanks for taking the time to do this.
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  • WestOfPCHWestOfPCH 107 replies1 threads Junior Member
    The following is a list of legendary audition recommendations made by Jim Wilt, Associate Principal Trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Trumpet professor at The Colburn School. The comments were originally made on another website discussion group regarding a 2006 2nd Trumpet audition for the LA Phil (won by Christopher Still who still sits in the chair) and a couple comments are trumpet specific, but all of the underlying wisdom and most of the general comments are equally valid for college classical music auditions for any instrument or even vocalists :


    1) Sound is king. Do not try to artificially darken your sound by lipping everything down - you will end up with a dead, flat sound, and you will also end up back at the airport a day early. Many, many candidates went down for this reason. Conversely, do not squeeze up on the notes, either. Tight sounds do not win jobs. Play right down the middle of the horn, where the sound spins. On every note. Including the fast ones.

    2) Do not neglect the metronome when you are preparing - I don't care what level player you are - do it. You will be amazed at the tendencies you will notice and (hopefully) correct. This goes for counting your rests, too.

    3) Don't assume that because the LA Phil (or any other band) is a "big-time" orchestra, we want to hear everything really loud. There were more 300 lbs ballerinas than I care to think about . When an excerpt calls for you to really rip it, then yes, by all means show us what you have (with a good sound), but you had better show us the flip side, too. Remember, there may be more than a few viola or bassoon players on that committee, and you can bet they're thinking "do I really want to sit in front of that?

    4) Along those lines, if it is marked p or pp we want to hear it softly. Not so softly that you ghost every other note, or to the point it sounds weak or scared, however. Just don't come out and play your Academic Festival at a comfortable mf.

    5) Get intimate with your tuner. Yes, it is a tool based on an equal-tempered scale, but it will show you if you are really flat or really sharp.

    6) Play with good rhythm. Should be a no-brainer. You'd be surprised at the variations we heard on the second mvt of Dvorak 8, or Siegfried's Funeral March, etc. And the opening fanfare before the Ballerina Dance? Uh, the beat is in eight notes there, so that low C gets four of 'em.

    7) Unless you are willing to get a recording and listen to the whole piece, don't waste your money on airfare. It was brutally obvious that some had just listened to the excerpt, or that they had learned it from the guy in the next practice room. Do yourself a favor and go to iTunes and spend a buck on each piece. Do this before you try to learn the piece. If a list says "sight-reading may be required", a good place to look is the dark corners of the pieces that are already on the list...

    8.) Pick reasonable tempos - some guys cratered because they tried to play some things too fast. Don't volunteer to show us "what you can't do". If we want to know, we'll ask...

    9) Be honest in your preparation. If there are problems, you can bet we'll hear 'em if you can. Fix them instead of pretending they're not there, or hoping we won't "ask for that one".

    10) Ask yourself "why is this piece on the list?" Figure out what qualities we are looking for in a particular excerpt, and make sure you demonstrate them. In other words, we want to hear versatility. It should sound like the same person, but a person with a HUGE tool bag. Lyrical pieces like Pines or the Posthorn solo have tremendous potential to show how beautifully you can turn a phrase - don't leave that opportunity on the table.

    11) Don't be afraid to shine. The committee is looking for someone to say "I'm the one". That means, in addition to doing everything I just said, you need to make all of that sound like it is second nature to you, freeing up your conscious energy to concentrate on actually making music. I want to hear patience. I want to hear someone who puts the proper space between the 16th notes on Siegfried to give the impression of weight - same goes for the aforementioned Dvorak 8th. I want to hear someone who plays with purpose, direction and intensity. Play these excerpts like they are actual pieces of music, which they are. You need to know the context in order to do that.


    Chris played great. He did not play the most accurate audition (darn close), but he consistently played with refinement, a great, centered sound, and attention to musical nuance and detail. He did not panic when a note went by the wayside. He showed poise and maturity, which is very reassuring to someone who might be sitting next to him for the next 20 years. He showed a huge range of musical expression, and was not afraid to cut loose when appropriate. His technique was clean and reliable - it did not fail him under pressure. You could tell he took the rotary and cornet seriously, too.

    I hope this doesn't come off sounding too harsh, but it was sometimes frustrating to hear players that you knew were capable, but just did not prepare properly or take it seriously enough. I know in some cases, audition jitters just get the best of us (believe me when I say I've played some really bad ones), but you don't want to make unnecessary mistakes.

    Now get practicing for the next one!
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  • WestOfPCHWestOfPCH 107 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Another great recommendation from Jim Wilt . . .

    "Run up and down some stairs (or jog in place) and then sit down to play. See how quickly you can get your body under control with your heart pounding.

    The week of the audition, you should be giving yourself one shot at each excerpt per practice session. Get used to playing through any mistakes or takes that "don't feel good". You have to go in with the mentality that you must be mentally focussed before you play the first note, not that you can "stick your toe in the water" to test things out before committing."
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  • akapiratequeenakapiratequeen 1042 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I have to say my S isn’t yet at the level for most of these, though they are brilliant!
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38776 replies2127 threads Super Moderator
    edited March 23
    ^I love that advice! My heart would pound so hard before I played piano publicly! It was one reason I decided not to major in piano performance.
    edited March 23
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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  • jacolejacole 36 replies0 threads Junior Member
    My son was just waitlisted for Miami. At least it’s over. We are not interest in waitlist bc I am sure he can’t get a scholarship off waitlist. He is accepted to Belmont, Calarts, and 3 others. But neither cal arts or Belmont have merit scholarships. We are holding out now for Berklee which does not come out to end of month. He is a singer songwriter and I think he would have had hard time Academicilly at Miami. Not that focused in monmisic classes.
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  • Busy_MommaBusy_Momma 74 replies2 threads Junior Member
    I'm sorry @jacole for the waitlist, but congratulations to your S on the other admits. It does sound like your S does have some other options, with Berklee still to look forward to at the end of the month. You should share this news in the other thread- Tours, Auditions and Journey.
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  • TxSkerTxSker 199 replies19 threads Junior Member
    I think the best bit of advice I can give and I think it has already be given is to identify the schools you are really interested in. Use whatever resources you have to identify them, private lesson teachers etc. that can help you find a good fit for YOU. Then do whatever you can to visit the schools early and get a private lesson with the professor. Remember that relationship will be the most important one you will have in the 4 years at the school. IMHO it is WAY more important than the 'prestige' of the school itself.

    These worlds are small and if you are looking to go to graduate school you can bet that these people know which professors are cranking out good quality students regardless of the name of the institution they teach at. Don't get dazzled by the name of the institution, get dazzled by the professor and the FIT and comfort level your student has with that professor.
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  • parentologistparentologist 162 replies11 threads Junior Member
    The information contained in this thread is priceless. Thank you, all!
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