5. THE ACTUAL AUDITION DAY
“THE COMMITTEE TRULY WANTS TO HEAR ALL THE CANDIDATES AT THEIR BEST, SHOWING THEIR FULL CAPABILITIES AND SHOWING WHO THEY ARE AS PEOPLE AND AS ARTISTS”
In this chapter I shall describe the actual audition day, what to think of in your final preparation and what you could expect. I shall also mention “unknowns” which could throw you off guard at an audition. Dealing with unknowns is an important part of being successful at an audition. There are many situations which one cannot control at an audition and it is better not to try! Try to control things that are out of our control can make us nervous.
Think a day ahead of everything you need to take with you to the audition so that you are not preoccupied with this on the day. Have everything organized well ahead of time.
Check that you have the music you need and also the piano parts to your concerti. Double-check that you have all of the orchestral excerpts and that you have not left anything on your practice stand at home. Make sure you have a spare set of strings, and rosin. Check that you have your mute if needed.
Think if there is certain food you would like to take with you and prepare it the day before. It could be a long day. Take a bottle of water which you can then refill. It could be useful to take some chocolate to get a quick bit of energy if needed.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but try and arrive at the audition venue well ahead of time. It could just be the day that there are terrible delays on public transportation or incredible traffic jams. This added stress is not what you need on the day. If you are travelling to an audition out of town, try and find a place to stay which is not too far from the place of the audition. You do not want to be struggling to find your way in a city unknown to you.
Arriving at the place of the audition
Make sure you announce your arrival. It could happen that there is nobody to meet you when you arrive if the person assigned to greet candidates just happens to be busy showing someone where they can warm up. It has been known to happen that it was assumed someone was not present as they had not officially announced their arrival and therefore missed their time to play.
Generally speaking, one can expect to arrive at an audition along with possibly another one hundred hopefuls at the same time. Many orchestras ask large groups of people to arrive at the same time in order to draw lots to determine the order of auditioning for the day. It is good to consider that you may arrive at 10a.m. or earlier to draw lots but may not play before 4p.m. This should not throw you off guard. Be prepared mentally to play within 20 minutes or after six or seven hours of waiting.
It could happen on the audition day that candidates cancel at the last minute. This could mean that you could be asked to play sooner than you had been told initially. This is impossible to know ahead of time. Do not be surprised by this occurrence and if you are asked to play sooner than planned, take the time you need to feel ready for your performance. It would be quite appropriate to ask for 15 minutes to warm-up if the manager asks you to suddenly play next when you are still anticipating a wait.
In the dressing room
Orchestras do not have the facilities to receive such a large number of candidates for auditions. Be prepared to share a dressing room with many other candidates-candidates who are all playing their concertos at top speed and very loud. Do not be thrown off by hearing someone play seemingly better than yourself. Everyone has to deal with the audition, even those who seem to have a lot of confidence in the dressing room. You may find it helpful to take a set of headphones so that you are not constantly confronted with the noise and everyone playing the same repertoire, but slightly differently, than yourself. Remember you only have a certain amount of energy. Do not spend a lot of energy socializing on the day of the audition. You may meet people you know, or people you have not seen for a long time. Try to focus your energy on the task at hand.
You may or may not have had the opportunity to play your concertos through with the pianist at hand. Many orchestras work with two pianists so that you have a chance to play for about 10 minutes with the pianist just before you go into the audition. Be prepared for all scenarios. You may have a few minutes to play with the pianist. You may not have any opportunity at all. Of course, the pianists are very good, but perhaps they do not pick up on your tempo immediately. Be focused and do not let yourself be upset or distracted by what you hear to your left. Be confident about your tempi in your concerti. Even the most sensitive pianist cannot pick up on your tempi if you are not clear about them. Do not let the pianist determine how fast you are going to play. Preliminary rounds go by so quickly that you cannot waste any time being disturbed by the pianist.
Ask if you are able to play in the hall ahead of time. Generally this is not possible, but you never know.
Generally, you will not have a chance to play in the audition room or hall before the actual audition. This means that you have not had a chance to tune to the audition piano. One could assume that the piano is tuned at A 442 Hz but this is also an unknown. It might be possible to inquire how the piano is tuned, but this is also not a guarantee. Be ready to tune carefully, turning your back to the committee, and take the necessary time to tune your instrument properly! Having said this, do not tune forever!
Unless you are familiar with the venue where you shall audition, it is difficult to know if you shall audition in a small room, a small hall or a large concert hall. Think ahead of time that whatever the situation is, that it is fine. You cannot control where you are going to play. Preparing for this is discussed in the chapter “How to prepare effectively for an audition.”
Orchestras will generally announce if the audition will be held behind a screen or not. However this is not always the case. Go to the audition thinking that with or without a screen, that it will not affect your playing. It can be quite disconcerting to play in front of a screen if you have not thought about this ahead of time. Even if the orchestra has announced that the audition is behind a screen, the screen could be placed on the stage where you are playing or directly in front of the jury. Try to imagine that both of these situations are possible since this is also an unknown until you actually walk into the audition space.
Regarding playing behind a screen, here are a few further situations which could arise.
You could be asked to remove your shoes before playing, the idea behind this being that the committee would be able to hear if the candidate is a man or woman by the sound of the heels.
Recently it came to my attention that a candidate was not allowed to tune onstage since his way of tuning could send a signal to the audition committee. Although one could consider this a ridiculous rule, it is good to know that even this could happen at an audition.
You could be asked to hand over your mobile phone at the audition-this to prevent a signal being sent to a committee member as to when you are about to play.
The temperature in the hall is also something one cannot control. If you feel you are sensitive to hot or cold, take this into consideration. Take gloves with you if you are sensitive to cold hands. Have plenty of water with you in any case. The most important thing is not to be upset by whatever the temperature happens to be. It could also be helpful to take various items of clothing to be able to adapt to an either very hot or on the other hand a rather cold environment.
On stage, you may also have to deal with unforseen events while performing. You could possibly break a string. If this were to happen and the pianist is still on stage, ask the pianist quietly to say this to the jury. If the pianist is not there (if for instance, you are playing your excerpts), say this yourself to the jury.
Perhaps a peg slips. If this happens, stop playing, play your strings so it is clear what has happened, tune again and try to resume more or less where you have left off.
If, despite your best preparation, you were to have a memory lapse, try not to panic and try to pick up again as soon as possible. If you are at the beginning of your concerto, just start again.
Distractions while playing
Many unknowns could also take the form of distractions. The audition room could be not sound-proof and you could therefore hear noises from outside. You could possibly hear the next candidate warming up. You could possibly hear noises being made by the jury behind a screen. Generally juries are drinking coffee or tea, so you could hear the noise of rattling coffee cups. Papers could be rustling. Things could be dropped on the floor. Maybe a member of the jury has a terrible cold and you hear endless coughing. All of these distractions are unknowns but they could certainly occur. Being aware is a good defense mechanism.
I have often said to my students: “Even if the committee starts throwing rotten tomatoes at you, you just keep on playing as if nothing has happened.” This is of course a ridiculous statement, but it could prepare you mentally for any possibility. It is possible for instance, that a committee member starts shouting at you from behind the screen to play a different excerpt. This can be very unsettling, but just take it in your stride, and continue with the required excerpt. Do not interpret the person shouting as being angry or not happy with your playing. He or she is just trying to be heard.
Many situations which arise at an audition, are made up unknowns which are difficult to prepare for. Certainly being aware of what could take place at an audition, will help you with withstand the day much better! Dealing with defeat is also an aspect to consider at the end of the audition day. Despite an excellent preparation and great concentration, it is of course possible you did not get the job. Try to keep a positive attitude and look forward to the next opportunity to play.
I have debated whether to include anything at all about the use of beta blockers at auditions. I have no personal experience on this matter at all, as I have never taken any kind of medication to help reduce heart rate in a stressful situation. However, according to research, the use of beta blockers is especially prevalent among audition candidates. I find it therefore somehow not realistic to at least name the use of beta blockers as a fact. I do not mean in any way to make a judgement or qualification about the use of beta blockers, but only to say, that it is a good idea to have some professional guidance in this matter, for instance, from your family doctor. I would not recommend deciding to take a beta blocker for the first time on the day of your audition, as you would have no experience at all as to its effect on your playing.
The actual audition day is an exciting one. Being aware of situations which may arise as described in this chapter will help you get through the day and as mentioned previously in the chapter about mental and physical preparation, look forward to playing!
 Noah Bendix-Balgley, First Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic www.audition.cafe accessed 25-3-2017
 Greene, D. (2001) Audition Success An Olympic Sports Psychollogist Teaches Performing Artists How to Win. New York: Routledge p.135
 Research performed by J. Nubé described in Citroen, L & Loo, M.H.M. van der (2011) Podiumangst. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Boom p.191