For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jul 15 2016
by Kathryn Jorgensen

14 Things You Need to Do to Survive Your Music Auditions

By Kathryn Jorgensen - Jul 15 2016

Let's face it--auditions are scary. They determine the course of your college career, and that in turn determines the course of your actual career, or at least it seems that way right now. Even better, a lot of the time, you don't even know what to expect. Following these 14 tips will help you be prepared for whatever comes your way.

1. Pick good repertoire.

Sure, your Paganini Caprice or Rachmaninoff Etude will show off your technique and pizzazz, but do you also have a piece that will show off your musicality and sensitivity?  Don't just follow the requirements, work within them to give the best and most diverse performance you can. This goes for recording arts and composition majors too--don't submit only one type of piece, vary your instrumentation, tone, technique, et cetera.

2. Focus on the important parts.

As you're practicing, remember that the professor or professors overseeing your audition will almost certainly not hear all of every piece--most likely they will only hear the beginnings, or might even skip whole pieces. Make sure your beginnings make an impact, so you lead with your best foot. That being said, do practice the whole piece thoroughly, or you might be in an uncomfortable position when they don't stop you when you thought they would. If you're a composition or recording arts major, make a list of things you know you want to convey to whoever is interviewing you right away, but just like for performance majors, you still need to know the rest of your works inside and out. It's a matter of prioritization when everything is important.

3. Don't let memorization stress you out.

Though it probably doesn't seem like such an issue practicing alone, you will find that when you walk into that room, everything may be thrown into doubt, most of all your memorization. Take some time away from your instrument, and see if you can play the whole thing in your head--not just audio, actions and all, down to the tiniest detail and work on it until you can do it. If you can do that, you will know that your memory is solid, and won't need to worry about it. 

4. Go back to the basics.

Scales seem simple enough, but sometimes when they're a surprise they can cause you to trip up. Practicing things like sight reading, arpeggios, and other specific techniques you may be asked to demonstrate will keep you sharp and prepared. If you're composition or recording arts, review your jargon, even the easy stuff; it's easy to make silly mistakes when your mind is going one hundred miles a minute. 

5. Be ready for anything, especially non-music related things.

When you're so focused on the music part of your music audition, sometimes the life part of the audition can slip your mind--this is especially important when you're traveling to an audition. Are you bringing things to care for your fancy clothes? Are you bringing tissues and cough drops in case you get sick? Will you be able to walk all over campus in the shoes you're wearing? Did you pack the right colored socks? The little things can suddenly become very big the morning of, so plan ahead.

6. Eat well.

When you're waiting for your audition to start, sometimes it can be hard to get your twisted stomach to eat anything. But try - it will keep your energy high and your wits about you. Pick something tasty, to keep you happy and positive. (Sorry vocalists, you'll probably have to be a little more careful here).

7. Bring something to kill time.

When you're sitting outside your audition room, or even just waiting down in the lobby for a few hours, you may want to bring something so you don't dwell on what's coming and work up your nerves. A book, or planning an outing to something on campus will help keep you calm. 

8. Be careful with distractions.

That being said, be careful what you bring to keep your mind off things. It's tempting to bring school work, especially since you are likely missing school to audition and will need to make it up, but it may not be your best choice. You don't want to be halfway through your piece and get distracted by thoughts of school, and make a mistake you otherwise wouldn't have. Choose something that will distract your for a moment, but not long term.

9. Bring a friend.

Again, from the safety of home, you don't feel like you'll need anyone, but when you're standing outside that door, listening to the audition before you, having a parent, sibling or friend there to keep you company can be a blessing.

10. Smile.

Most likely, the professors watching these auditions aren't having any more fun than you. Think of how many people they're already heard play today! Just giving them a smile will not only make them happier and more likely to review your playing or interview better, but it will help you relax. If you get to have a brief conversation with them before or after, even better.

11. Be ready for any question.

This is especially important for Composition or Recording Arts applicants, as you will most likely have an interview, but can also be true for instrumentalists. The professors could ask you anything--about your choices, your background, your academic or musical preferences. Practice answering these types of questions with your private teacher, so you have some idea of what you might say.

12. Critically reflect after.

Unless you're really confident, you've probably signed up for more than one audition. Use each audition as practice for the next--think about what went well, what didn't, and how you can use that knowledge to make your next audition even better. 

13. Plan a way to celebrate.

No matter how your audition goes, afterward you will want some way to relax and celebrate the fact that you're one step closer to being done with the college application process. Go out to eat, get ice cream, or even just spend the evening not working on homework or practice.

14. Keep in touch with your potential professors.

Something that isn't always obvious is that one factor in if you are offered a spot and/or a scholarship is how likely the professor who you talked with/played for thinks it is that you are actually interested in coming--they're gambling with how many spots they have and how many spots they're offering. Send them a follow up a few days after your audition, perhaps asking a question about the program you auditioned for, the grading system, to see a syllabus - anything really. Just let them know you're really interested in attending. And, as long as it's not a lie, it can't hurt to mention that this is your top pick school, in person or in an email.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia commons 

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Kathryn Jorgensen - Indiana University

Kathryn Jorgensen is a Composition Major at Indiana University. Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, she loves reading, exploring, hanging with friends, and playing her beloved piano. Find out more about her on: Facebook - Twitter - @Kjorgensencomp or her website:

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