By Shane Griffin
Once you have submitted your applications and prescreens, it is time to begin preparing for your auditions. There are many factors to keep track of, not only musically, but logistically. The audition and interview process are the most important part of the graduate school application process, and for some of the professors you are auditioning for, this may be their only impression of your playing and of you as a person.
Logistically speaking, there are many things to balance when taking auditions. First of all, you need to manage the dates of all of the schools where you are auditioning. Most schools have two or three “audition dates” when they expect all prospective students to come audition. These weekends are set up for your benefit and the faculty’s benefit. Usually, you are given a folder or packet with a great deal of pertinent information, and everything is nicely pre-scheduled for you, including warm-up times, audition times, interview times, a dean’s welcome, and other things of this nature. Some of it is unnecessary, but some of it is quite useful.
Once you know all of the dates for your prospective schools, you need to figure out when you can go to each of these institutions. The fewer schools you are applying to, the easier this step will be. If you are traveling to 5 or so schools, the dates generally overlap enough that this will take some careful planning. Remember to check your current academic and performance schedule, and take your current commitments into account. If you need to find substitute players, do so early, and follow up with them regularly. In the rare event that it is physically impossible for you to coordinate your schedule, you need to contact the studio professor as soon as possible to coordinate your own audition time.
As soon as you have figured out what dates you are traveling where, you need to book your travel arrangements. Flying is expensive, but with some shopping around, it is possible to find deals that will save you a little money. Online travel booking agencies can help immensely with this process, making it easy to find the cheapest flights available. There is a proper time to book flights, not too early but before two weeks in advance. I do advise traveling a day early, if possible. It prevents the added nerves that come along with travel, and lets you see the unfamiliar town a bit and learn your way around. It also prevents missing an audition due to a late flight arrival. In regards to sleeping arrangements, if you are strapped for cash, you can often get in touch with current members of the studio and find a place to crash. This can prove to be a great time to network and learn about the studio culture, but it can also limit the quality of your sleep before your audition. I chose the hotel route a couple of times and found some great deals on discount hotel sites. If you are flying in, just be sure the hotel you are staying at has an airport shuttle, as taxi fares do add up quickly.
One logistical element that seems obvious, but is very important, is keeping up with your current academic requirements. It is easy to fall into the trap of “being on the audition trail,” and neglect your current responsibilities. Layovers, flights, and hotels after the audition are all great places to be productive. I distinctly remember finishing counterpoint exercises on a plane, and composing for my composition class in a hotel room. Don’t get behind, as it is very difficult to play catch up from the road.
The final major logistical task is managing all of the music you need to be perfecting and maintaining for each audition. Each school will have different requirements and compiling all of these requirements into a list will prove beneficial. The list should organize your schools by dates so that you know when each piece or excerpt should be ready. It is also of utmost importance that you use as much duplicate material as possible. Remember the professors are only hearing you once, even though you have played this music a thousand times. Do not make a difficult process even harder on yourself, by attempting to learn more music than is necessary.
Maintaining all of this music can be a difficult task, especially if you are attempting, as I foolishly did, to prepare for a senior recital at the same time. While this is sometimes inevitable, I recommend against it if at all possible. I digress, when maintaing dozens of excerpts and several solos, prioritizing your practice is important. We all know how much fun playing music that we are already good at can be, but is that what you need to focus on? Probably not. Depending on what schools you are applying to, determine what music the professors will be most interested in hearing. Are you applying to an orchestral heavy school? Then your excerpts need to be perfect. Are you applying to study with a renown marimbist, then focus on that. You get the picture. Remember to keep in mind what solos and excerpts you have known the longest and are the most comfortable with, then just maintain them. Focus your energy on your weaker areas and on newer excerpts. My example of this is xylophone and glockenspiel excerpts. I had known my primary marimba solo, timpani solo, and snare drum solo for quite awhile, but my xylophone and glockenspiel chops were lacking, so I focused my energy on these areas. It actually turned out to beneficial in the long run too. I love playing orchestral xylophone now, and you can ask just about anyone from my old school if that used to be the case, and the answer will be a resounding no.
I hope that some of these tips will help you as you are preparing for your auditions. There is much to keep track of, and many different tasks to balance. Stay organized and plan ahead in order to have the highest level of success. Look forward to Part IV next week which will address the audition itself!
What tips do you have for people preparing for Graduate Auditions? What questions do you have if you are currently going through this daunting process? Share any tips, questions, or stories in the comments.
Originally posted on DrumChattr on October 9, 2010 by Shane Griffin.
The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by BartokFan on Flickr.com.