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Betsey Karako

Auditions: The Inside Scoop

December 13, 2011 at 3:51 AM

An audition day is a great and terrible thing. All of the practicing you have done is about to come to a head. Everything you have worked for comes down to ten minutes in front of five people. It is the best day and the worst day of your life.

You wake up groggily, having often spent a sleepless night tossing and turning in your hard bed. A great deal of pillow-punching often occurs, as do wild thoughts of hopping a train to Alberquerque.

Breakfast awaits in the form of soggy cereal and curdled milk. After ironing your wrinkled dress shirt, and wrestling on your pantyhose (a bout that ends in a knockout after three minutes), you open up your instrument case. Just as you are about to play the first note, your parent bellows up the stairs, "Time to gooooo!!" You carefully pack up your instrument, then start downstairs only to trip over your high heels and end up with a run in your stocking.

In the car, your parent misreads the directions and turns left when he/she should have turned right. You arrive at the audition exactly four minutes before your warm-up time, and throw yourself out of the car before it has stopped. Your hair elastic breaks.

Squinting at the directional signs (which all appear to be written in some combination of Swahili and pig-latin), you locate the registration room, feverishly sign your name and then look about for a ladies room. The only one in the building turns out to be three flights of stairs up, so you gather up your things and slog up the stairs. Apparently fifty other girls have had the same idea, and there is a traffic jam in the bathroom. After a good deal of pinching and scratching, you fight your way to a mirror and quickly repair the damage. It is all broken again on the way out of the door, but at this point you have about eight minutes left of your warm-up time.

The practice rooms send out a din to equal three herds of cattle stampeding, but you find the one room that is empty. It is located between a screeching soprano and a groaning clarinet. You quickly unpack, and run through the most difficult spots in your piece. There is an air-conditioning vent blowing ice-cold air (in December?!?), so you have to keep re-tuning.

Two minutes before your audition time arrives, you pack up and head out the door. The building is a labrynth, and your walk turns into a trot and then a full-speed-ahead gallop as you race to the audition room. You arrive panting, hair streaming and skirt flapping, only to find that three people are standing outside the door as calm and collected as caterpillars. They eye you coldly. You ask if the judges are running late, and three heads condescend to nod to you. Subdued, you find the nearest available corner and stand in it, running through your piece in your head.

An unidentified person leaves the audition room, and Caterpillar A goes in. Strains of an impossibly difficult concerto come through the door. Caterpillar A comes out, smiling smugly. Your heart sinks. Caterpillar B disappears through the door. One of the most complex pieces known to man is heard through the door. You swallow convulsively. Positive thoughts, you tell yourself. Caterpillar B smiles smugly as he exits. Caterpillar C is lost from sight, and shortly you hear an impossibly difficult concerto and one of the most complex pieces known to man. You stagger and reel. Caterpillar C has left, and it is now your turn.

The door creaks as you enter. The room is small, filled with many august personages who sit staring at you through pince-nez. They inquire your name. You reply, and announce your piece. They nod graciously, and you wipe your sweaty palms on your skirt. You take a deep breath, and begin. Your sound is thin and wavering, you screech appallingly on the high notes and miss most of the difficult parts. The piece seems to drag and rush by turns. Finally you are finished. The August Personages nod again, and you leave the room.

Greatly in need of comfort and refreshment, you head toward the spot where you last saw your parent. You find instead a being with clenched jaws and bloodshot eyes. It greets you with sighs of relief, and immediately pounces with a million questions of "How did it go? Did the part in measure so-and-so go right? Did you remember blah-de-blah in measure thingummy? Who was before you? What did they play? I've been sweating it out here waiting for you, I'll tell you that much!" Somehow you survive the grilling.

You head home, and collapse on the bed falling into an exhausted sleep. And you know what? The worst part is yet to come. Waiting and waiting and waiting....

Just make sure you don't gnaw your nails down too far.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on December 13, 2011 at 4:37 PM
Nicely done! You strike many chords.
From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on December 14, 2011 at 5:37 PM
Great writing, thanks for sharing.
Please share the outcome of your audition when you get word.
From Christina Viljoen
Posted on December 16, 2011 at 8:04 AM
Ooh, I know exactly what you're talking about! I recently auditioned to get into the university I'll be going to next year, and your description parallels my experience on many levels. At least the 'august personages' were very friendly .
From Ray Randall
Posted on December 19, 2011 at 5:36 AM
You shouldn't be nervious, it's only your entire career at stake.
Seriously, Dr. Don Greene, Psychology professor at Juilliard, has written a superb book on how to eliminate audition stress and make it work FOR you. I know, it works.

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