All-State Band Audition Strategies
Many states have released their audition repertoire and others will shortly. Regardless it is important to realize that your preparation starts TODAY! Students who practice regularly tend to win auditions over those who wait until an audition is approaching. It is important to remember that you will be evaluated on your command of the instrument and the required materials. I have worked with many students who have successfully auditioned for their All-State Band. I have also been the person on the other side of the curtain. Through my experiences I have developed a list of suggestions that I believe will help your endeavor.
- You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first thing a judge will notice is your TONE! If you perform with a characteristic tone you will be placed into a top tier of candidates automatically. Therefore your preparation for the audition starts today! You should always be working to obtain a better fundamental control of your instrument including breath support, tone, intonation, flexibility, range, and articulation. Take a look at these resources for young musicians.
- Practice your scales every day. This is the second item a judge will notice, therefore your scales need to be automatic. In order to be considered for a spot in most honor bands you simply must have command of your scales. And why not…it will make you a better overall musician!
- Sight-Reading! %&^%&#^. The two works that strike fear in most musicians’ hearts. First, remember that term has two words: sight and reading. In other words you need to develop your music reading skills before you can expect yourself to read at sight. Technical and lyrical etude books serve as a wonderful tool to improve these skills. Having developed your reading skills, the best way to improve at sight-reading is to simply do it regularly and to have a strategy!
- Is a solo required? Choose wisely. Believe it or not I have heard students perform from middle school band method books, their most recent marching band show, and even Darth Vader’s theme. Invariably, these students were followed by someone who was much more prepared. Your choice of solo repertoire is an opportunity to separate yourself from the competition. Ideally, your solo should provide a suitable challenge and a long-term goal. The advice of a private teacher is valuable here. Here are some suggestions.
- Spend a week (or more) practicing slowly. Really slow. Depending on the repertoire it may be a good idea to start at 50-60 BPM. Start by learning two measures at a time. Soon you will have the entire piece learned. Don’t be in a rush to perform the selection at the “required” tempo. Once you have it learned perfectly at a slow tempo, increase the speed in small increments and repeat the process. Most judges a prefer clean and musical performance so it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t perform your piece at full speed.
- Remove variables. Start by slurring everything for a week. If the rhythm is difficult try tapping it or playing it to a scale. If the fingerings are difficult practice fingering without playing. If it is too high practice down an octave. If the articulation is tricky try saying it out loud to a ‘doh’ syllable. Learn to sing your repertoire. Break the music into manageable pieces and parts then put it back together. Do it slowly!
- Work smart! Mark your breaths. Look up the terminology. Listen to recordings. Tape yourself regularly. Always reinforce proper fundamentals. Aim for successful repetitions because practice makes permanent!
- Make sure your entire piece is fully prepared. Often, students start off strongly and fall apart at the end. This is because they practice the beginning more than the end! Vary your starting position from day to day. Start from the last phrase and work backwards. Practice the difficult spots more than the easy ones.
- Be musically interesting and entertaining. Your judge is not there to keep a tally sheet of missed notes. They want to hear a great performance!
- On the day before: take it easy. Don’t over practice. Eat, sleep, and drink plenty of water. On the day of: don’t overplay. Briefly warm-up and then rest until it is time to rewarm before your audition. You will hear other students frantically practicing but if you don’t know it by then it is too late. The hard work is already done so take a deep breath and be positive!
- For taped auditions: record yourself often, start as soon as possible, and be sure to find a quality microphone and a suitable room.