Right up there with the SAT’s and trips to the dentist, auditions seem to be among the least enjoyed activities that we encounter in the course of our musical careers.
More so than performances, auditions (and competitions) tend to make us feel like we’re being judged, evaluated, and compared, with every little detail put under a microscope. Which naturally leads to more of a “threat” mindset than the more performance-enhancing “challenge” mindset.
But whether it’s for youth orchestra seating, admission to college or conservatory, summer festivals, or a professional orchestral position, auditions are an inevitable part of the path we’ve chosen.
So what are we to do?
It was a warm spring day in 1986. And my elementary-school classmates and I were enjoying an afternoon of potato sack races, water balloon tosses, and other games. Eventually it was time for the three-legged race, and I paired up with a friend from my class.
Maybe it was because we were of similar height, or that we’d played soccer together for several years, but for one reason or another, we ended up being a pretty good team. Actually, that doesn’t even begin to describe the beatdown that we administered on the others. The race wasn’t even close – we passed the finish line before anyone else even got to the mid-way point.
Not good enough!
Much like the ability to discern the pronunciation nuances of a foreign language, a good ear and high standards take years to fine-tune, and are essential to honing one’s skills as a musician.
It’s one of the products of my musical training that I’m most grateful for, as I feel that an understanding of what excellence looks like has served me well in everything I’ve ever spent any time on – from psychology to parenting to even my decidedly sub-mediocre tennis skills. But if you asked my kids, they might express a little less enthusiasm about daddy’s standards of excellence, and wish I’d overlook more details.