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.
The world-renowned Krannert Center for the Performing Arts offers many performances in a year and provides a vigorous and artistic environment for students in the School of Music. It had always been a dream of mine to perform on stage there. At the beginning of October, I finally entered Foellinger Great Hall, and it was such a great pleasure that my first time there was to be on stage as a performer alongside the University of Illinois Wind Orchestra. I was pleased to see lots of people in the audience. Even though the audience wore masks, I was certain that they enjoyed the music with happy faces.
Previously, I wrote about singing a concert in Foellinger Great Hall with the University of Illinois Chamber Singers, which was recorded for Carle Hospital patients. We did not record all of our repertoire, and the following week, we decided to continue our recording streak, but this time, it would be in a strikingly different location! The Women’s Glee Club has used the Krannert Center Green Parking Garage for their rehearsals and recordings, so we followed their lead, and the results were fabulous! Dr. Megill spoke highly of the acoustics in this unique space-- he compared them to those of a cathedral, which would make the space ideal for some of our haunting a capella pieces.
This week, I got to participate in a recording session with my choir, the University of Illinois Chamber Singers! We have done a few recording sessions, and we performed informally outside last semester, but this more formal affair was a much-needed return to the performing on which our group thrives.
I have written in previous blog posts about one of my main projects this semester: an in-person presentation of Samuel Barber’s often-neglected opera, Vanessa, with the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra. This past week brought the culmination of this tremendously fulfilling project. The event was quite momentous, as it was our school’s first in-person performance featuring vocals to have a limited live audience since the pandemic.
I have always heard about the Krannert Debut Artist competition, one of the most prestigious competitions in the UIUC School of Music. One artist is selected each year to give a debut performance as a young professional musician on the Foellinger Great Hall stage. They are a featured artist in the Krannert Season, and they even get to sign a brick in the production hallway of Krannert! Last Tuesday, I got an email from my professor, Jerold Siena, saying that he had nominated me for this competition.
Last week, I sat in on the first orchestra rehearsal for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois’ and University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra’s concert presentation of excerpts from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. I could not wait to begin working on the music with the talented chamber orchestra, and today, I had the opportunity to do so! This was quite a big deal for me because it was the first time I had sung solo in the Foellinger Great Hall unamplified (one of my greatest Illinois memories was singing the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance in November 2018, but that performance utilized microphones). The acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are renowned, and some of the world’s greatest singers, including many of my vocal idols, have enjoyed giving recitals on this stage. It felt amazing singing with an orchestra in this space which is so kind to singers and provides plentiful natural amplification.
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.