(Author: Nicole Wilson)
As a principal musician I am often approached by young professionals and music students, applying for work in the highly competitive orchestral world who time and again fail to win the position (or trial in the case of the UK system) they are applying for. The say to me that they’ve prepared so hard for these intense and frighteningly brief experiences but are not getting anywhere. What is it that the panel are looking for? It’s very hard question to answer, as every orchestra is different and each position within the orchestra will require a nuanced difference in the player’s style. But some things are the same the world over and at the end of the day, with sometimes as many as 600 people applying for one position in an orchestra, there will be an element of luck… are you the right person on the right day?
However, what has saddened me the most over the years has been when a player who I know could be perfect for the job doesn’t even get a chance to play with the orchestra as they simply don’t ‘audition well’. I know now after years of helping young professionals and music students prepare for auditions and trials that you can improve your chances enormously by doing certain things like learning the all important excerpts properly and in the right style, dealing with performance mindset in the best way for yourself and giving a truly musical performance under pressure. Simple? Well no. It’s a balancing act. Being able to prepare so well and have a solid technique underpinning your performance is crucial. You then need to be able to keep your cool not just in the audition itself but it in the long winded process from applying initially to a trial process which can last a year or more.
In 2018 I launched the inaugural AuditionPerform to help people learn exactly these skills. I’ve brought top principal musicians from the UK and the US including Robert DeMaine – principal cellist of the LA Phil, Gary Levinson -Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Clio Gould – ex leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta. These highly experienced professionals have sat on a myriad of audition panels as well as international competition juries and have intricate knowledge of the different audition systems around the world. Expert pedagogues at the highest level, they come together for an intensive week in Chichester on the English south coast and work with a very small group of chosen string players on every aspect of their audition/competition preparation. They are joined by performance mindset, injury prevention and instrument maintenance specialists. The timetable includes 1:1 lessons, excerpt and sight reading classes, chamber music job audition classes, panel discussions on everything from how to apply for these important opportunities to behaviour in the workplace and at the end of the week the all-telling mock audition or mock competition depending on what they are preparing for.
Rarely do you get such valuable and constant contact with the faculty of a music course and the faculty told us that this was what they loved most about the course. ‘I love teaching on this course’ Robert DeMaine tells us. ‘It fills a major gap between the uncertainties of “leaving the nest” of conservatories and the establishment of a career out in the competitive music world. By shining a light on every corner of the audition process, we provide intensive and specialized one-on-one and group training that stems from our own extensive experience in this often bewildering rite of passage for young, aspiring musicians.’
Students who attended the inaugural AuditionPerform in 2018 were thrilled to bits with the experience. ‘It was such a lovely group of students and staff and it was so inspiring to work and socialise with them all’ says Adela, one of the violin students. ‘Whilst the mock audition was nerve racking, the staff were incredibly supportive, which was useful preparation for any future audition scenarios. I would thoroughly recommend it to any young professional/hopeful as I really believe it has given me a boost for when I come to start applying for performance-related jobs.’
Although music conservatoires offer great audition training amongst their varied timetables, they appreciate the extra benefits this kind of course can bring. ‘The opportunity to work intensively for several days specifically on this particular skill: – preparing for the challenges of professional auditions – is invaluable.’ says Jo Cole, Head of Strings at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Students who have attended have demonstrated new confidence, authority and polish in their audition presentation. They have developed a set of coping strategies when faced with a potentially stressful and competitive environment that allows them to really show what they are capable of, and enables them to approach applications for playing positions with an informed, prepared and positive attitude.
If you’d like to nail your audition technique, whether you’re preparing for a job or conservatoire audition or competition, apply now to www.auditionperform.com . Deadline is February 1st. Limited bursaries are available.