Having experienced countless auditions – on both sides of the screen - I have time and again come to ask myself the following question: how does a successful candidate stand out from the crowd? Although the number of fellow applicants may seem very high and in the warm-up room it seems like everyone plays like Heifetz, the reality is that only a few of them go through the preparation process so carefully that their performance would be enough to convince a jury. Thus, real competition happens, in fact, only between a small group of players. How do you get to that top group? What are the keys to a successful audition?
1. Technical accuracy
Obviously, technically accurate playing is nowadays a minimum requirement in any orchestra. Small mistakes happen to everyone and no one gets cut due to minor slips. However, the overall impression has to be clean and the technical elements such as intonation, rhythm and sound production must be on spot. A recording device and a metronome are excellent aids here. Incorporate both into your daily practice routine and use them in creative ways. Many jury members see decent technical performance as the first bar to be crossed. Only after crossing this bar can the jury take your artistic abilities into wider consideration.
Make sure your style of playing the classical concert is up to date. I've heard musicians of highest technical and musical level get cut in the first round, due to an outdated style. Do your research, seek counsel from experienced orchestra musicians and strive to find a style that is both pleasing to you and acceptable to a broader consensus. In my experience common pitfalls are too romantic style (too much vibrato, a less than ideal articulation) or too baroque style (little to no vibrato, exaggerated articulation at the cost of longer phrasing). The most successful candidates manage to find a middle path – a warm and strong sound yet a light and elegant phrasing. Finding the right style is one of the most important building blocks of a successful first round.
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