Curtis audition

<p>I play viola and I'm Planning on auditioning for the Curtis School of Music soon and I'm preparing their audition repertoire and let me tell you its insane my private teacher chose Full Bartok Concerto, Full Bach Suite No. 4, Full Brahms Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E flat major (transcribed) and scales of course. All from memory except the Brahms. I know its overwhelming so I wanted tips on how to even start practicing?</p>

<p>I don't mean this to sound flippant or insensitive. It is true that you have to have all this music in your fingers so you go at it like eating an elephant - one bite at a time. I suggest setting benchmarks for between now and next March and be very strict with yourself about meeting them. Number two - take solace in the fact that, other than a certain conservatory in NYC, if you have this rep memorized, every other audition will seem like a light practice session. You'll need to have backups because the reality is that if they even take a viola next year (who knows if the need one at this point) they might take one or two and you're competing against the world, and not just the world of high school seniors. They will frequently admit younger students or graduate students. I think this year for cello, four people got callbacks and only one of those four was a true HS senior (one younger, two older). An immensely talented group.</p>

<p>But don't worry about it - it will be your last audition and you will have gone through the Bach before other audition panels and feel very comfortable with it. If history is any guide, you'll play the concerto on day 1 but you'll likely only have to play the sonata if you get a callback. My child did several auditions this year and I don't think anyone asked him to play a scale - that doesn't mean that you won't have to, and I'm sure you're working scales every day if you're a serious student, but I wouldn't fret over the scales.</p>

<p>Good luck, don't get an overwhelmed feeling - you have nine months before you play in Philadelphia and you can get through this. It's hard but it's not insane.</p>

<p>I can't speak to the specifics at Curtis, since no one I know has auditioned there recently, but I do know that it is a very tough audition, the program being tuition free and small means the competition is fierce, as hard as any place you could find. </p>

<p>If you are learning these pieces from scratch, then i agree, take them in small chunks, that is what I have generally heard from a number of teachers at master classes and so forth I have sat in on with my S. The other piece of advice that seems to be common is to take it slow, to get down the technique/intonation/etc, then build it up to its full speed, don't try and learn it at full speed. </p>

<p>The other thing is if you truly want to try for Curtis (or any other high level program, for that matter) then I would recommend focusing all your time on that goal, or at least as much time as you can. Obviously you probably are going to have school requirements and such, but if you are thinking about getting into a high level music program, then that should be the focus IMO, to gain the time on the pieces I suspect you are going to need. Keep in mind that some of the kids doing that audition may have been working on their audition repertoire for a long time, could be several years, and that may mean you have a bit of work to match that level. Obviously, this is all just based on what I know, which isn't the be all and end all, more like the other end of things, and chances are you already have developed a lot of the technique and such you will need on the audition and I would assume your teacher also thinks you are capable, so it is doable I would suspect. I would guess it will mean giving up things you normally do to devote to working on the audition, but keep in mind that the audition, especially at Curtis, is pretty much the whole picture.</p>

<p>My other recommendation is if teachers at Curtis are willing to do sample lessons with prospective students, to take advantage of that if you can (it could also be that teachers there generally don't take such requests, others on here would know). I do know at other programs it can be helpful, both in id'ing a teacher a student can work with (and vice versa), and it also potentially can give you an edge over a student auditioning cold i.e without meeting a teacher or teachers first (I say potentially, because it may be an edge,not a guarantee). Keep in mind that with admission to music programs, as has been talked about ad hom on here, that it isn't just the audition, it is also that a teacher wants to take you as well (and there is room, of course; you can blow the roof of the audition, and not get in, because they aren't admitting any of your instrument that year). By doing sample lessons with faculty, you are getting exposure that may lead to help with getting admitted.</p>

<p>First of all, do not neglect the scales because you feel overloaded with everything else. My daughter auditioned at several conservatories and the only one that asked her to play scales was Curtis. On bass, they make everyone do scales because the main bass teacher there feels that he can tell quite a bit about a bass player by the way they approach a three-octave Bb scale with arpeggios. I do not know if it is the same for viola, but it is certainly possible so do not assume that you will not be asked to play scales there.</p>

<p>At least some of the Curtis faculty are willing to do sample lessons. If you live near Philadelphia or can make a second trip before your audition, it would be very valuable to pursue this. If you happen to attend a summer program that includes a Curtis viola teacher among its faculty, that would be a great place to seek supplemental lessons. Another possibility is to take some lessons with a current Curtis viola student or a recent grad. They will know what the teachers in question are looking for. My daughter studied with a Curtis student for two years before her audition there and, although she did not get in, it helped her tremendously in preparing. From what I heard, she might have been accepted had there been another slot or two open that year.</p>

<p>Another thing to consider is that the one student selected on bass the year she auditioned had taken a gap year with the sole objective of preparing his audition. After graduating from Interlochen, he moved in with a relative near Boston to study with a well-known private teacher there. If you do not think you can learn all you will need in nine months and really want to get into Curtis, spending another full year practicing without the pressure of attending high school may be worth considering.</p>

<p>A strings prof at one of the info sessions we attended told the group that he could tell how long someone was practicing their scales every day just by listening to how they played their audition piece.</p>

<p>:o</p>

<p>I support the scale practice recommendation of others. Even if they are "never asked for" for your instrument: I have read countless times that Juilliard never ever hears the post-1939 piece that they require of violinists. Guess what? My son was asked to play his post-1939 piece at his Juilliard audition (and he did get in to Juilliard). So even if a school hasn't asked to hear something in their requirements in years on your instrument, you should still prepare it if it is in their requirements!</p>

<p>If you find the prospect of preparing just one full concerto and one full Bach suite by memory "overwhelming" (your word), then it is possible that Curtis is not the place for you. Many of the Curtis students either have begun their performing careers or are on the cusp of their careers. I have limited knowledge of Curtis auditioners, but all of those that I have known, have had several full concertos (by several, I mean between 5 and 15) under their belts when they have auditioned (and by "under their belts," I mean that the concerti have been taken far beyond the memory stage: they have been performed in public usually a few times, although most often with piano rather than orchestra). Many have participated in international competitions and have played solo with decent orchestras (i.e. not their hometown youth or community orchestra). </p>

<p>Certainly, Curtis admits students with relatively little performing experience if the students have the potential to become major international stars.</p>

<p>I do not mean to discourage you. Does your teacher have a track record of students with admissions to Curtis, Juilliard, Colburn, NEC, CIM, Shepherd, Peabody, Indiana etc.? If they do and are preparing you to audition at Curtis, then I'm sure they are in the best position to advise you as to how to attack the "overwhelming" mountain of music in front of you.</p>

<p>Because Curtis teachers are accustomed to working primarily with students who have an excellent command of their instruments, frequently they are not the best instructors for students that still have a ways to go in terms of getting around their instruments. My son was assured by one of the leading violin teachers who teaches at one of the leading summer programs that he would undoubtably get into Curtis if he auditioned, but he chose not to audition because we felt that there were teachers elsewhere who were better suited to students like him who still had to gain more command of the instrument. The size of the Curtis repertoire requirements was not an issue (he had all of it in his fingers and brain plus plenty more). </p>

<p>Please, don't misinterpret my comments about Curtis teachers. Most are excellent and have well-deserved reputations for building world-class musicians. Teacher fit is what counts, and we felt we could get a better fit elsewhere.</p>

<p>Also, note that for viola, in addition to what you have listed, Curtis requires an unaccompanied piece by Reger or Hindemith.</p>

<p>Speihei: I am curious. Which NYC conservatory has repertoire requirements comparable to Curtis? Not Juilliard: for violin Juilliard only requires two movements of a single concerto, two Bach movements, a post-1939, an etude and scales. Curtis requires two full concerti, a full Bach suite, a Paganini caprice, and scales. For most students, Curtis is roughly double the Juilliard repertoire in terms of time.</p>

<p>I was planning on taking the same audition 4 years ago with very similar rep (not much variety on viola for sure) before I took a completely different career direction. </p>

<p>Like everyone else said, you're competing against not only the best young violists in the world (which is a steadily increasing number), but also the best violinists in the world who decided for one reason or another to switch to viola (i.e. McInnes, Kashkashian, primrose, diaz, vernon etc). There's a reason why many of the best violists in the world were once violinists: you may be able to play every Flesch scale, but Paganini caprices are an echelon beyond. This is your real competition for the 4(?) possible slots in the studios. </p>

<p>That said, here are some tips for tackling the rep:
1. Bach: Learn your bach in chunks and memorize it while you learn it. It's really easy to lose track of where you are in Bach.
2. Bartok: Be able to sing it (in your mind). This is a Kashkashian technique. Bartok spent a lot of time composing folk melodies. They are all over the place. You can't be lyrical if you can't sing it.
3. Brahms: The first movement intonation is a killer. Practice it note by note. The other movements are okay (in my opinion). There are all sorts of mood and color changes throughout this piece. Make sure to have a clear idea of which ones you're trying to portray.</p>

<p>Obviously, it's going to take more than memorizing and being able to hum melodies to get into a school like Curtis. Start early, stay consistent, and keep a schedule!</p>

<p>The obvious (but I don't think it has been stated here): to prepare what feels like an overwhelming amount of repertoire to you, you must put in the time. The pianists, violinists, violists, and cellists that I am aware of who have auditioned at Curtis have all practiced in the range of 4 to 7 hours per day (mostly home-schooled). I'm sure there are some that have gotten in with fewer hours, but I suspect that it is a very rare person who is admitted who does less than 3 hours on those instruments (brass, woodwinds, and voice are different--generally they just can't invest the same amount of time without damaging vocal chords/embouchure). </p>

<p>If you are putting in this sort of time and you are genuine Curtis material, then it should only be a matter of weeks before you have the repertoire memorized.</p>

<p>Create opportunities to perform the repertoire prior to your first audition. Even if the performance is to a few family members or friends in your living room, it gives you a very different experience than what you get in your practice room. Ideally, your first audition should not be the first or second or even fifth time that you have played the rep for an audience.</p>

<p>Curtis is for people who want to perform. You need to be doing lots of performing before entering Curtis. If you are, then the audition will not be that big a deal.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Speihei: I am curious. Which NYC conservatory has repertoire requirements comparable to Curtis? Not Juilliard: for violin Juilliard only requires two movements of a single concerto, two Bach movements, a post-1939, an etude and scales. Curtis requires two full concerti, a full Bach suite, a Paganini caprice, and scales. For most students, Curtis is roughly double the Juilliard repertoire in terms of time.

[/quote]

What I meant was the if you have the Curtis rep. down, you have every other school covered except Juilliard because Juilliard has the additional post-1939 piece. I did not mean that the Juilliard rep. was more or less demanding, just that it had an additional requirement that the other conservatories don't have. Point being, if you know the Curtis rep., the only school where you have to learn something extra is Juilliard.</p>

<p>@BassDad, my comment about scales was based upon our cello experience. And remember that I never suggested neglecting scales - a player at this level is playing scales every day. My child is already accepted, wrapped, and ready to go. He's still playing scales every day as part of the practice routine. All I said was don't fret over them. </p>

<p>As far as your experience, we know someone who did the bass audition; the Bb scale story is well-known among all bass players (so much so that I believe bass players auditioning at Curtis eschew other scales just to work on the Bb scale.) I wouldn't for a moment suggest that a player neglect the scales but I'll stick to what I said, in my child's instrument, the scales were never requested. YMMV. For the OP, I suggest asking around as to how the auditions go at any school. Professors, like most human beings, are creatures of habit. You can learn much to anticipate how your audition will likely go and then plan accordingly.</p>

<p>I'll also echo violindad here: if you put in the practice, the memorization aspect of the audition is not going to be an issue. I was shocked at how fast my child was able to memorize the second and third movements of the Dvorak concerto - had the first movement down almost a year in advance but really didn't go after the second and third movements until well into the school year and had them down cold by March. Of course, didn't get to play them because didn't get a callback (you only play part of the first movement on day 1) but the experience of learning the entire concerto was well worth it.</p>

<p>speihei,</p>

<p>I certainly agree that anyone at that level should be working their scales every day. Still, at least the bass players who want to get into Curtis would do well to put in a lot of extra work on their 3-octave Bb scales with arpeggios. It is a critical part of the audition and Hal Robinson looks for some very specific things in the way it is played. Anyone who does not know about this going into the audition could be at a big disadvantage.</p>

<p>I do not know if there is some equivalent for the viola auditions but, if there is, then the applicant would be well advised to give that particular scale much more attention than they might have otherwise done. Whether that can be called fretting on a fretless instrument is another matter.</p>

<p>Even if there is no similar scale that is as important for viola auditions, the OP seemed stressed out about the audition rep. In cases like that, it might be tempting to put less time in on scales in order to devote more time to the required pieces. I just wanted to advise the OP against making that decision. So, I guess we are saying that it may not be necessary to fret over your scales (if you are not a bass player) but you certainly do not want to neglect them.</p>