The Prepared Musician’s Guide to Planning for Auditions

Every musician’s favorite time of year is quickly approaching…audition season!

Whether you’re preparing for college auditions, conservatory auditions, All State auditions, summer festivals, solo competitions, or some other kind of audition, it can be hard to plan the logistics of getting to and from each place (let alone play well at each audition!)

That’s where I can help. You see, I have a little problem – I am an obsessive list maker. Not always a bad thing, but it can easily get out of hand. I use the following list for every audition I take to make sure that I don’t forget anything in the pre-audition preparation frenzy. For each audition, make sure to:

  • Find out the audition date and time
  • Get the location and address of the audition (Pro tip: Write down the addresses of the audition venue, hotel, and any other important locations in your Notes app so you never forget where you’re going.)
  • Reserve a hotel, if necessary
  • Plan your trip to the audition. Are you driving, flying, or traveling by train?
  • Figure out how to get from your hotel to the audition venue
  • Book your flight/train/bus ticket
  • Choose your repertoire. (Pro tip: If you are able to choose the repertoire, choose music you can use at several auditions. Nobody wants to learn 5 different pieces for 5 different auditions unless it’s absolutely necessary!)
  • Get all complete parts if you are taking an orchestra audition, and triple check the required excerpts. (Pro tip: Use the actual parts at your audition – don’t use orchestral excerpt books because they often have errors and omissions.)
  • Hire an accompanist if necessary, and find out their rates for rehearsals and performances
  • Schedule rehearsals (times and locations) with your accompanist
  • Find out what pitch the orchestra/ensemble/piano tunes to
  • Choose your audition outfit/outfits if there are multiple rounds (Pro tip: Never wear new shoes during an audition. The last thing you should worry about is how much your feet hurt. Also, if you’re wearing heels, practice walking in them so you don’t stumble.)
  • Plan possible warm up locations (Pro tip: If possible, avoid warming up at the audition site. Communal warm up rooms are a zoo of chaos. You’ll hear others racing through the music twice as fast and three times as high, and this can psych out even veteran audition-takers. Ask your hotel if you can warm up in your room or if they have a room you can use. I’ve warmed up in hotel gyms and even indoor pools before.)
  • If you arrive a day early for your audition, see if you can rehearse in your audition room (Pro tip: Check the room’s acoustics, temperature, and piano tuning. Always be ready for any problem these may present. Piano tuned high? Use a shorter barrel. Room is an arctic tundra? Wear a blazer and swab like crazy – cold temperatures attract spit in clarinets. Channel your inner Boy Scout and always be prepared. This will prevent any last-minute surprises.)
  • Plan what and where you’ll eat before your audition. Bring snacks if you don’t like to eat a full meal before you play. Everyone has their preferences – don’t get caught hangry (hungry + angry) before your audition. Many musicians swear by bananas, which they claim have natural beta blockers in them to reduce stage fright. I always have caffeine the day of my audition (Let’s be real…I always have caffeine regardless of auditions, but that’s besides the point). Figure out what works best for you.
  • Purchase and bring judges’ copies if necessary – some auditions explicitly prohibit photocopies. (Pro tip: Always write your name in pen on your music so it finds its way back to you.)
  • Find out when and how you’ll hear results.

Hopefully this list helps make your audition planning a little easier so you can spend more time in the practice room. Now go break a leg!

P.S. Wondering what to pack  now that you’ve planned your audition? Check out my suggestions for things you shouldn’t forget!

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