Want to audition for the New York Philharmonic?

July 17, 2015, 8:20 PM ·

To go straight to registration for The Challenge and your free download of my Schumann Scherzo part, visit the Challenge page at natesviolin.com!

On November 12, the New York Philharmonic will hold the final round of auditions for its four violin openings. Those violinists competing there that day will be among the most accomplished in the world. They will have gone through a grueling preparation process in order to ensure that they play their best when it counts: on stage at Avery Fisher Hall. In order to survive the ordeal, they must be in the best playing shape of their lives, peaking at the right moment, just as Olympic athletes must plan for years in order to perform on one special day.

Have you ever wondered what this preparation looks like? What it feels like? It can be all-consuming, but it's exhilarating as well. There's no better feeling than looking back over months of work, flexing your violin muscles, and enjoying the best playing of your life. And each time you go through the process, the "challenge", your work builds on the challenges that you've accomplished before.

Everyone knows that you have to practice to win a spot in an orchestra like the New York Phil. But the whole process is typically cloaked in mystery. You only find out about an orchestral opening if you read the union paper, the International Musician. The audition material is kept under wraps until a couple of months before the audition. Only those who send in a professional resume get access to it. Even the exact dates of the audition may not be widely known.

But this time, the New York Phil has taken the extraordinary step of making all of this information public. It's right there on their website as a PDF: Section Violin Audition Packet! This packet gives you not only the relevant dates (deadlines, prelims, semis, finals) but outlines the process and even gives you a copy of all the audition material.

You may not feel like an elite violinist. In fact, you may know that you'll never audition for the New York Philharmonic. But wouldn't you like to challenge yourself with the same process that the elites go through, just this once? When preliminary auditions begin on October 26, you could stand along with them, knowing that you were in the best shape of your life, ready to play all the audition material that the New York Phil demands.

But how will you get there? Just what is the challenge that the elites put themselves through in order to stand on that stage? I will show you, because I've been through it many times. I've taken big auditions and I've also judged them.

New York's preliminary auditions begin on Monday, October 26, and we'll call that week ZERO. Counting backward to July 20, we have 14 weeks. Just over three months. That's the ideal time to spend preparing for an audition. You get to shore up technical weaknesses before stepping into the fire. You get to go through all the material in detail, then set it aside to mature. You rotate your hard work, much as farmers rotate their crops to avoid taxing the land. Then, you give everything a second look before building the endurance necessary to get through it all in one go. You taper at the end so that weeks 1 and ZERO are as enjoyable as they can be. And you walk out relaxed and confident that nothing can shake you.

My challenge to you is this: register for the natesviolin New York Phil Audition Challenge and start earning points. Each week here at natesviolin.com we'll take a detailed look at one of the audition selections: six orchestral excerpts and one Mozart concerto movement in all. If you post a YouTube video of yourself playing the selection, you'll earn points. I'll select my favorite video from the week and that person earns bonus points. Over the 14 weeks we'll have a chance to take a second look at each selection, and I'll not only award the normal points for posting and favorites, but more bonus points for most improved! The last video you post will be a single take of all the material straight through. And in the end I'll hand out bonus points for those who completed every step of the Challenge. The winner will get three months free at the Nathan Cole School of Violin at ArtistWorks, a $90 value.

And don't worry if you're joining late! I've won auditions on less than three months' preparation, so it can certainly be done. Just join in and hit the ground running.

Now I can guide you through the Challenge through my weekly posts at natesviolin.com. And all YouTube videos related to the Challenge will be collected in a single playlist, organized by week number, so you can learn from each other there. But the only way to get personalized, one-on-one guidance through the Challenge is to work with me at ArtistWorks. Once you're a subscriber there, you will post your videos not to YouTube but to the ArtistWorks Video Library, where only other subscribers can see it. You'll also get a personal video response from me, letting you know exactly what to work on and how. You'll be amazed at the progress you make when you have targeted goals each week. And you'll see the feedback that I give to others taking the Challenge.

If you're even thinking about taking the Challenge, go ahead and register on the Challenge page at natesviolin.com! As soon as you do, you can download my part for the Schumann Scherzo, one of the excerpts on the New York Phil audition list. My part has my fingerings, so that you can get a head start preparing that famous excerpt! You'll also get weekly email updates from me, giving you my thoughts on practicing, performing and teaching the violin.

See you on violinist.com!


July 18, 2015 at 02:19 PM · I've practised this one many times - no one has ever heard me play it....

July 19, 2015 at 05:22 PM · I'll be curious to learn how many folks sign up.

July 20, 2015 at 12:50 AM · I would definetly do this challenge, but I'm preparing for an audition and need to focus on it. (Student violinist, playing for 5 years)

July 20, 2015 at 05:23 PM · Hi! I see that just over 200 have signed up for my Challenge, which means that many (if not most) are going on the journey for the right reasons: to see what would happen to their playing if they followed a process like this for 3 months. I'll also be curious to see how many decide to see it through to the end!

July 20, 2015 at 05:35 PM · Great blog, but with the onslaught of public domain stuff now being available on the web, the audition material is often there for anyone if you just look for it. Most orchestra websites have links to audition info which often includes the excerpt list and sometimes the music... I'm sure you know that, though.

Just for fun I periodically go to the websites of whatever orchestras I can think of and download whatever audition material I find....I just did another round last week using the orchestra website links at ICSOM- got stuff for Alabama, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Grant Park, Houston, Lexington, Milwaukee, New Haven, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Bend,Southwest Michigan & Utah. I had already downloaded the NYP in May.

July 20, 2015 at 08:43 PM · Very true. Though in my experience it's unusual for an orchestra to include all the relevant information: dates, procedures, etc. for the public. The process has been a mystery for too long! Plus, New York will always have a cachet and I thought people would be interested to see just how an orchestra like that picks its players. Nice work collecting the info from all those orchestras!

July 20, 2015 at 09:01 PM · Some people will register just because of fingering in Scherzo.

July 20, 2015 at 11:29 PM · And that's OK too. I wouldn't put it out there for free if I didn't want people to have it!

July 21, 2015 at 12:56 PM · Kudos to you, Nathan. I don't see why these things should be shrouded in secrecy. I'm nowhere near being able to audition for any kind of serious orchestra and will probably never be able to play some of these excerpts. There's a chance I might be able to play the first movement of a Mozart concerto in a couple of years if I work hard. It would be fun to have things like "Don Juan" or the Scherzo you show in your picture, with good fingerings, just to use as studies.

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