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Thoughts on Audition Weekend

February 10, 2019

It’s the end of the second audition weekend here at Oberlin!

If my memory serves me well, and I’m not confident that it does, I auditioned at eight different colleges. Oberlin was my second to last audition, and I was getting a bit tired of travelling to new places and playing (mostly) the same music for different professors. All of the auditions managed to blur together, to a certain extent, but I remember a lot of aspects of my Oberlin audition.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Oberlin was my first choice school, or that the audition weekend was a little weird, or that I took my awkwardly iconic audition photo (the picture is all the way at the bottom of this blog post). I’d like to reflect on all of the above and give some other miscellaneous thoughts and suggestions.

I have always been a proponent of gut feelings. When you travel to a college to take an audition (this doesn’t apply if you send in a recording or attend a regional audition, but that’s a problem for a different day), it can be a good way to clue your gut in on whether or not you like the atmosphere, the student body, the professor you would be studying with, and other aspects. Some of my auditions more than others involved gut feelings. They managed to be both positive and negative.

Some professors treat auditions as a sort of mini-lesson. Depending on how the professor runs their auditions, your audition can be a good time to see if a professor is a good fit. There was one school I auditioned at that did not go very well at all. I felt very jittery and performed quite poorly. I walked out of the room knowing that I would not get into the school, and knowing that if I somehow did get in, I would not want to go there. My interaction with the horn professor did not do anything to convince me that this was someone I wanted to study with for several years. I didn’t get good vibes from walking around the campus and the music building.

Sometimes bad gut feelings are good. Auditioning for colleges, like applying to colleges to study things other than music, isn’t about getting into every one–it’s about gaining experience and learning that your initial impression of a school may not be exactly as you expected it. Don’t be discouraged if one audition doesn’t go well, because college rejections and bad auditions don’t mean you’re a bad musician. Additionally, stressing about the audition once you arrive on campus is not going to do you any favors; just trust yourself that you’ve prepared adequately, and go with your gut.

And let me say, as far as gut feelings go, the student lounge at any given music school is a good way to get a vibe for the students. Although it is just a collection of couches and chairs, I really do believe that Oberlin’s is top notch. It looks out over the koi pond, is located right in the heart of the conservatory, and is a central space for hanging out and de-stressing.

It’s also where check-in for audition weekend happens.Now we’ve arrived at the part of this post where I try to attempt to describe how to get to the practice rooms from the lounge.

I searched for a floor plan and could not find one, but to explain it in words, the conservatory building is split up into four connected parts: Conservatory Central (where the lounge, Kulas Recital Hall, Warner Concert Hall, a few small ensemble rehearsal rooms, and many lockers are); Bibbins (where many faculty offices, classrooms, and Stull Recital Hall are); Robertson (where the practice rooms are); and Kohl (the jazz building). Although they are all connected, they were all built at different times, and are therefore somewhat difficult to navigate.

How to find the practice rooms: walking into the lounge from outside, through the west door, walk in a few steps and then take the branch to the right. From there, continue down the hallway and turn left (going right through the double doors will take you to Warner Concert Hall). Keep going until the hall forces you to the right, and continue that way down the small ramp until you can’t go straight anymore.

On your way, you’ll see an opening with a staircase and an elevator, but do not go up that staircase or elevator, because they will take you to the Kohl Building, not Robertson.

After the small ramp, when you can’t go straight anymore (you’ll see the office of Professional Development in front of you), you can go either right or left (the elevator to the practice rooms is to the right) and eventually you’ll run into a staircase that will take you to practice rooms on the second or third floor. All of the rooms on the first floor are offices, bass practice rooms, and percussion practice rooms, so don’t try and go into one of those.

Hopefully those directions can help, or at least will make more sense in the moment you need them. You can always ask current students for directions instead of wandering; everyone is very used to people asking for directions in our maze of a conservatory.

Lastly, remember that a lot of things on the audition weekend agenda are optional; I definitely recommend taking a campus tour and/or a conservatory tour (they are indeed two different things). Skip what you need to so you don’t feel rushed for time, and do things to your comfort level. My mom always wanted me to talk to current students and ask questions, but I never wanted to do that, or go to any of the student question and answer panels. Just trust in yourself to do the best you can.

Good luck on audition weekend!

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