Audition Blast Off

If the Ice Capades are the musician's daily life, auditions are the Olympics.

Tonight, to begin the process of learning "the list" for one audition I'm taking, I opened the xeroxed and stapled packet of required excerpts to the first page. Many orchestras supply the music to clear up any confusion regarding various editions, articulations, dynamics, tempos and specific sections to be used. This list was concise, serving as requirement for a taped, preliminary round.

I put on an acceptable reed (not a great one, to challenge myself), turned on the recorder and began to play from the beginning of the list. No matter what happened, I kept going, as if it were the audition itself. Most of these excerpts were familiar to me, both from previous auditions and from many years as an orchestral player.

My purpose in doing this exercise was to grasp the big picture of what needed serious work and what only needed tuning up, both in particular excerpts and my general technique. This test also honed my concentration toward the larger perspective of the whole list as the goal, rather than individual excerpts each with it's own myriad challenges.

Afterwards, as I listened to the playback recording, I found with relief that I wasn't too far off the final target. Tempos were fairly steady, pitch good, tone good. A few of the excerpts were less deeply ingrained for me, being "tutti" parts, where everyone is playing, rather than the more common solo parts asked at auditions. Those definitely needed some wood-shedding to get them up to the level of the others.

The most important lesson I learned from this crash debut practice session was the need to work on consistency, probably the most elusive of the musician's skills. I remember Olivia Gutoff, my Junior High School band director in 1974, saying to me, "You cannot just practice until you play it right; you must practice until you cannot play it wrong!"

Those wise words have stuck, like a broken record, deep in my musician's soul.

I did a google search for Olivia Gutoff, and found her Artistic Director's summary of the '99-'00 season of the Maryland Classical Youth Orchestras, a position she held for many years. After several congratulatory paragraphs, she ends with some suggestions as to how her students might spend their Summer vacation.

It is also time to make scales more fluent, in-tune, and beautiful. And don't forget that chromatic scale! Take music books you don't generally work out of, and sight-read often. Ask your teacher to help you sight-read. It also helps to play duets, either with your teacher or with a friend.

One can never be over-prepared for an audition! Keep in mind that obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Ah, Olivia, you haven't changed a bit! And I am a better musician for having known you.

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2 comments for “Audition Blast Off

  1. Cesar Gomez
    June 25, 2010 at

    Hello David.
    I enjoyed reading your post. I landed on it because I too was doing a google search of Olivia Guttoff …
    I also had her as band teacher back in 1979-1980. She was probably the very best teacher I ever had in any subject. Ever. I remember how she respected a student's hard work above talent. And there was that thoroughness and rigor about her. Fantastic ! I am not a professional musician but music is a big part of my life and Mrs. Guttoff certainly had a lot to do with that.

    Keep on enjoying music and "practicing" and growing ….
    Cesar Gomez
    Leiden, The Netherlands

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