how do you prepare yourself for the actual audition moment?

Audition Hacker

imagine: you step up to the music stand, you try to exhale out a little bit off stress, you wipe your sweaty fingers on your pants. you try to forget that you have to use the bathroom. the room is eerily silent, and the proctor says, “this is candidate 31,” after which they gesture for you to begin playing. and after a lifetime of practicing, 3 months of dedicated preparation, you now have the next three to four minutes to impress a bunch of people who you can’t see on the other side of the screen.

it’s the actual audition moment.

here we go. (illustration by emmanuel ayrton)

here we go. (illustration by emmanuel ayrton)

and it’s intense. actually, the intense part comes before, during, and after the audition, but during is probably the most intense. that's because you’ve put so much energy and investment into one audition, and then you just get a few minutes to package your entire life’s work into a small set of musical excerpts. when you’re preparing, it’s hard to realize that it all comes down to one single moment, but that fact becomes all too real when you actually get to it.

and there’s nothing you can do about that. you might have four minutes of time to showcase 3 months of work. that might be 3 weeks of preparation PER MINUTE of audition. i’m sure you’ve experienced this - where you get to that moment. “wow, now that i’m here, i can’t believe it’s actually happening. this is the actual moment of the audition. it’s all happening... right now.” just that experience and feeling could cause you to freak yourself out. it could be a cause of nerves, itself. 

the question is: how do you deal with feeling that pressure at the audition moment?

how can you prepare yourself to be comfortable, and to do everything in just the way you practiced it?

how can you deal with that incredible pressure?

as you probably know about me, the way i like to deal with things is... methodically. i like to identify a problem, i like to think of solutions, and then i try one out. and if it works then i think of a way to integrate it into my audition routine. in this case, my solution is to make this moment, the actual audition moment, so familiar that it doesn’t feel different once you get to the audition. the way i do that is by experiencing it over and over and adapting to that feeling.

so, in terms of the audition moment, how do you adapt to that feeling? you basically only have a few auditions per year. more than one or two, but probably not more than ten. so how can you get yourself to experience that moment over and over so that it’s comfortable by audition day? (or at least mildly familiar?)

i have an idea for you.

here it is: do a ton of mock auditions, and force yourself to feel that audition moment feeling.

if you’ve read this blog before, you probably know by now that i do a TON of mock auditions. i do them over and over so that whatever things are uncomfortable can start to feel normal. and if not normal, at least manageable.

here’s what i do during my mocks.

i stand in the hallway or warm up room, or the pre-audition room, getting ready to bring myself and my instrument into the performance room, and right before i go out, i remind myself that i’m about to play an audition. i walk out to the music stand, i take a breath (just like at the actual audition!!), i look down at my instrument and i say: “this is the audition moment. this is it. i’m about to do it. i’m about to have an audition."

regardless of if i mean it or not, i’m self-aware. i give myself i a little nod. i’m basically saying to my future self, “don’t worry - you’re not alone. i’m experiencing the uncomfortable-ness now so you don’t have to later. you will have experienced this over and over before. so many times, that it’s not a big deal anymore.” you’re integrating it into your audition routine so that it doesn’t feel crazy later. 

so there’s a quick idea for you. try it in your next audition preparation process, and let me know how it goes!

looking for an audition breakthrough? 

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


rob knopper

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