Here at Eagle Rock Music Studio, many of our students eventually go on to become music majors in college to study the instrument they spend years learning with us. We thought it would be useful to pass along the best advice we give to our students regarding taking their playing to the next step of competing for placement in a college music school. Applying to colleges as a high school senior is extremely stressful under any circumstances, but applying to a college’s music school is frequently even more stressful since auditions are a part of the application process. Here are some tips for dealing with the pressure.
Before Your Audition
Practice makes perfect, so get cracking. Make sure you rehearse the entire repertoire that is required by each school you are applying to. (Also, remember to review sight-reading and scales too.) It is common during an audition for the committee to request that you play something unexpected. This isn’t done as a way to stress you out; most of the time, they will do this just as a way of assessing what your proficiency level is.
Also, try to create your own audition committee. You will be performing in front of total strangers who won’t offer much in the way of feedback on the big day, so try to recreate this scenario. Use friends, teachers, family, etc. Performing in front of those who aren’t familiar with the finer points of what you are doing can still be useful, since it will make you aware of how your playing comes across to others in a more concrete, objective sense.
Also, think about how part of your audition isn’t about your playing, but how you come across as a person. Be sure to be polite and confident, and don’t forget to dress well and smile!
Once the Audition Begins
Don’t expect to be perfect, no matter how hard you have practiced. The committee will even expect some mistakes and for you to still be a developing musician — otherwise, there would be no need to further your education. Try to keep in mind that they are there to evaluate your potential. Also, remember that their time is usually very limited, so don’t be surprised if they stop you while you are in the middle of playing. That doesn’t mean they didn’t like what they were hearing, they likely just decided they had heard enough to evaluate you. It’s worth keeping in mind that the committee wants to hear you play well and to be successful; they’re teachers!
Finding the Right Fit
Every school is different. They’re evaluating you to see if you fit their teaching style and program philosophy, but at the same time, you should be evaluating them to see if they are the right fit for you and your goals as a student and musician. If you are interested in becoming a jazz musician, it doesn’t make sense to apply to a school that doesn’t have a jazz program you would be interested in joining. This will be a factor during your audition: be sure to highlight your intended direction as a musician, and make sure the school is capable of helping you get there. Have a narrative for yourself at the ready that you can quickly communicate to the committee.
Other than that, be sure to break a leg. Good luck!