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OMG, Auditions!

October 7, 2020

There are so many things to discuss when it comes to conservatory auditions. The musical preparation, getting through the nerves, pre- and post-audition routines, knowing what to wear … the list goes on and on! Since there are tons of resources out there about those aspects of auditioning, I want to explore a topic not commonly touched upon in regards to the conservatory audition process.

Many people don’t think about it this way, but the entire process of auditioning for schools can act as greater preparation for a career in music. Knowing how to handle an audition, one that, say, didn’t pan out well, is a skill that’s required to persevere as a performer. So, here are some ways that college music auditions can prepare you for a career as a musician. 

  • They allow us to practice the art of auditioning. We all know the importance of practicing our music, but what about practicing auditioning? It’s almost like a separate art form. Conservatory auditions are opportunities to begin to learn what you’re like in that setting. On top of that, you can start practicing for college auditions as a model for auditions later in life. The best way to do this is by having a number of mock auditions in advance of the real thing. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident when you have to step in front of the panel. It also helps you get past the “practice room mode” and into the performance mode of making music. If your audition will be recorded (as most are now), record yourself a few times to see and hear what’s working for you and what’s not. Incorporating this step into your conservatory audition process will be a huge benefit for when you audition for other things later down the line, like a spot in a really awesome young artist program!
  • They provide an opportunity to make long-term audition goals. This process is also a great training ground for building your personal expectations in an audition setting. Few - if any - auditions will ever be perfect, so have a few, specific goals in mind, things you definitely want to accomplish. These shouldn’t be tied to the outcome of your audition per se, but rather they are overarching things you intend to do in your audition. Maybe it’s remembering to smile and be yourself because you know you tend to get really nervous, or perhaps it is making sure you nail a phrase you’ve struggled with in the past. Make a little list of things and create a plan to do them. This way, no matter what happens after the audition, you’ll have a way to find your own victories—and this is all about you, right!?
  • They help us begin to see auditions as learning moments. All auditions—both the good and not so good—have something to teach us. Did you feel comfortable in your last audition? Why? What happened or what did you do to feel positive about that experience? Take this process as a chance to look beyond your moments of success or “failure” and use those experiences to help you plan for the next one. 
  • They reveal that it’s all subjective. Oftentimes, many things impact the final decision of an audition, and some of these things may not have anything to do with your playing, but rather, the perception of the person listening to you – and that is always contextual. I’ve had many instances where I’ve listened to a recording one time and not love what I heard, but then stumble upon it again later and totally enjoy the music-making. Here in the conservatory admissions office, we’ve seen a number of cases where a student does not get into Oberlin but does get accepted at another amazing music school, and vice versa. The factors that go into evaluating a successful audition include things out of your control. Thus, I encourage you to treat it like a performance and just share your best given where you are now! 
  • They will help you learn that it’s not the end-all, be-all. If things don’t go the way you’d like them to, take the moment you need to process and learn from that and keep moving. Not getting accepted does not mean you aren’t a good (or even great) musician. And you’ll see that no matter what happens, things will be all right. You’ll come to know that your entire ability as a musician cannot be fully summed up in any one moment. I know you’re thinking: “that’s exactly what auditions do!” and yes, auditions are short, specific events where it feels as if your performance is quickly judged. However, there is more to your artistry than one moment. And auditions don’t always give space to all of the growth you will make and progress you have made. Therefore, learning how to deal with undesired results from an audition now by not letting it completely bring you down is great practice for the road ahead—which is not to say you’ll deal with a “no” often, but it does come with the territory. 

Let me end by saying that success is a big part of the process, too! Be proud of the auditions you pass, the things you nail, the hard work you’ve put in, and the perseverance you’ve shown. Fully celebrating yourself is a career skill also and it’s important to cheer for yourself (and the occasional praise from others never hurts either).

Hopefully, this helps you brave these virtual auditions! Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.  

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