why last thursday's webinar on audition nerves was the future of music education


today i’m going to take a break from talking about auditions or music, and reflect on something awesome that happened last thursday. 

i presented a webinar called “how to crush nerves (for auditions),” for hundreds of people, and it was the best way i’ve ever taught a class. it was also the first time that audition training has ever happened in that sort of setting, as far as i’m aware. actually: maybe it was a huge event in music education history! maybe this will be on wikipedia one day. who knows.

what’s a webinar? 

a webinar is a seminar on the web, but in music education terms it was more like an online clinic. a winic. (wlinic?) it’s a live video presented to anyone who signs up, all over the world, at a specific time.

the goal

ok, my goal was to teach people about how to deal with nerves for performance and auditions. it wasn’t to give a magic bullet, and i wasn’t trying to give secrets (because there are, like, none of those). i was trying to teach about how to integrate a methodical process into your audition preparation that can help you detect nerves, categorize and understand them, and then have a plan or a strategy to get rid of them. and so there was a lot of ways i could do this - i could have written a blog, or i could have made a video. but i wanted to do an experiment, so i tried a webinar.

why a webinar?

the MET orchestra’s season is notoriously long, chaotic and crazy. between the first day of preseason and the last day of the season in may, it’s super difficult to leave new york at all. so i travel in the summer, (including the summer audition domination tour), but once the season starts i wanted to be able to teach classes without leaving new york. now that i tried it, this is definitely the way to do it.

a small penguin-tangent happened.

a small penguin-tangent happened.

here’s what happened:

last thursday, i played a morning dress rehearsal of turandot at the met opera, in which i played snare drum, triangle, and nipple gong. then i went home, opened my computer, and over 300 students were inside of my computer, live, ready and excited to learn about performance anxiety, audition nerves, and the audition process. SO COOL! 

so we all introduced ourselves, and there were people from every continent besides antarctica. (and a pretty hilarious subthread conversion on penguins ensued.) and then i taught the class.

for me, the class was great. i had spent weeks developing the class, perfecting every sentence and every visual. i presented the information by switching back and forth between video of me through my webcam and visual PDF slides through screensharing. 

by the numbers:

-registrants: 875
-live attendees: 314
-percentage of people who stayed from the beginning to the end: 60%
-replay attendees: 272
-total viewings: 1317
-broadcast length: 1:29:26 (including fifteen minutes before the class for introductions)
-chat messages: 1257
-number of entire percussion departments that were watching: 2
-number of people who downloaded the worksheet at the end: 191

there were a bunch of really really great things, and one bad thing. here they are:

the 1 negative thing: a technology mishap.

one of the benefits of doing a live online webinar is that i could inject videos into the session. one of the videos i injected was a 15 second clip of a terrible audition i played in 2006 for the pacific music festival. i was using that to show what shaky hands and nerves does to me. but there was one more short video that i tried to inject, but due to a mishap, it was a private video on youtube on my account. so the webinar software tried and failed to pull it over from youtube, and everyone had a problem watching it. i then restarted my webinar window, and so everyone watching went back to the beginning of the session! however, the chat continued for everyone in real time, so the attendees realized on their own that if they click the button at the bottom - RECONNECT - that they would come back to the present time. 

so? that won’t happen again, and if it does, i know how to fix it. and even if something bad happens, some smart students who are watching will help me figure out how to fix it and tell everyone else. thanks guys!

the many many great things:

the chat

this was absolutely and unequivocally the best part. unlike a normal clinic where students have to sit down and shut up, students were allowed to stay engaged and they were encouraged to discuss, reflect, ask questions, and generally get to know each other through the chat window. it became a whole little community all on its own. some of the comedy was the discussion on penguins (see above), a whole discussion on knobs (and how funny that word is), which was a result of my analogy of learning to drive a car.



letting students chat with each other during a session is probably the worst nightmare of every teacher i’ve ever had. but the big difference between normal classes and this classes was that if the students wanted to talk during the lecture, they wouldn’t interrupt me. and as a former student, i know how boring it is to sit quietly in a room for a long time listening to a dumb lecture. it felt like there was a constant stream of chatter throughout the entire class, and i was so happy that the chat was so active. 

when a student didn’t understand something, they could ask and other people could help by answering. if a student wanted to go down the rabbit hole of a particular topic, they could, knowing that the session would be recorded, and they could just go watch it again if they missed too much.

the beautiful part of it to me was that each person didn’t feel all alone in their thoughts as they were going through the seminar. they could reflect on each part, and see if other people had the same thoughts or feelings about that particular topic.

it became a much more engaging discussion completely on the topic of how to tackle nerves for auditions than it would have been with only my lecture happening. 

the convenience

if i wanted to teach this class ten years ago to hundreds of people on 6 different continents, i would have had to get a plane…a lot. i would have had to fly to a hundred cities, spend half a year, and teach the same class SO many times. that sounds fun… for the first 3 days. but after that? no way.

your moment of zen.

your moment of zen.

and not only was it super convenient to me, it was super convenient to the students. they could open their computer wherever they were. they could open their phone on the way to class, or rehearsal, and suddenly be immersed in this learning experience.

so in both ways, it allowed us to be more productive. normally, if i wanted to teach a class, i’d have to do all of my preparation for writing the class, and i’d have to spend time doing unproductive work like traveling. and so for this i could focus my energy on what was important, which was actually preparing the best possible webinar or learning material that i could. 

the reach

part of my mission with the auditionhacker academy is that i don't want your geographical location to get in the way of your goals. the only thing that should stop you from achieving your goals is your own work ethic. if you have a work ethic, you should have the resources to achieve anything. so by offering this to hundreds of people at once, hundreds more people can hopefully develop a plan to plow through the obstacle of audition nerves. 

thank you!

Audition cheat sheet

looking for an audition breakthrough? 

here's my 5-step guide to constructing your preparation process and optimizing it for maximum results for any instrument.

rob knopper

lincoln center plaza, 10023

hailed by @nytimes and james levine as needing 'louder triangle notes'. recorded delécluse: douze études for snare drum, percussionist in @metorchestra.