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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Have you ever had something Go Terribly Wrong at an audition?

June 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I offer this poll in honor of one of my students, who took an audition last week and had one of those days.

At first, it looked like she had come at the wrong time, on the wrong day. Later she learned that she had been correct, but still, she took the audition thinking she'd somehow showed up at the wrong time. Then, the hair popped out of the tip of her bow, toward the end of her playing.

When her mom related this to me, I assured her, "It's not really an audition until something Goes Terribly Wrong."

Well, this doesn't always happen, but having taken more auditions than I can count, I can say that it happens pretty frequently. Sometimes it has to do with the environment, sometimes the fiddle misbehaves, and sometimes it's just some personal blunder that grows out of audition nerves.

For example, the audition where our "warm-up" room was 45 degrees F -- the heater didn't work! But no matter, this was the warm-up room and the jobs still went to the people who played the best (I got that one, yay.)

Then, there was the one where I accidentally drove to the wrong venue. Not good!

Another time, I remember a fellow auditionee, running from room to room, "Do you happen to have a spare A string?" Hers had broken, and she had no spare.

At another audition, they had a chime that played an A=442, right near the entrance to the stage. Just minutes before going before the audition panel, the proctor struck the chime, "You'll need to be tuned to this A," and I could see the unease as the auditionee in front of me quickly adjusted every string at the last minute.

I'm betting a few of you have some pretty good stories! Please vote in the poll, and then share:


From Emily Liz
Posted on June 11, 2010 at 9:36 PM

My last audition a few years ago...

I was a huge symphony nut. I was second stand of first violins in a regional youth orchestra, and proud of it. We got a new conductor and he was doing some great things with the orchestra, among which were auditioning advanced students for local professional organizations. Of course I lept at the chance. During this whole time I had undiagnosed adrenal fatigue, resulting in just deadening exhaustion, so I ended up missing a few weeks of rehearsal in a row, and I had to have my music (Cosi Fan Tutte overture, the fast part) mailed to me a few days before the audition (everyone else had several weeks to prepare). I came back the week of the audition just for the audition, even though I did not feel like it whatsoever. Low cortisol levels result in low blood sugar, especially in times of stress, so I was shaking like crazy and my fingers were not doing anything right. I thought it was nerves, not a physical ailment, so I was feeling guilty on top of it because I'd done other auditions without a problem. I thought I was just being stupid. First I went into the audition room and dropped the music on the floor. Then the music was upside down. Then I played just about the worst I've ever played before. I tried to go way faster than necessary and then my fingers got confused and the intonation went awry and the shifts weren't shifting and...ugh it was really bad. I plastered on a blank face and finished out rehearsal, then got into the car and screamed and wailed. I've only cried that hard a few times in my life. Next week I got even sicker. I ended up dropping out of symphony because my health just totally unraveled, and I never found out if I won the audition. Then I graduated and was ineligible to return. I've never been to an orchestra since (although I am signed up for one this summer). Yeah. It was The Worst Audition Ever and I still feel bad that was the way I left the orchestra that taught me so much. In a twisted way I'm glad I went through it though because I feel like nothing could be as bad as that again.

Anyway, I think we all have stories like this. Interesting question. I wonder what others have taken away from their awful audition experiences?

From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted on June 11, 2010 at 10:15 PM

During undergrad auditions, I played the first mvt of Mozart 5 and everythign was going so well I even saw out of the corner of my eye one of the faculty mouth to another "sounds good!". it was all smiles. Then came to my Bach, and I had a complete memory meltdown. I could only remember the first 4 measures, if even that. That's all they wanted to hear - htey looked so sullen after that I remember the feeling. I got accepted to the school but I might have been able to get a scholarship! Oh well. I wouldn't call it "terribly wrong" but it's the closest I ahve.

The onyl other story I have is from region auditions. I ended up with one of the top 5 scores on sight reading but the audition wasn't as smooth as that appears to be -  1 measure into the sight reading my G string peg slipped completely loose! The helper's face (not one of the judge's) her jaw dropped. It's sight reading - should I be allowed a second chance just because my string slipped? I didn't ask any questions - just quickly tuned it and started again. Worked out well. So my advice from that story is - if your equipment fails, don't stress! Just cover yourself and pick back up.


From Jude Ziliak
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 3:20 AM

In a seating audition, I was asked to sightread.

The panel chair said, "start at begin."

I thought, "well, Prof. X isn't the most articulate person ever, but okay," and accordingly started at the top of the page.

He stopped me. "No, at begin."

"Uh ... okay." I then restarted at the top, again.

"NO! There's a post-it that says "begin!"

And there it was, two-thirds of the way down the page.

Fortunately, I managed to pull off a decent reading of the passage anyway, and was even told by another panelist later that the sightreading had been some of the best of the day ... just not the post-it reading!

From Michael Divino
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 3:58 AM

Jan 19th, 2010, second college audition.


This piece,  at about 2:09.  I fell apart completely.  Mind fart, for real at that spot.  Which of course threw me off for the rest. 


Darn those nerves!

From Bart Meijer
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Not Terribly Wrong -- just plain Wrong. Like spiccato with a trembling bow. It taught me that at auditions, it's better to be safe than subtle.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 1:18 PM

 If by terribly wrong you mean some sort of mishap like a broken bow, showed up t the wrong place, a string broke then the answer is no. If terribly wrong alludes to playing then well of course.

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on June 12, 2010 at 7:58 PM

My first year at the Aspen Music Festival one of the excerpts for the orchestra placement audition was the first page of Don Juan by Strauss.  I was completely ignorant of the piece and it looked like the hardest excerpt I'd ever seen.  I had one night to prepare it and my audition was the next morning.  I'll never forget preparing for it because I was at the practice room area near the river and it was pouring down rain.  I practiced all night because I was freaked out about having to play the Don Juan excerpt, especially the high-up chromatic staccato bits.  The next morning the sun was shining and I went in to play my audition.  The panel of judges was basically the violin faculty of Juilliard, Peabody and CCM all sitting together.  I played Don Juan very slowly and carefully.  They cut me off in the second bar and Miss DeLay looked at me in a way that I couldn't tell was of pity or kindness and said "That's enough of that, sweetie".  I don't even remember how the rest of the audition went, I was so ashamed of myself I think I blocked it out of my memory.

From Aimee Morrill
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 11:17 AM

My first two conservatory auditions!  The second in particular- it was the first time I'd ever traveled alone.  Just getting there was so stressful that my nerves were fried before I even got to the audition.  I was too nervous about not knowing the area to find a place to eat, so I had pizza (the same one) for both dinner the night before and breakfast that morning.  Then the audition.  I played about 2 measures of my first piece (Mozart D Major), then someone on the panel dropped their entire folder of papers on the floor.  Everyone bent over to help pick them up.  At that point, I knew the audition was over.  I finished anyway, then booked it out of the building!!!  After that, I always had someone at auditions with me who was calming... 

From stephen kelley
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 12:04 PM

Great blog idea!  I played the opening of Don Juan in Denver missing a number of notes going to the top, because of nerves. I just left immediately and drove up to Long's Peak. In Indianapolis the sound of warming up auditionees carried onto the auditionor's stage position all day....Once in Springfield MO, while very inexperienced, an older vioilnist (contestant) simply ordered me out of a warm up room, leaving me none. Once in high school my high school accompanist dragged the tempo so much I could barely keep going after a great opening of DeBeriot #7 ( Congress of Strings audition).


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 12:13 PM

 I've never had an audition where I can pinpoint the specific thing that went wrong or that was a horrible disaster that was particularly memorable--but I've had several auditions in which the auditioners acted like they just wanted to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible.  Very brief, very few comments, I played nervously, poorly, and unmemorably, and then it was over--and afterwards I heard either nothing--i.e. my name was *not* on the list at all--or I received a terse form letter of rejection, or I read the list and find out I'm sitting somewhere disappointing, such as the very last chair of the section.  

I doubt it would actually be better to have something go obviously, dramatically wrong, but sometimes it feels like even that would be preferable to the utter non-event that the majority of my auditions have been.

From Deborah McCann
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 2:36 PM

I have had a couple.  Was practicing for seating audition the night before in the restarurant of the hotel we were at as they told me I could not use my room (too much sound).  Set my bow down on a table because a peg had slipped, and the hair rolled into butter.  Had a student that played cello and the night before an audition tripped over her endpin in the room and shattered the bridge-I was with her and got that repaired, but back to her only moments before she had to play.

Beside that, the usually nerves.  Tripped over a chord on the way out to the stage and fell to my knees, but saved the violin and bow.  Got through 3 pieces for a major symphony audition, looked at the proctor who was smiling and felt the blood drain from my head as I realized where i was, she started to look shocked-guess where that went?  But the experience is as valuable as the success.  You learn more about yourself and how to prepare for the next one.

From Deborah McCann
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM

PS I think a blog on Don Juan stories would be good.  Until today, I thought I was the only one who had that piece as my nemisis.  It is like the worst etudes mixed up together, and I have had to relearn it for every audition as I hate it that much.

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 4:52 PM

 One of my students had NEVER broken a string.  Not once, ever.  Well.... that student's first string broke..... right before they were about to play at their first-ever audition.  They were given a spare that apparently wouldn't stay in tune for even a second.  That student was placed far below their ability level for seating, and other of my students who had lesser ability far surpassed the unfortunate soul.  However, this kid took it in stride and really enjoyed the experience.  Similar to Laurie, I told the student something along the lines of, you have to have one of those experiences in order to become a real violinist.  :)  In one of my first auditions ever as a kid, I opened my case to find a string shattered into pieces.  In high school once I took an audition where I was so nervous you couldn't hear about half the notes.  I expect to have more unfortunate auditions in my future.  It's part of life.  My job, as I see it, is simply to prepare as best I can.  The rest is out of my hands......

From Larry Deming
Posted on June 13, 2010 at 8:26 PM

 Two Terribly Wrong Audition Scenarios:

#1  Practiced the wrong excerpts.  Sightreading was sort of OK, but it wasn't supposed to be sightreading! 

#2  Left violin in an ice cream shop just before closing, the night before the audition.  Went back later that night - nobody there, nobody answering the phone.  Couldn't get my violin back until the next day just before I had to drive to the audition.  Didn't play too great -- I wonder why...

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