Finding Confidence in Music
I auditioned for the Marching Illini because I marched in high school and all my friends told me to audition in college. After a few months at Illinois, I auditioned for the Basketball Band because the friends I made in Marching Illini encouraged me to, saying how much fun they had when they did it.
In high school, I auditioned for the district band because it was a requirement for my class.
In middle school, I auditioned for the same district band because my mom told me to.
Only twice have I auditioned for an ensemble entirely on my own motivation. I auditioned for two colleges in my senior year of high school, and I wasn’t accepted into either one of those music programs.
At Illinois, I chose not to audition because I lost a lot of confidence after my previous college auditions, and I wanted the best shot at securing a place at this university.
I have always hated to audition. I, as I’m sure most do, find it absolutely terrifying to step into a room, either well-prepared or completely in over your head, knowing that the people sitting in front of you are prepared to judge everything you play, to put it in the least-dramatic way possible.
That’s why I almost never auditioned without some outside encouragement. I leaned on the preparation and reassurance of friends, family, and directors to even find the courage to step into that room.
College greatly changed that for me. I no longer had a group of people I could run to with the slightest worry or concern about my performance to gather comfort and confidence. That, no doubt, will come with time in college. But for now, I have been alone in my musical endeavors, struggling to find that confidence solely within myself.
It’s a tough journey to find confidence as a musician. But what I’ve learned so far is that confidence comes from knowing who you are.
I attended a panel recently that was stacked with Illinois professors and staff who spoke about their experiences in music. And what they said really resonated with me.
They talked about the importance of individuality as a musician. That it's not your perfect tone or sight-reading skills that sets you apart from every other performer in that audition. It’s who you are as a person and performer and what you are passionate about when it comes to music.
You can walk into an audition playing a piece that you’ve kept under your belt for years and can always perform well, or you can show up performing a piece that excites and engages you– one that you’ve gotten creative with.
So that’s how I’ve chosen to spend my time in college: discovering my own performance style and the pieces that get me excited to play.
It’s a slow journey, but that time will improve everything about my performance quality and keep my desire to participate in music alive.
The one rule I’m sure to hold with me past college is that beating the competition doesn’t make the musician, authenticity does.