news: 7 more auditionhacker students won orchestra auditions

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back in october of last year, i told you about 3 auditionhacker students who won auditions.

that was around my 2 year anniversary of starting the auditionhacker academy. and ever since the beginning, i anxiously waited for people to win jobs so i could prove to myself (and tell you guys!) that the process is legit and works for people who are not me.

after two years, i started getting success stories, and that’s why i sent out that email in october.

since october, it’s been insane. 7 more auditionhacker students won orchestra auditions.

it’s like the floodgates opened. it’s so many that i can’t keep track of them all. even more were finalists, won summer festival auditions, and won their college auditions. i’m so PROUD of them for facing their weaknesses head on and pushing themselves to work harder than ever. it’s so happy when i get the email or facebook message that someone won an audition. but it also gives me hope that MORE of you will win auditions.

because i know that it’s hard for you to believe that it can happen. if you haven’t yet tasted that success, it feels like it may never happen.

but i want you to know that with the right work ethic…with the right approach…with the right drive and competitive spirit...

...it is possible to overcome your struggles and win an audition.

today’s blog is the story of 3 students who won auditions at three different levels: conservatory, the new world symphony, and a professional orchestra.

they're each very different people but they had two things in common:

  1. they are all students in my audition preparation course the auditionhacker formula, and
  2. they all won huge, life-changing auditions within the last 3 months.

they also have something else in common, which i’ll tell you about after the interviews.

[add links below to ‘rob and noa’s summer audition boot camp’ and ‘enrollment ends…]

(btw. if you’re interested in signing up for the auditionhacker formula, that entire course is included in rob and noa’s summer audition boot camp. noa’s course, beyond practicing, is included too, along with 8 weeks of group sessions and direct feedback from me, noa, and the rest of the class. enrollment ends sunday night at 11:59pm.11:59pm.)

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our first success story is about jordan, a high school violinist isolated in austria who almost fell apart the night before her first college audition.

she sent me this scary text, which, well…. YOU read it:

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and this was after two years of preparing in advance for her college auditions. jordan had a ton of obstacles to overcome: she lived a solitary musical life in austria, where she didn’t have many performance or audition opportunities. and that lack of experience caused debilitating fear.

she ended up getting into a number of prestigious international conservatories and decided to attend new england conservatory this fall. (YAY!)

rob: what were you so worried about before your auditions?

jordan: well, i hadn’t done a lot of live auditions before. and since i don’t get the chance to perform live very often, i was scared of my own reaction.

rob: what did you think was going to happen?

jordan: i used to spazz out when i was nervous. i was afraid of what might happen, but i was even more afraid of the fear itself. i didn’t know if i would be able to react to it.

rob: wow. how did you work on this fear?

jordan: well, i noticed this fear ahead of time and i addressed it in a couple ways.

one is that i used to think that 1 or 2 mock auditions would suffice. but then i realized, “what’s limiting me from doing more?” so i ended up doing multiple mock auditions for weeks leading up to the audition. they would make me nervous but doing them caused me to feel like there was less variability in my playing even when i was nervous. they were a good place to get honest feedback from listeners and i record them and listen back to my playing. i also did them all online which made it feel less isolated during this solitary process.

the other is that i did such careful planning and practice beforehand. for instance, in the boot camp you talked about the micro to macro concept, where you start by working on the smallest sections and over the course of your audition prep you zoom out and address increasingly bigger sections of music. i listened to lots of recordings and i carefully planned out my interpretation, all with the intention that by the time i got on stage i’d know exactly what i wanted to do with the music.

rob: so did it work? what happened at the audition?

jordan: the night before my NEC audition, i had a lot of worries and i stayed up very late that night. i thought i ruined my changes which made me even more nervous. but when i finally got into the warm up room, i felt completely calm all of a sudden.

maybe it was all the training i had done, or maybe it was the atmosphere of the audition. but in that moment i realized that even if i was debilitatingly nervous before the performance, i knew how to be professional when it counted.

rob: that is so badass. what’s the biggest difference you see between how you practiced before and how you practice now?

jordan: i used to want to get things done immediately. now i know that i should pause after repetitions, identify the problem, and work on it in a methodical way. i can't just play it over and over to figure out what’s wrong.

rob: how did it feel to get your audition results?

jordan: i felt honored when they came in, but i wasn’t jumping around the room excited because i felt like my own battle had already been won. what excites me is that now i can see my future ahead of me.

rob: thank you jordan, you’re an inspiration. best of luck with NEC and everything in your future.


our second success story is about stephanie, a violist who dealt with overwhelming pressure trying to live up to the standards set by her teacher, her classmates, and herself.

stephanie went to juilliard for 6 years. and to her, the most important thing she could do was to earn a spot as principal in one of the school orchestra placement auditions. it was the thing that could impress her teachers and classmates the most. but it was elusive. it didn’t happen. sometimes she wasn’t even allowed to take the school placement audition for principal.

and it made her bitter about auditions. she felt like she must not be cut out for orchestra, which caused her to question her entire career choice.

but, after a transformative experience auditioning for verbier, she turned it all around. she won the verbier audition and she won a coveted position in the new world symphony where she will start this fall. (WOW.)

rob: so before the verbier audition, what do you think was holding you back?

stephanie: well, after doing my entire undergrad i felt like i had a ton of pressure to achieve much more as a musician and to prove myself to my teachers. i was in a bad place mentally and my failures at school placement auditions felt like this wall i couldn’t break down. i figured that if i couldn’t even do well in my placement auditions, i shouldn’t audition for verbier or any other high level musicians. i figured that i just didn’t have what it takes. maybe i wasn’t precise enough, or maybe i couldn’t focus well enough.

i also freaked out because i was a first year masters student, and i thought, “why do i still have these problems?! i must be in terrible shape.”

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rob: that sounds like a really destructive feeling to deal with. what made you decide to even take the verbier audition this past year?

stephanie: to be honest, my teacher made me do it. i thought it was pointless because it’s a really high level festival, and why would they ever pick me? but i actually worked really hard on it. the music was very challenging, but i had my teachers and friends supporting me and telling me not to give up. i was so afraid to fail at something else because of my string of really difficult auditions before it. i thought about canceling, but i kept working on the music anyway.

rob: besides just working harder, did you do anything differently in your preparation for this audition?

stephanie: yes. at that time i was taking noa’s performance class at juilliard. a week before the verbier audition, i was sitting in his class and he said he was going to pick someone to do an exercise that he thought really needed to reframe how they talk to themselves. and he made me come up to the front of the class and play.

he told me to play the excerpt from strauss’ salome. he said, “i want you to start playing. and the second you think something mean about yourself, i want you to stop and say it out loud to the class. if you need to swear, go ahead.”

and of course within the first minute i was laughing. i was saying stuff out loud, like, “you suck! you can’t play in time!” and all this other stuff. they were all the sweeping declarations that i know deep down aren’t true! it was really cool because i could tell people in the room really felt for me. but it helped me reframe those comments in my head and it was amazing how it felt.

rob: how did you reframe them?

stephanie: well, one thing i said to myself was, “i can’t shift.” but it wasn’t that i couldn’t shift, it was just that i needed to work on it. but in my head i always take it to the next level. so somebody raised their hand in class and asked me if instead of thinking “i can’t shift,” can i just think, “okay, i overshot that first time. can i just take a second and think about a tweak i can make in my hand or motion to fix it?”

and it really can be that simple. but until then, it’s just a storm of really horrible thoughts.

rob: so what happened at the verbier audition? did you have those horrible thoughts?

stephanie: no, they just didn’t come. i made peace. i’ve gotten over those thoughts now and i can just think a little bit more clearly.

rob: how did that feel?

stephanie: it felt good. i was like, “thank god.” finally.

rob: have those thoughts ever come back?

stephanie: not only don’t they come that often, but i make a conscious choice to keep calm and not let them overwhelm me.


our third interview is with matt ernster, a grad student percussionist who came out of nowhere with no audition experience to win his dream job.

around two years ago, matt was an accomplished contemporary percussionist and marimba soloist. all of the sudden he decided to take an abrupt turn in his career path and start taking auditions. that meant he was starting nearly from scratch on the entire repertoire of orchestra excerpts that most other players would have years of experience with.

at first, he was a mess. he thought that it would be easy to prepare for auditions since the excerpts were “only 30 seconds long.” he sent in a prescreening video audition tape and faced a major setback in his progress.

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but after two incredibly intense years, he finally earned a spot with the KBS symphony orchestra in korea. (yaaaaaass.)

rob: what did it feel like to just jump into excerpts like this?

matt: oh my god, it was terrible. i was really frustrated and upset because i wanted to win the job right then. i was practicing and practicing and practicing but every time i played for my teacher he was like, “oh yeah. this is still bad. let’s get to work.”

rob: did you think you were playing the excerpts well or did you know they weren’t ready for auditions yet?

matt: well, i never felt prepared going in. even when i practiced a lot i would say, “ok, i can play this. but i don’t know it.” i didn’t have confidence when i stepped up to the instrument. when i played for my teacher i felt like the music was fuzzy in my head. i knew he was going to bust me on something but i didn’t know what it would be. i couldn’t focus on the task at hand.

rob: what did you do about it?

matt: at a certain point when i was feeling really down, my teacher said something like, “look, man. you’re trying to do this thing in a semester that most percussionists spend their entire undergraduate careers learning. it’s great that you’re trying to win this job right now but it’s a process and it’s just not going to happen right away.”

when i heard that, i decided that it was time to deep dive into orchestral repertoire and make up for what i didn’t know. this is when i started your class. and right away in the first couple weeks i started this process of deep diving into studying the repertoire, which was my biggest weakness.

rob: what did you do to study the excerpts?

matt: i tried to study each piece of music as completely as i could. i made a database of information for all the excerpts where i would listen to 10 recordings and write down everything i could think of. i’d click out the tempo, i’d jot down style notes and sound notes.

rob: did it help?

matt: honestly, the mental change was huge. i had great teachers who always told me to listen to the excerpts, but before the auditionhacker course i never knew how to go about it. instead of just listening to fill my brain with knowledge, i was listening so deeply so the musicality would transfer from my brain to my hands because you know it so authoritatively.

it felt SO GOOD! and it was kind of a relief. i finally felt like it was happening, like my practicing and studying was working. i thought, “okay, i can do this.” it was this abundance of confidence that i had never felt before.

rob: that’s amazing. you identified a weakness, made an extreme change in your process to address it, and it worked. so how did it feel to win the audition?

matt: i was like, “oh my gooooooodnesssssssss!!!” it was the craziest feeling. i was like, oh my god, this is my new home! this is seoul. i was so excited.


so. do you see a trend here?

jordan accepted her fear of performing and started doing tons of mock auditions and careful planning to solve it.

stephanie bravely stood in front of her classmates and spilled her darkest inner thoughts until they were just… gone.

and matt acknowledged his complete lack of experience and dove headfirst into intense excerpt research until he was confident and fully prepared.

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each of these audition winners faced their weakness head-on. they each made a radical decision to change their life so they could achieve their dream to win an orchestra audition.

you can’t win something crazy like a professional orchestra audition without doing something crazy to prepare.

you can’t keep doing what you’re doing and expect anything different to happen.

someone emailed me asking me if they should sign up for the audition boot camp that we’re offering.

he said, “it might be risky to change my approach too drastically.”

look…

i’m going to be blunt. what’s risky is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. what’s risky is NOT making a radical decision to change your life.

all of the audition winners i know are driven, like jordan. they’re dedicated, like matt. they’re brave, like stephanie.

none of this is going to be easy, but i’m going to help you through this process.

i’m going to help you take a hard look at your audition preparation process and understand what’s missing. i’ll give you my absolute best strategies for preparing excerpts for auditions. i’ll show you the exact methods that worked for me to win my job in the metropolitan opera orchestra in such incredible detail that you can just follow the steps and run your excerpts through them like auditionhacker students have done over and over to win auditions at every level. i’ll help you figure out how to string together an effective set of processes so that your excerpts can be more confident, more detailed, and more audition-ready than ever.

you’ll work with me on the steps of audition preparation, and you’ll work with noa kageyama from the bulletproof musician on performance psychology and mental practice.

it’s time to make a radical life change and transform your audition preparation.

spend this summer with me and noa doing 8 weeks of high-level audition training and intensive excerpt study. it’s for musicians who want to absolutely dominate their next audition. enroll in rob and noa’s summer audition boot camp before it closes on sunday night at 11:59pm.

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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.