Audition...coming up! - Any helpful advice or tips?

Discuss the joys and pratfalls of performance

Postby presto » Thu Mar 16, 2006 5:55 pm

I just today found out that the site was back up and working again--what a nice surprise! And just in time, too, because coincidentally, I have a piano audition for college coming up in a matter of two days. If you have any advice from past experience, or if you've ever been an examiner at an audition, I'd be very grateful for any tips or "insider" info you could give. It's one thing to prepare the best you can, but when it's your first time doing something, you can't help but wish you had experience. Thanks!
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:37 am

Presto,

I cannot give you any professional advice - it has been too long since I have 'performed'. I hope others can help you.

My personal advice - enjoy yourself, enjoy the music you are playing. I guarentee the people listening will enjoy it too! There has to be a first - and you will learn yourself, what you want to do the next time. But whatever that is...keep enjoying!

:D

Joan
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Mar 17, 2006 11:40 am

Presto:

Above all, 'rehearse' performing: get some people together, anybody, and perform--get used to having to get all the way through and coping with whatever little slips show up, but keep going. Get someone to listen as many times as you can.

You can even perform for yourself. Pretend you're onstage; make yourself nervous; walk to your piano, bow, sit down and make yourself play through without one stop, no matter what. Tape yourself and listen to it. Simulate the performance experience as often as you can and get used to it. I guarantee it will get easier.

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Postby Stretto » Sat Mar 18, 2006 10:44 am

Well, since you posted I'm assuming your audition is today. What pieces are/did you play and what college is it? Let us know how it went.

I never did a "formal" audition for college because I kind of went to things in a very round about way not realizing what the proper channels were. Here's my story which probably wasn't the best way to go about it and measures have probably been taken since to prevent someone from neively "slipping in" as I did:

First, I went to registration and just signed up for all the freshman courses I needed to go toward a music major without having set foot in the music dept. at all. At registration there were a few courses I needed the instructors permission via the way of a signed permission slip before being allowed to take those courses. One was collegiate choir, one a composition course, and one private piano instruction. So I went over to the music dept. to inquire about what professors to talk to about getting private instruction. The student working in the office gave some insider tips on the what kinds of personalities each instructor had and which he would recommend. I decided to check with who he said was the "gentle, quiet, personality". He wasn't in his office and someone said to check downstairs and I ran into him in the hallway, asked if he would be willing to sign a permission slip permitting me to take private piano from him. He asked if I had something I could play. I thought one just had to prove you could sight-read music half-way decent to get into the music program so I played something about half the skill level as I was capable of that I had only practiced for about 2 weeks. After playing it for him, he said, "how long do you think it would take you to get this down better?" I said, "oh, probably a couple more weeks". Then he said, "well, you're probably on about a level 1. I'm all booked with students. Why don't you try this other professor."

The other professor was new. I believe it was his first college teaching job. He signed the permission slip for me to take from him. He was a really good piano instructor, of course, and gave me a lot of great tips. Although he took another teaching position elsewhere the following year and I had two other instructors, I still primarly use what he taught me in practicing and teaching my students the most.

When I was assigned an advisor, he expressed a great deal of concern as to whether I would be able to get to the level necessary to graduate. He expressed this concern on more than one occcasion and after a while I finally said, "I'll haunt the dept. until I'm 65 if that's what it takes me to get to the level necessary." He never said another word about it after that, but of course, if I showed no signs of getting very far performance wise, I'm sure they probably would have not allowed me to stay in the music program.

The thing is if I would have realized the proper channels, etc., I could have practiced and played something much more difficult and probably have passed out of at least a couple of the first levels right away. I would have been a lot more prepared and had some other pianists listen to me play and asked a few other pianists or if possible even one of the piano professors for advice on my pieces beforehand. The way I did it, I had to start at their version of level 1 and was frantically trying to pass a level a semester to get to level 6 in the year I planned to graduate. As I had some college work from a prior degree years earlier, I had only planned to have to take 2-3 years to complete the coursework to graduate. I think I managed to pass a level a semester all but one semester, otherwise I would have had to stay on past all my other completed coursework until I accomplished the level requirement. Good thing I wasn't going for a performance degree!

Anyway, as I said, if I would have realized all this, I would have been far better off doing an formal audition and playing some more difficult works. I would have had a better chance of not having to start from square one and would have been coming in under less skepticism from the piano professors. That first instructor I had was the only one who ever said, "I think you can get to the required level."


As far as tips, just remember those you have to play in front of for your audition, under all the prestige are just average, everyday people like you and me who have been in your shoes at some point themselves. That's one thing I tell myself when performing and it helps.

I would also before starting there try to meet all the piano professors of the music dept. personally. It all probably seems less intimidating if you get acquainted a little with some of those who will be doing your juries (or whatever they call them where your going). Over time I got to know all the professors who determined my semester grade and "pass, not pass" status to the next level. I talked one into giving me private instruction in the summer to help me get farther ahead, I had another for a few other classes, and one who was my regular private piano instructor. It made the juries less intimidating as opposed to if I had never talked to some of them.

Also, try to find out all the "rules and regulations" ahead that the music dept. may have. The music dept. where I went had a "Music Department Handbook" which I knew nothing about until I started there in the fall and learning of all the "rules" or expectations ahead of time would have been helpful.


Good luck! Again tell us how it goes!
:)




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:38 pm

When I had to play a two-hour exam for five German professors in Hanover my teacher told me, "Just imagine they're all sitting there in their underwear."

I don't remember if it helped, but I got my soloist diploma OK.

B. L.
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Postby presto » Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:52 pm

Thanks, everybody, for your kind wishes and advice! I'm surprised to tell you that it was quite a terrible experience for me BEFORE I actually went into the audition room, especially before I left the house and was waiting to go to the college--five minutes seemed like fifteen, and my stomach was about as upside-down as it's ever been in my life--but once I got into the audition room, things were different. That was due in part to the fact that my parents had come with me, and were sitting outside praying for me the whole time! They really were wonderfully supportive (now I truly understand what that word means!).

First of all, from everything I read about your experiences and tips, I now realize that I had a number of things to be glad about. One of the pieces that I played for the audition, the 4th movement of Beethoven's Sonata op. 26 (I remember that Dr. B. said he has played this piece, too), I had already played for two recitals, so it was just a matter of polishing it up for the audition. The other one was Chopin's Minute Waltz (op. 64 no.1), and I'd been playing that one for maybe a year or more already, just like the other piece. And as for mini practice performances, our piano is in our basement, which means the whole house can basically hear whenever anybody plays anything, so I was able to "perform" just about every day!

Stretto, I definitely went through all the formal channels to apply for my entrance--audition, theory placement, and ear training placement tests were the three things I had to do that day. The most important thing to pass is the audition, because there are remedial levels for theory and ear training if you are not up to the proper level. As for the level at which I'm playing, if you were referring to standard Conservatory levels, I think I'm at least a level 6 if not a level 7 or possibly 8. And, I had previously met the person whom I'll call Judge #1 and talked to him at the college's open house last year (he's a nice, gentle person) and I'd seen Judge #2 before, too. So perhaps things are even better than I thought.

I'll stop rambling now and just give you all a brief overview of the audition, since you were interested to know. First up was, of course, scales and arpeggios. I'm afraid I rather messed up on some of those. There was a rather strange moment when, after I played the E major scale five octaves instead of the required four (perfectly, by the way) because I lost count, Judge #2 said the usual "okay," then added, "And play four octaves next time, please. Five sounds weird." I agreed, but I thought this person must be rather finicky to think five octaves sounded weird--to my thinking, it was basically a slightly more difficult thing to play an extra octave! Oh, well. I also had no idea that I hadn't properly understood the requirements paper said "arpeggios with inversions." I thought it meant to play the arpeggios in root position and do those inversions, for instance, C-E-G-C, not also E-G-C-E, and so on. You can imagine what it was like to play those for maybe the second time in my life, trying to figure it out right there in the audition room, because the fingering is not as evenly spaced and so it's far easier to make mistakes!

Here's perhaps the most surprising part--I was hardly nervous at all when it came to playing my pieces. And both of them were quite nearly faultless. Since the sonata movement is rather long (six pages), they had me stop after about the third page. I slightly bungled parts of the third page, but the rest went well, as did the waltz, which they let me play in its entirety. I was really pretty comfortable while playing--I know all that practice paid off! In fact, I relaxed enough that I had time for some quick thoughts, such as the fact that I didn't like their piano too much! It was a Kawai grand piano, but it seemed digital, with a rather hollow sound that wasn't too beautiful. But, the key action wasn't set to something way too hard to press with ease, so that cloud had a silver lining.

The short sight reading test (about three bars with no repeats, in 3/4 time in G major, and with some trills in the music) was not very hard at all. I almost wonder now if I should have asked for something more difficult. Before they gave it to me, the judges asked a number of questions, such as who my teacher was, how long I'd been playing piano, what kind of pieces and I'd played and by which composers, if I'd ever previously taken any exams, and that sort of thing. Maybe they didn't get the impression that I could play things harder than this, or maybe not--I wouldn't know. But that went well, anyhow, except maybe that I forgot to do the trill in the last measure.

Finally, there was a short ear training test--very easy stuff. All I had to do was sing back whatever not Judge #1 played on the piano, first one note at a time, and once a series of three notes. I had no problem with that.

And then--it was over. What had seemed like it might be the toughest 20 minutes of my life was really nothing once I was in there, and especially after I was out of there! You really are your own worst enemy if you think too much about something you've never experienced; you'll probably make it into a far bigger monster than it is, like I did.

Now, I'm waiting for the results, which I should be getting around mid-April. I'm believing for the best, but I think I'll be all right even if my hopes aren't realized. Sorry for the length of this post! :)




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Postby Stretto » Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:44 pm

Thanks for posting back how it went. Wow, it will probably seem like a long wait for the results! I forgot, but your post reminded me I took a simple sight-reading test, scales, etc. sometime during the course of the time I was in school. It was a requirement of all music majors.

It would be interesting to know if all the college music programs use the same level system.

Did I mention not hardly touching a piano at all for about 4 years (ages 18-22) prior to just jumping into a music degree program? It probably didn't help matters much for me either - :laugh: ! I was just going for a B.A. in Music which had a slightly lower performance requirement than a performance degree. What I wanted out of going was just to help me become a better private piano teacher and learn more about composition and theory as I liked to compose just for fun. Also to say I finished my degree as I had two years of course work already from another degree I was in 2 years earlier. If I could do it over, I would have gone for a music degree right out of high school at 18 and gone into teaching. When I first went into another degree at 18, I was going to minor in music and even showed up for an audition to get in to the music program as a minor. It was at a different university in another state. Whoever was going to listen to a handful of us who had showed up for auditions didn't show up or had something unexpected come up and we were told we'd have to call and re-schedule. Someone from the dept. said I could just come back and audition once school started and add a minor anytime while there. But when school started, I was so busy trying to keep my head above water with my other degree coursework, I didn't go back and check into the music minor. It all worked out in the wash and with going for a B.A. in Music finally, I was even able to use my first degree coursework as a minor.

Hope you enjoy the next step in your musical learning endeavor! Do you have a career in mind that you would like to see yourself in eventually?




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