The competition heats up!
So you've become one of the best players in your school and are ready to audition for summer festivals or programs like Aspen or Tanglewood or take your first professional auditions.
At this point, pretty much all applicants can play the notes so just having the ability to perform the repertoire will not be enough to get you in.
When you prepare your audition, be aware that the jury will mainly consider five things:
1. Tone quality:
Your tone is like your signature. Spend some time every day to cultivate your sound by doing long tones, playing easy pieces etc. You may be the best available player among all candidates but you won't be chosen if the jury doesn't like your sound.
You can be sure that everyone on the panel will be counting and be on the look out for little rhythmical mistakes while you play. Don't give them reasons to eliminate you! Practice with metronome and mentally subdivide to make sure your rhythm is right. Record yourself and count carefully while you listen to your playing.
Intonation can sometimes be subjective. We all have our own personal habits so disagreements can occur. So you will have to rely on your own judgement for this one. Playing with piano helped me a lot personally. I also took a few minutes every day to play long tones with piano and tuner. I played the note on the piano while holding the pedal and then played the note on the horn with my eyes closed. Once I thought it was in tune, I opened my eyes to check the verdict. At first, I wasn't very good at it but I got better in a matter of days and my over all intonation improved a lot.
Most panels won't eliminate you for one or two missed notes. I've missed some notes in auditions and still won! Of course, you won't win if you miss every second note but worrying too much about it will only make you more nervous and you'll end up missing more.
To improve your accuracy, make sure you know your music well mentally and practice singing it with your voice. In the audition room, you might be nervous so practice taking deep breaths and filling your lungs before each phrase. It help you hit the right notes.
The most subjective of all five criteria. Some people may love what you do while some others hate it. The most important for you is to do something. Have a plan for each phrase. Come up with an idea for everything you play and rehearse it until it becomes second nature. Make sure you do it convincingly. You'll never please everybody but you will always gain the jury's respect by having strong musical ideas and showing them with confidence.
These five criteria will determine who gets chosen and who doesn't. It has nothing to do with how fast, high and loud you can play. It's all about the quality of your playing.
Keep these five elements in mind at all times when you prepare an audition and your chances will increase
I am associate principal horn of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the author of the progressive methods. I'm happy to share my experience as a horn player and teacher with you.