Possibly the least satisfying musical experience of your life is one which will have great consequences for your music career and your life in general. This experience is an audition. This competitive method of recruiting members for an orchestra, in which one has to prove one’s ability in a short time span is a deeply rooted part of the orchestral life.
My position as principal violinist in The Hague Philharmonic (Het Residentie Orkest) also entails being involved in audition committees for all members of the orchestra, and more specifically for violinists. My experience over the many years in which I have been involved in selecting violinists for the orchestra has shown me the difficulties of preparing for a violin audition. There are so many aspects unique to audition preparation along with dealing with the audition itself. Seeing as there is no “perfect” audition procedure, both the candidates and the jury members have to deal with the situation at hand. As a violin teacher at the Conservatoire in The Hague and the Conservatoire in Amsterdam, I am also involved in the training of violinists for auditions. Realizing that I have accumulated an extensive amount of knowledge and experience towards preparing students for auditions successfully, has given me a strong basis on which to build this paper.
There has been a fair amount written about audition preparation. Certainly with You-tube, there are many short videos about how to prepare a certain excerpt. Also on You-tube, one can find ten tips to be successful at auditions. I have listed these sources in my bibliography. What I have not been able to find is a comprehensive guide containing what I consider, after years of experience, the most important aspects pertaining to audition preparation including a lengthy list of required orchestral excerpts.
This has led to the writing of this paper entitled “The Art of Auditioning”, with the research question “What aspects should be considered in preparation for a successful violin audition?”
Although this paper is geared specifically towards a violin audition, it could also be useful for any instrument.
It is vitally important to be aware of all aspects associated with auditions. This paper hopes to target as many of these aspects as possible. Of course, one has to “just play well” but being aware of aspects specific to auditions will help you survive the experience better.
The first main section of the paper, Chapters 1-6, is for the most part based on my own experience. This covers from how to apply for an audition to tips on surviving your trial period once you have been successful at an audition. The second main section, Chapter 7, includes research towards experiences and expectations of jury members from around the world as well as those of candidates concerning auditions. Based on feedback which I have received from candidates over the years and the inside information I have from being a member of audition committees for 36 years, my hypothesis here is that these experiences and expectations differ greatly.
As previously mentioned, the first chapters are written mostly based on my own experience as a principal in The Hague Philharmonic, audition committee member and teacher. The first chapter includes information on how, when and where to apply for a violin audition. Attention must be paid to presenting yourself in the best possible light, even before the actual audition.
Knowledge of the orchestral repertoire is paramount. Included in Chapter 2, besides discussing the choice of concerti for auditions, are the most frequently requested orchestral excerpts for first and second violin auditions. I have marked the parts with my own suggested bowings and fingerings.
The actual preparation for an audition, the actual practising, also requires special attention. Especially the preparation of the orchestral excerpts is an aspect unique to auditions. Preparing effectively for an audition is the theme discussed in Chapter 3.
Although mental and physical preparation would be aspects to consider also for a regular concert, this preparation is perhaps even more important for an audition and is the subject of Chapter 4. There is little one can control at an audition, besides one’s own playing. At least at a concert, you know the time at which you have to play! Being at your best during those first five to eight minutes in a first round requires special attention to mental and physical well-being.
The next chapter, Chapter 5, deals with the actual audition day, the preparation thereof and what one could expect at the audition itself. Going to an audition means dealing with unknowns. There is a long list of unforeseen events which could occur at an audition. Knowing about them will help one deal with them better.
Finally, I have included a chapter about, after a successful audition, surviving your trial period. Although this is not a subject related to audition preparation, I felt it was a worthwhile addition to this paper. Knowledge of behavior in an orchestra, with and without your instrument, will help keep that coveted orchestra position.
In this way, I have set up a chronological order of preparation for an orchestra audition, from the actual application to being successful at an audition.
The next large section of the paper, Chapter 7, deals with research into the experiences of experts sitting on audition committees and the experiences of the candidates. Specific questions have been posed to violinists in leading positions in orchestras from Amsterdam to New York and from Los Angeles to Sydney. Similar questions have been posed to candidates. The results will be compared, and similarities and differences will be stated and analyzed. As previously mentioned, my own expectation is that these answers will differ greatly. Hopefully, the result of this research will help candidates improve their preparation of auditions and therefore their performance at auditions with further insight into what is expected of them. This will be interesting for audition committees as well.
Finally, I shall reflect upon all the information I have been able to gather, either from my own experience, from prior research or from experts around the world. After this, I shall draw some general conclusions about indeed “What aspects should be considered in preparation for a successful violin audition?”
Hopefully, this paper will be helpful to future audition candidates. It has been a great learning experience for me, one that I shall take with me in my future teaching. Perhaps even members of audition committees will also be interested in reading this. The experiences of the candidates may also be an eye-opener for them.
I am grateful to have received a government grant to pursue this writing and have had the opportunity to write about a subject that is such a big part of my life as a musician.