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Musicians' Corner October 2016

The Recipe for Your Best Audition
October 18, 2016

Marching band season is in full-swing, but it won't be long until students lay aside their marching uniforms and begin preparing for concert band season. Each year, students receive their audition packets and are individually assessed for that nerve-wracking event: chair placement. Diligent practice and private lessons often contribute to higher placement within the section, but even the most adept students can become rattled by the experience and perform poorly in an audition setting. While there is no magic formula for ensuring a perfect audition, the following analogy is designed to make upcoming chair placements a piece of cake...

Music is the recipe - ingredients and instructions included: 

Musical CakeBelieve it or not, preparing for an audition is like baking a cake. You start out with your audition music (recipe) and must carefully follow the instructions on the page to end up with successful results. Before you pick up your instrument, take a few moments to carefully study what's on the page. What's the key signature? Are there accidentals? How about the time signature? Are there tricky rhythms? Take a pencil and mark any flats, sharps, or naturals you may be likely to miss while playing the piece. Next, count through the rhythms and mark subdivisions as necessary to ensure rhythmic accuracy. Just as you wouldn't begin baking a cake without first reading the ingredient list and instructions, don't begin practicing your audition music without taking time to thoroughly read through it first!

Add your ingredients in the order listed and gradually increase speed: 

Student AuditionWhen baking a cake, it's important to carefully follow instructions. What would happen if you dumped all the ingredients into a bowl at once and started your mixer at the highest speed possible? Chances are, you'd have a big mess on your hands. Flour would be everywhere and ingredients that should be combined before adding others (wet with wet/dry with dry) would not be able to set up and bake properly. It's the same with practicing an audition piece. Start with your two main ingredients - notes and rhythm - and combine the two well below performance tempo. By practicing at a reduced speed, your goal is accuracy. Once you are able to accurately play the notes and rhythms at a reduced speed, add the next ingredient: articulation. Gradually increase your tempo until you are closer to the required metronome marking. Next, add your dynamics. If you've properly combined your previous ingredients, your dynamics will blend right in. Band and orchestra directors (or whomever is judging auditions) look primarily for note and rhythmic accuracy - wrong notes and/or rhythms are the equivalent of substituting Tabasco sauce for vanilla extract - an interesting addition, but not in a good way!

Interpretation and Style are the icing on the cake:  

Student PracticingIf you have followed your recipe carefully, measured and prepared your ingredients according to instructions, and baked your cake for the appropriate amount of time, it should come out as planned. The music is your recipe; the rhythms, notes, articulations, and dynamics are your ingredients; the amount of practice is the time spent in the oven. The final step is adding interpretation to your piece - the icing on the cake. The key to this is pairing the right flavor frosting to the cake. Let's say your audition piece is an excerpt from a Mozart symphony: you wouldn't play that excerpt in a jazz style. That would be the equivalent of icing a carrot cake with fudge frosting. It just doesn't work. Interpretation appropriate to the genre and era of an audition piece is the final touch that separates a good audition from a great one. If you're unsure about the style of the piece, don't be afraid to ask your director or private teacher. That's what they're there for!

Finally, play your audition piece for anyone and everyone willing to listen to you. Stage fright is greatly diminished when you are accustomed to playing in front of others. And, after your audition, treat yourself to a piece of deserve it!

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