Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New School Year!

Almost time!

Welcome to August! It’s that time again – back to school, ensemble and seating auditions, rehearsals, concerts…clarinet!! Perhaps you focused on specific skills to improve or repertoire to learn over the summer; perhaps you took some time off. Either way school is fast approaching and auditions will soon be upon us!

I thought it might be interesting to discuss auditions this month as many people will have placement and/or seating auditions in the next few weeks. There are some specific steps you can take to help you through the audition process.

1. Get in shape. This goes without saying but I will say it anyway. Don’t wait until the last week to start serious practicing. Start early, several weeks before the date, and renew your daily routine. Start the practice with a 20 minute warm-up to get loosened up and get the reed and clarinet warmed up. Spend another 40 -60 minutes (at least) in skills practice. Choose a set of skills that you wish to focus on and work them every day. You can alternate or change skills as you wish as long as you are spending isolated, concentrated time on the skills you have chosen. Don’t forfeit this portion of your practice to move directly to the audition material. If you stick with this routine it will serve you well.
(There is a previous blog about warm-up/skills practice if you are interested)

2. Learn your audition material. What I mean by this is learn everything you can about your audition music. It may be music of your choice or it may be music that has been assigned to you for the audition. Know the composer – dates he/she lived, style he/she composed in, is it classical, romantic, contemporary. This is important information with regard to interpreting tempi, character, style, etc. Is the audition music an excerpt from a larger work? If so, familiarize yourself with the entire work, not just the excerpt. Know what goes on around you, ie the orchestra parts, the piano part – whatever the case may be.

3. Listen. Listen to recordings of the work(s). Take note of tempo, style, inflection, texture, etc. Record yourself and listen back. This may be one of the most enlightening things to do. You are sure to discover things you hadn’t noticed that you were or weren’t doing.

4. Practice. Restrict the amount of time you ‘play’ the material, increase the amount of time you practice. The bulk of your practice time should be spent on sections that are giving you trouble. Try to avoid over-playing the sections you are comfortable with. Practice SLOWLY with great deliberation and care. Listen carefully and adjust as necessary. Practice small sections at a time, and gradually increase the tempo as you master the section. A good rule of thumb is to move on or increase tempo only when you can play it perfectly five times in a row.

5. Let your personality show. Perfect technical playing is great but excellent playing with personality, emotion and feeling is even better. Invest yourself in what you are playing and know exactly what it is you are trying to communicate to your audience.

6. Finally, present yourself professionally at the audition. Think about the impression you wish to convey. Dress appropriately for the type of audition you are taking. Carry yourself with confidence. Speak clearly and articulately. Your audition actually lasts from the time you step foot into the room until the time you leave.

I wish everyone good luck with the new school year! I hope you get out of it all that you hope for.
Dr D