Your audition story

March 6, 2008 at 04:33 AM · Mine was a seating audition (fortunately I couldn't be kicked out) when I was in high school. It was a screened audition. Being inexperienced, I wasn't sure what to expect aside from the prohibition of talking. I figured someone would tell me what to play. I was wrong. Shooting a panicked glance at the proctor and the accompanist, I made the unfortunate choice of a piece that began on a 8th note rest in both parts, which I was yet clueless about how to cue. After two starts and stops, the conductor shouted from behind the screen, "Shall we take another crack at that?"

Replies (41)

March 25, 2008 at 12:52 AM · The first excerpt for my freshmen all-state seating audition started on the e string. I played through it fine, if just a little nervously, and I made it all the way down the run...and then I came to the lowest string, and it was probably an octave too low. I panicked and tuned it, ignoring the monitor who was shaking her to just continue. Well, anyway, I was amazningly recalled. I tuned my violin. This time the piece started on the g string, and I made sure to tune my violin before entering the room. But yeah, I must have hit the pegs against something. I was preparing to play the Samuel Schmuyl (or whatever it's called---the really rhythmic movement from Mussorgsky's Pictures that's all on the g string?). And again. It was even worse than the first time. It was frustrating. But I was still happy for my seat.

March 25, 2008 at 12:56 AM · My sister reminded me the other day of how (I had forgotten this incident) I was at the local music college one day some years ago during the auditions. I was sitting in the corridor outside the room where the auditions were taking place. Nervous students were sitting around on the chairs in the corridor. I was nervous myself, waiting to do my audition.

A guy came out of the audition room. He had just done his audition. I nervously looked at him and he nervously looked at me. I asked him how he went. He said, with a flustered face and voice, "Oh, my pianist dropped out!".

There was a momentary embarrassed silence. I didn't know what to say in my sudden nervous confusion. He was wearing a short pair of shorts. The moment passed and I went in to do my audition. I didn't get in to the college that year.

March 25, 2008 at 01:32 AM · So, back in the day when I was young and reckless and auditioning for undergrad schools.

The school was MSU in East Lansing Michigan.

SO, I and a few friends who were also auditioning all ended up hitching the same greyhoud to get to East Lansing (It later went on to Ann Arbor-only two of us were going to MSU that trip). I'd booked hotel and what not before-which was close to MSU as was the bus stop. So we kicked back and relaxed on our way down.

So we get there late afternoon-we seemed to be at the edge of campus, so we got off from the bus stop-and found a gas station across the street, my friend Phillip was auditioning on cello-we both had instrument and garment bags and ourselves.

We ask the attendent "Where is the ********** Hotel?"

Her response (verbatim, no lie), she turns to a cowrker and asks, "Isn't that the one that burned down last week?"

LMAO we find out it DID NOT burn down....but said hotel is on the other side of MSU roughly, and a mile or so walk.

So we hoof it

And hoof it some more

and some more for good measure (remember those instruments and garment bags? Oh yes-and this was in February ;) Fun Fun Fun!!!! We're lovin this town already.

So, we FINALLY get to across a 6 lane street from the hotel. Light at the end of the tunnel. Guess what?

A car hits a slush puddle (deep)

We get sprayed HEAD TO FOOT in muddy slushy water.

Now we LITERALLY were laughing our *&&^%%$%$es off.


We cross the street, and we walk into the hotel to check in...the lady at the desk asks "WHAT in the WORLD happened to you??"

We look at one another dripping and muddy and cold, wait for the appropriate length of dreadful silence, and start laughing anew.

After the hussle and bussle of trying to GET to the audition....the audition went fairly well for both of us the next morning.

So it being 4PM, we call a cab (our bus leaves at 715 sharp). So we look up the nearest DBs Mongolian Barbeque-and "Driver take us there!". And we go.

Remember how I mentioned this was February. Well, it was Valentines Day to be exact. And EVERYONE was taking their chicas out to BDs on Vals Day....Maybe its one of those East Lansing things.

So we settle on McDs. Next door. Quiet empty. We sit down at the cab at 530, they say it'll be 15 minutes or so....(bus leaves at 715)....615PM passes no cab....630 still no cab......645-and two more calls to dispatch and still no cab-each time reassuring us it'll only be a few more minutes....FINALLY at 655PM the cabby shows up.

In getting up back to the terminal-he ran most of the red lights in East Lansing....and probably set a few new records for speed in a cab....getting us there at 710PM

We see the bus-and we start partying that we BEAT East Lansing.

The End.

We both vowed NEVER to return to East Lansing again :>)

March 25, 2008 at 01:33 AM · During my audition, my Mom sat in with me. During my piece, she started coughing (violently) and had to leave. =( AWKWARD.

March 25, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Music students. All the whacky things that can happen!

March 25, 2008 at 01:55 AM · Well, this technically isn't an audition story; it's a recital story.

A few weeks before my senior recital I had been in a car accident. I wasn't damaged, but my car was, seriously, and the insurance for the lady who hit me had provided a rental car. On the way to my recital, one of the tires exploded. Not a little flat--it had a foot-long HOLE. And I was on my way to Baton Rouge from Lafayette, on the section of I-10 that floats--no entrances or exits for about 40 miles. To get a tow truck, you have to call one city and get towed to the other. No kidding. Did I mention that there was no spare tire in the rental?

So, there I am, standing on the side of the highway, holding my violin and my dress, and I ended up getting picked up by a trucker! (This was in the '80s, back when we still trusted folks.) I got him to take me to a truck stop just over the bridge in Baton Rouge and then called Sally O'Reilly, my teacher, who sent the bass teacher after me. I made it in time for the recital, and the nerves were left somewhere along the bayou! :-)

March 25, 2008 at 03:59 AM · That's a great story Ms. Mortenson. I know that stretch of highway very well. It must have been quite an experience.

March 25, 2008 at 04:17 AM · So do I, that can be quite an experience getting stuck on THAT road. Glad it worked out.

March 25, 2008 at 01:09 PM · Evidently when I sent in my application to CCM, I got a bit creative and spelled "Cincinnati" several different ways (insert smiley face here). I still got in though!

March 25, 2008 at 02:04 PM · Not an audition story but an account of what happened when I was looking for a violin.

I took a bus up to Philadelphia to look at some violins at Machold's. I quickly fell in love with a beautiful french violin and took it with me for a trial.

My bus was leaving at 5am so I was at the bus depot by 4am. It was still dark out and I was feeling very sleepy leaning against a wall. Suddenly I felt toussled and pushed and I open my eyes to see 2 guys grabbing at me. I squeezed whatever I was holding in my hands but they ran off with my duffle bag.

I was mugged but boy was I lucky.

On my back = bookbag with checkbook, credit cards, cash, wallet...

In my hands = $20,000 french violin borrowed from Macholds

Duffle bag the muggers ran off with = dirty laundry, shampoo bottle I took from the hotel, and my hair dryer.


March 25, 2008 at 02:17 PM · Wow, Marina, I can just imagine the relief! Justice should always be served with dirty laundry. :)

March 25, 2008 at 03:01 PM · This is back from undergrad auditions; I wasn't comfortable with my memorization of the Bach Preludio from the last Partita and was terrified for the audition.

I got in there and struggled with the memorization after the first would slow down more and more until I got to a cadence, and then I'd figure it out only to struggle...slow down...struggle...slow down...over and over again and each time I could see the violin faculty inching forward in their seats waiting in anticipation for me to get to the cadence and figure it out. Anyway, this went on for 2 more pages before one man told me to stop and I put my violin down in a panicked mess.

Then one of the other men yelled "F!"


They must've seen the look on my face and then clarified; I'd been cut off right before another cadence and an F would've finished it and he was left on the edge. Thanks. Thanks a lot Mr. Man that made me nearly ruin my new dress pants on the spot.

Luckily I haven't had quite so bad an audition since. :P

March 25, 2008 at 04:52 PM · While not quite an audition, when I was running the Stamford (Connecticut) Symphony the city

wanted to GIVE us a theater that would be ours.

It was an old vaudville theater, then movie theater. The conductor asked me to bring my violin and play on stage so he could hear the acustics. Itook my powerful Alfred Vidoudez and also borrowed a Guarneri for the test. The conductor kept yelling at me to play louder, then louder still. I couldn't add any more volume. He said he could barely hear me at all in some areas and not very well in the rest.

We passed on their generous gift.

March 25, 2008 at 05:02 PM · A few years ago, I was trying out for All-State. On my last sight-reading excerpt (my audition was just about over), my cell phone went off. I felt like such an idiot.

March 25, 2008 at 05:27 PM · Oh my goodness, Janice, I would have thought the exact same thing!!!

Marina, poetic justice is sweet indeed. It must have been terrifying for you at the time, though.

March 26, 2008 at 03:50 AM · This is not an audition story related to music, but mathematics and it might serve to show that sometimes you can do too well ...

After high school, I was a little bored with school and decided I wanted to learn some trade, doing something more practical before continuing to university. I applied for several apprenticeships/internships related to mechanical and electrical engineering but never got accepted anywhere. Math, in particular calculus and algebra was the subject matter "auditioned" in.

Anyway, at the time, I had made a living by teaching math and other subjects in private lessons to others who had fallen behind at school. My method was based on tons and tons of pattern drill, going through just about all of the exercises in all of the books available at the time. I had also memorised most of the square roots of whole numbers from 2 to about 50 or so, the first bunch of them by accident, the remainder because at that age it seemed a cool thing to do and it impressed my students.

At my last audition for some electrical engineering apprenticeship I had to solve a math problem at the blackboard in front of a panel of teachers. The problem was familiar to me as it came from one of the books I used with my students. It also required to solve the square root of 21.

So I wrote down the solution and instead of asking the panel to give me the square root of 21 (as I was supposed to), I wrote down 4.5826 from memory (I still remember this particular one today, more than 20 years later). The panel was baffled. They asked me to do the whole thing again in smaller steps and explain each step, which I did. When they asked about the square root I said "you do it so many times, at some point you just remember". They got me to quote several other solutions to square roots from memory, verifying them with a pocket calculator and then I was dismissed.

I didn't get the apprenticeship, though. When my father inquired he was told I would not fit in and they'd recommend to abandon the idea of an apprenticeship altogether and send me to university to study math, which is what I eventually ended up doing :-)

I was about 20 years at the time and the first 5 digits of the square root of 21 coincided with the last 5 digits of the telephone number my parents had back then. Maybe if I had told the panel that instead of trying to impress them, maybe, just maybe I might have gotten that apprenticeship. Oh well.

March 27, 2008 at 11:50 PM · I just got back from my DMA violin audition. I don't have any funny stories, but wanted to share the experience. I didn't play as well as I wanted to, but I never do when I get really nervous. I don't this it was too bad, but it wasn't my best playing.

There were 3 people auditioning me and the whole thing took about 15 minutes. I played some Bach, my concerto, and a paganini caprice. Had I known that they'd only listen to the first two pages of the concerto I would have picked a harder one and worked the heck out of it (I played Mendelssohn, but I should have done Tchaikovsky).

The Bach went ok, the gigue wasn't as clean, and I had a few memory slips. The Paganini was ok. The beginning was good, but the second half got really sloppy.

That's my story. I'll let you know if I was accepted.

March 28, 2008 at 12:12 AM · good luck, Marty!

March 28, 2008 at 02:07 AM · Marty,

I know exactly what you mean. I think Mendelssohn was a fine choice, though (I did Tchaikovsky).

March 28, 2008 at 02:47 AM · Hi, Nicole,

I actually auditioned at West Virginia back in 2001...I gave a very poor audition. I didn't get accepted :(

March 28, 2008 at 01:59 PM · Really? Don't feel too bad...for a while after Larry Christianson's death we were changing faculty like you change clothes, though it seems things are settling down now.

Here's another story: I auditioned for Mannes this year. I put on my mute before I went in so I wouldn't forget, in case they wanted the second movement. Well, I normally use the kind with two holes which are balanced and don't rattle around for me, but before I left home, the only one I could find had just one hole. It started rattling about five seconds into my performance. I was horrified! I just tried to hike the violin up so it would fall back to the tailpiece and be quiet.

March 29, 2008 at 10:27 AM · During my audition at Oberlin last month I played the first couple pages of Sibelius and the jury indicated that they wanted to hear the cadenza as well. So the first line went really well, but after the first run which ends with an extremely high note, instead of landing on the G string 3rd position 2nd finger (D) which is what I was supposed to do, my right hand decided to add some variety to the performance and landed 3rd position 2nd finger on the D string. I was horrified and when I realized what I had done tried the A string didn't sound this time one of the members of the jury was chuckling, but I didn't stop. I tried 3rd position 2nd finger on G and thought 'yep, that's the one' and continued on.

I just received my acceptance letter from Oberlin.

March 29, 2008 at 10:53 PM · did all that with your RIGHT hand?! ;-)

Maybe that's why I haven't had much success with Sibelius...

March 30, 2008 at 05:21 AM · Wow. lol definitely the left ;)

March 31, 2008 at 12:20 AM · During my audition for Brevard's Summer Music Program (not the same as college, I know), I had just driven nine hours to North Carolina from Virginia. So I'm playing Vivaldi's Winter and the second movement of the Tchaik violin concerto. In the middle of my playing, this little Asian woman walks in on my audition (which, by the way, was being recorded) and starts asking for directions, while the audition proctor is trying really hard to get her out. Turns out the woman wasn't even related to any of the people auditioning. Talk about weird.. haha!

March 31, 2008 at 01:23 AM · Kristin - that would be your other left :)

March 31, 2008 at 02:03 AM · I did my undergrad audition for Manhattan last month. I was actually feeling pretty excited beforehand, but had a sudden attack of nerves as soon as I walked in. I played Mendelssohn, and when I got to the forte triplets after the first exposition, my hands suddenly started sweating like mad and my left hand completely slipped off my violin. Not only did I blast out a very ungraceful open E, I even embellished it with a major scratching sound. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the entire violin faculty (at least 10, if not more) jump in their seats and stare up at me. Ah, how nice to be fodder for "most memorable auditions" eh?

March 31, 2008 at 06:17 AM · Way to get their attention, Laura! :) That's okay, I am sure Manhattan loved my out-of-tune Bach. So what happened, did you get in?

March 31, 2008 at 06:55 AM · And Benjamin, I have an aerospace engineer friend you would probably get along with. :)

April 1, 2008 at 10:27 PM · Something I did once which was really, really naughty. It was my final year at college and we were all having our tests - which involved a prepared piece given a day or two before and a couple of Pag caprices IIRC. The test piece had a sort of oom-pah slide somewhere in it.

I was in the practice room waiting for mine when the one before came in, he was a friend of mine and he started complaining about the way it had gone and the head of department (who was gay). I took my friend's side and said something like "See that oompah bit - when I play that I'll be making the point 'Sod you, you gay bar steward' " or something like that. After saying it I heard the head's PA in the corridor saying "That's a bit strong!" and my friend pursed his lips and walked out pretty quickly.

After playing my stuff I was invited to sit down (my teacher was there too) and the head said, "Well done Jon, that wasn't a bad test." He then went on to say how he tried to be equable to people but couldn't always be sure he wouldn't get on the wrong side of some of them, etc etc, quite clearly to counter my previous comment. I wished the floor would have swallowed me up!

April 3, 2008 at 08:01 PM · I have lots of funny violin stories in general, but I have 2 that happened in auditions. I was auditioning for my current orchestra last June and I had to prepare all 3 octave scales. The judges told me to play B flat major. I began playing it in a very fast tempo but stumbled in the middle. Then I started over and played it slightly slower but stumbled again. One of the judges said,

"Why don't you play it 2 on a bow?" I blushed and played it that slow tempo. I must have played my audition piece very well because I still got in.

Another story happened to my friend who plays the cello. She was auditioning for the same orchestra, and her audition just happened to be right after the judges' lunch break. When she was playing, 2 of them were eating enormous subs and not looking at her at all. Apparently they were very good at multitasking because she got in as well!

April 4, 2008 at 02:17 AM · Here's another that I forgot about, from high school:

I went to audition as a "junior member" of the university orchestra. I had just learned the 1st movement of the Bruch concerto and was very proud of myself. I walked in and the conductor asked what I was playing. When I told him, he sighed, "Not THAT again!" Years later, I realize he was probably pulling my leg.

January 19, 2010 at 09:41 PM ·

 Well I had my second college audition today.  My first one on Saturday was amazing and I had fun at that one- which is good because that's my top choice.  Today's was not that great.  During Kreutzer 17, my fingers did not want to execute the semi-trill like sixteenth notes.  Well, actually, sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't.   The Allemande from Partita 2 by Bach was the best thing I played!  Now in my concerto , Mozart 3, things were going fine.  I crumbled really only on one run of sixteenths, and just a few notes were out of tune.  Now I just have to wait.  I'm very glad my first audition went really well. :)

January 22, 2010 at 01:20 AM ·

Audition revenge!

When I was at university (reading Engineering) the music department thought their orchestra was of a high standard (it wasn't) and membership was by audition. I'd been there for 2 years, then had to take a year out after failing an exam. On return, I was asked to re-audition, so I picked my pieces by piano part - it was one of their lecturers playing. Wieniawski Legende (2 bassoons in thirds at the opening) and a violin arrangement of Kol Nidrei with a harp part in the middle! It was great watching him try and sight-read these piano parts.

January 22, 2010 at 11:42 PM ·

Nice one, Malcolm! ( ~ for future reference ~ Heifetz mentions a very complicated piano part to the Chausson Poeme which should be simplified - great piece, eh?)

January 23, 2010 at 04:20 PM ·

Or Franck Sonata, mvt. 2 :)

March 5, 2013 at 11:20 PM · I have only auditioned on two different occasions. Each one was an interesting experience.

On my first one, I wasn't expecting to audition, but my mom told me she had signed me up. (Surprise - you've got three days to prepare!) Of course, that didn't help anything. The conductor of the symphony I was auditioning for was supposed to send me the orchestral excerpts I had to play, but he didn't get to it until the day before the audition.

So you can imagine my nervousness as I began playing it for him. Surprisingly, I didn't do too badly. What I really messed up was the sight reading. He indicated a section of music for me to play, told me I had thirty seconds to look it over, and set his watch. The section wasn't particularly hard, but I was NOT good at sight reading. I started VERY slowly. Well, he didn't want it slow, he needed to hear it at almost full speed. I played it - barely.

I was surprised when he accepted me.

At my next audition, I was a lot more prepared, as I had signed up months before. I was quite nervous, and could barely speak to the girl outside the door who was in charge of sending the correct people in the audition room at the correct times. I knew I was the first in line to audition, but to my surprise, the conductor came walking down the hallway to where I was and paused outside the door. He told me to wait thirty seconds, and then to come in.

Those thirty seconds seemed like half an hour to me. I walked in as confidently as I could and the judges started asking me some questions. After having me play a scale of my choice, they asked me to play an F major scale. I easily played three octaves. When I was done, the conductor asked me a very strange question that I had totally not expected. He said, "Do you know how many sharps or flats, if any, are in the F major scale?"

For some reason, his phrasing confused me. I thought I knew what he had asked, but I wasn't sure. So I answered in a way that, if I had misunderstood him, I wouldn't loose points: "In the key of F major, there's one flat." Of course, the answer was correct.

When they put the sight reading in front of me, I glanced at it and immediately realized that I knew the melody. I had improved my sight reading skills a lot since the last year, and wanted a challenge. So I told the judges that I already knew the melody. They just looked at me, a little puzzled, and said, "Okay, good." No expression of "Oh no, we just gave her a piece to read that she already knows." I shrugged my shoulders and played it perfectly - and all the way up to performance tempo. I only glanced at the music before starting, to determine the key signature! (I was tempted to play it with my eyes closed, but I figured that the judges wouldn't really like that.)

Apparently, they were impressed, since they had me play principal second violin.

March 9, 2013 at 08:43 PM · I just finished my auditions too! (undergraduate, though.)

I have couple of kinda funny stories. The FIRST took place at Oberlin Conservatory. I went in, and started playing the Bruch Violin Concerto no 1. I get about half-way through (if you know the piece, the quick section right before all the chromatics and broken chords) and I completely fudged it up. Right then one of the professors told me I could stop, and put my violin down and on of the other professors just kind of chuckled. In this scenario, I didn't know what to think, plus I was nervous, so I think I might have accidentally have looked at him really scared and upset. It was awful.

At Peabody conservatory, I was sitting in front of the audition room waiting for the professors to return from water breaks/bathroom breaks, and I was talking to one of the helping students outside of the room. I was holding my violin in my lap, and my bow was in my hand, kind of sticking out a ways in front of me. I didn't notice when one of the professors walked up behind me towards the room, and he totally stared me down until I realized my bow was sticking right in his way. Oh, lord, it was intimidating.

March 10, 2013 at 06:57 AM · Many years ago I auditioned at the University of Illinois Music School. My audition spot was the first one right after lunch. Apparently the five judges had all gone to Prehn’s Chinese restaurant and had their garlicky fish special.

I came out on stage and the stage was permiated by a heavy garlic aroma which made most of the judges belch. After many delays (while each judge excused him/herself to go out into the hallway for gas relief) the panel decided to re-convene after a half hour but to no avail.

Auditions were then cancelled until 3:30 PM and my audition was re-scheduled for the next day. The 3:30 PM or later auditionees told me that they barely survived their 20 minute audition stint on that same stage. All went well the next day and I was accepted as a violist (even though I auditioned as a violinist) into the University orchestra.

August 20, 2013 at 07:07 PM · I just re-auditioned for my current symphony a few days ago. I was pleasantly surprised to find the judges very relaxed and conversational. However, they must have really had a knack for multitasking. The conductor told me when I walked in the room that he was writing an email to me with some information we had discussed in it. Then one of the judges asked me to play a G major scale.

Meanwhile, the conductor typed away at his email. When I finished the scale, he picked up a pen, scribbled something on a piece of paper next to his laptop and continued his email. After I played a C major scale, they asked to hear F major. Just as I was putting the bow on the string and finding my finger placement, I heard one of the judges whisper to the other, "She played three octaves on the C major scale, right?"

But apparently they liked my performance, because I'm now the associate concertmaster (or assistant concertmaster - I'm not even sure what you call second chair!).

August 20, 2013 at 08:00 PM · Last year I was in the second highest orchestra in my orchestra program, I've since made it intot he highest. For seating auditions last year, we were playing Sibleius' Finlandia. In th middle of one of the excerpts my mom (bow not mom!) some how fell out of my hand and it shocked me for a two seconds, then I picked up my bow and continues on.

My second most embarrassing, flinch worthy story is I was trying out for this other ensemble called I'solisti and I was performing the Hoffmeister first movement...from memory. In the middle of it my fingers got tangled and I completely forgot what is was playing. So on the audition tape I sat there for five seconds like an idiot until the person recording told me to go and look at my music. I hate that story so much.

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