College Audition Experiences/Advice?

January 17, 2009 at 04:33 AM ·

I'm getting ready for college auditions in a few weeks and I'm not really sure what to expect.... and I feel like I'd be less nervous going into them if I had more of a concrete idea of what they'd be like. It would be great if any of you guys who have already taken and survived college auditions could share any experiences or advice. For instance, which repertoire is most likely to be focused on, and which are they most likely not going to listen to? Any tips for mentally preparing yourself right before the audition? Etc etc. Anything would be helpful.

For the record, I'm auditioning at Oberlin, Northwestern, Michigan, CMU, and University of Texas - Austin, and for my audition repertoire I'm doing the first two movements of Scottish Fantasy, the Bach G minor Adagio and Fugue, and Paganini No. 9.



Replies (6)

January 17, 2009 at 11:21 PM ·

There's no way to give you a general response to this question.  Every college is different.  When I auditioned I had everything from just one teacher listening to me to a room full of the entire string faculty.

All the ones I participated in were pretty laid back.  But I have known people who went to more formal auditions that were very detached.  In mine they talked to me for a bit and asked me questions about past playing experiences.  Usually they'll want to see a piece and then some kind of "technique" thing.  Like an etude that you know or a scale.  Keep in mind that they are looking more for quality of playing vs just sawing through the piece.  So it's ok if you mess up.  they're looking more for your sound and could you be "molded" into a better student that would make their department look good.

Sometimes they'll also ask you to do a bit of sight reading.  Often when you go on music scholarship you're required to play in their orchestra.  So they want to see your abilities in that area as well.

January 31, 2009 at 04:50 AM ·


I have done undergrad and grad auditions over the years. the most important thing that I can say is; CONTACT the teachers that you are interested in ahead of time for lesson! Known teachers (mentioning no names) have told me over the years that generally as much as 50 people can come out borderline with a similar average. They will take the person that they know AND that they know that they can work well with. I can not emphasize this enough! Also, be confident, but flexible. You will probably be asked to start with something of your choice (you will probably play that for longer, than other pieces). I would recommend to start with a concerto since Bach requires you to be less nervous and most people will screw that up a bit (one has to play a phenomenal Bach in order to impress anyone). I have never heard of anyone throw sight reading at you (not in the better schools anyway), but it won't hurt to have that as a daily warm up excercise. As to the number of people? I have seen eight at Eastman and three at Northwestern and anything in between. Once, long time ago for undergrad I was asked scales. Above all do not mystify, center on yourself, get your pace across and if you can perform a 8 min audition for someone every day that will help to prepare you.

Lots of luck and best wishes!

January 31, 2009 at 06:15 AM ·

Hey. Looks like you've got a good program. I expect you'll be well prepared and all, you ought to have as good a chance as anyone. As for my experience... I remember quite well... I found all of my auditions to be rather "laid back" affairs, and encouraging (note- I aud'd at U of I Champaigne-Urbana, Oberlin, Wheaton College (Illinois), and DePaul Univ.). I was well prepared overall, and I think that you'll find that the atmosphere is such that you can play your best provided you're prepared and all. Probably the most important thing after playing really well (sometimes though, before) is knowing the teacher you want to study with. Maria is right about this key point. If a particular teacher knows you and knows what you can do, and has a spot open, there is a HUGE chance that you could get in with them even over someone who plays a little better than you. It's just how it goes. So keep that in mind.

As for the day of, or the weekend of or whatever... If you're getting there like a day early, try to go exploring. figure out where exactly you have to be and when. Figure out where the bathrooms are, where you can eat, where you can practice. You might know this before you get there, you might not, but it's ALWAYS good to be on the safe side, and to  be comfortable in the spaces that you will be before the audition. You don't want to have to worry about stuff like that, as silly as some of it may sound, when it comes down to a few hours before go time.

For the schools, the only place we have in common is Oberlin (for the audition). They have a lot of practice rooms, so that shouldn't be a problem I don't think. You can check out their website and stuff, but... Oh if you haven't checked out their music library you might want to if you are exploring and have spare time--it's pretty amazing. 

For the audition itself: I played scales only once. But that was on a slow day at that school and it was a very private audition. I also played some sightreading on that one, it was the first movement (first page) of a violin piano sonata by Beethoven. For the Oberlin Audition, I had to play sightreading. I remember the piece too... chamber music .. I think it was by Mendelssohn... not sure. Overall I think it wouldn't hurt to practice some sightreading cause you never know. As for scales/arpeggios... well if you don't play em a lot right now, you might want to build up on it till the audition, because again, you just never know...

Last, just remember, the panel is for you and not against you. And just play you're stuff. They will know what to look for, and that's just you. It's great if you nail everything, but you don't have to do that to send all the right messages. So that's my piece I guess. By the way, if you end up at Northwestern and find yourself in need of an orchestra to play in, check out I've been with them for three years now and they play lots of the standard repertoire and really do a good job. The director is my teacher and he's always looking for more strings and all. Anyways, good luck on your auditions. Stay cool!


February 10, 2009 at 01:43 AM ·

 thanks for the advice! i've had two auditions at this point - u texas austin and michigan - and so i think i'm finally getting a handle on what to expect. i've already contacted and played for teachers at all of the schools that i'm auditioning for, so that part's taken care of, luckily. 

haven't had to play scales anywhere yet, but i did have to do some sightreading at michigan - i think it was a mozart string quartet. anyway, aside from getting adjusted to the sheer physical experience of nervousness everything's been going ok so far (*knock on wood*).

February 20, 2009 at 09:17 PM ·

Hi Elizabeth, Glad auditions are going well. So many people can relate to how you feel, being nervous. I would like to comment on that. I would suggest running over the spots that may give you some problems and warming up before each audition to give you an extra confidence boost. Do not think about making mistakes, the advice all the other violinist gave to you is great!!

Before the audition day get a good nights rest, eat something, and maybe do something that helps you to relax such as listening to your favorite music, deep breathing, or yoga:)

I hope this helps you to calm your nerves. Someone, an international renowned pianist, once told me that being nervous is like eatting, breathing, and sleeping. It is something that happens, so don't put a ton of energy into  it.  The point is you will be nervous. The more you play, yes it helps. BUT each performance, audition, and piece will bring about different feeling. Let the nervousness happen. I did a recital once that I was sooooo nervous. My stomach turned for weeks and I had so many gitters before going on stage, but it was because I CARE. That performance was one of my best to date. I am so proud of the recital.... so nerveousness is not bad. It is just a  natural human response.

Anywho... Go in and give it your best my dear. The teachers are looking for someone teachable and who has potential, not a 'perfect' player. You are going to school to learn:)

I wish you all the best!!!

September 10, 2009 at 04:11 AM ·

I don't know enough about auditions to help you,but I'm pretty sure about this.

Brian Lewis teaches at UT Austin right?

He's such a phenomenal teacher! I had a lesson with him this summer on Dvorak Concerto and Paganini #24, and he was really helpful and really amazing.  Try for his studio if I'm correct in thinking he teaches there.  And best of luck!

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