This semester was my first audition for concert ensembles at UIUC, and it was terrifying.
Mostly, I was worried because I hadn’t performed a live audition since before the pandemic began. I was definitely rusty.
I began my warm-ups in the music building practice rooms. I thought it would be nice to give myself a good, private warm-up to calm the nerves and prepare, since I wasn’t sure what the warm-up room situation was inside of Krannert Center.
After about half an hour of scales and slurs with a shaky tone, I made my way towards the audition room.
Despite the semester of experience on campus that I already had, I was extremely unfamiliar with Krannert’s layout.
I was hoping as I walked in the door to find a check-in table immediately inside with plenty of people to point me the right way, but I was only greeted with a sign telling me to find the check-in table at production level.
From my time inside Krannert, I had never once come across a production level, let alone a staircase. I’d only ever been in the lobby. So I set out on my hurried wandering, following anyone who looked like they might be heading towards a staircase.
After several minutes, I had made no progress, so I resorted to asking anyone in sight. I approached the only person nearby, asking her if she could point me to the stairs, to which she apologetically replied, “I don’t work here.”
And I was left on my own again.
My search of the building grew ever more frantic as minutes passed. I found one staircase, finally, but it was blocked off for construction. It did, however, soon lead me to find the next staircase with a sign pointing to production level.
I had exactly 10 minutes before I was expected to be performing on stage, so I rushed to the check-in table, filled out my form, and remembered to ask directions to the next room.
By the time I had made my way to the warm-up room, I had three minutes to make it to the stage. I whipped out my trumpet and continued my warm-up for approximately two seconds before I tuned and prepared to leave.
On my way out, I overheard two other players in the room discussing the final cuts to the excerpts, which I didn’t have. So I ran over to them, asking for the quickest run-down of final cuts, then proceeded to run out of the room toward the stage.
I peeked around the corner to make sure I was in the right place, only to end up scaring the backstage proctor by showing up almost out of nowhere.
She came around quickly after my accidental jumpscare, and proceeded to calmly show me the music and explain the procedure; she would walk me on stage, announce my number, I would sit and play the excerpts in order at my own pace, they would thank me and I would leave. And it was all a blind audition.
The final performance was much less terrifying than I had been working up in my head. And even though I absolutely botched the first note I played, I survived the rest and the pieces came out pretty well.
If I can share any piece of advice from this audition experience, it is that you should trust the process and give yourself enough time to look around and find where you need to be. Hopefully, that should take a lot of unnecessary out of your day.
In the midst of unprecedented times, several musicians have faced a new challenge: several auditions that have typically been in-person have now switched to a virtual format. For many musicians, this is a MUCH more comfortable audition method! However, I consider myself as more of a “one and done” kind of gal. I want to walk onto a stage, introduce myself, sing for a judge, and then call it a day… but sometimes, you gotta record your audition from your apartment. I like to think I’ve got my virtual audition method down to a science, and I would love to share it with you!
My Last Audition
Audition season for graduate music programs is a crucial time for music school seniors. Applications open around September, pre-screening videos are due by December 1st, live audition invitations are sent later that month or in January, and auditions typically occur throughout February or March. My virtual live auditions were mostly in February, but this past weekend, I completed the last audition of my season, for the Curtis Institute of Music opera program.
Auditioning for Yale Opera
My graduate school audition season has been winding down (though I still have one last audition, for Curtis Institute, which I will certainly detail in a blog post!) and my last audition in February was for the Yale School of Music opera program. This has been one of my top programs since the beginning of my application process. Only about sixteen singers are in the program at any given time, and it is tuition-free. I attended a virtual information session with current Yale Opera students the week of the audition, and I was very impressed by their answers to prospective students’ questions, their drive to make music safely during COVID, and their overall friendliness.
Since I am a senior undergraduate, the question of my plans after graduation looms large. I started thinking about these plans quite early, meeting professors from appealing graduate programs during junior year. Now, in late February of my senior year, I am nearing the end of this long but imperative process. This is a very unique audition season; some schools eliminated the pre-screen round entirely, some simply advanced our videos to a second viewing, and a few required live virtual auditions over Zoom! In January, I had such an audition for Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and this helped me get comfortable with this unique audition format. Earlier today, February 20th, I had another virtual live audition, this time for the Voice and Opera Program at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in Evanston, IL.