Beginner end 'standard' concertos for music school auditions?

July 6, 2010 at 03:31 PM ·


I've been playing violin for about 7 years now and I really want to go to music school. I know that it will be difficult, I have thought long and hard about this, and I know that the first reaction of many is to discourage people who aren't absolutely perfect from pursuing a performance degree because finding an orchestra job is really hard if you're not at the top for your age. Though I have 7 years experience, I just got a private teacher recently and so far it's only for the summer because she is moving away. I'm working on vibrato, but as of yet I am not very good at it. I can do my 3 octave major scales averagely, and am working on them as well as the melodic and harmonic minors. I've been in my high school's orchestra since freshman year, and we are arguably the best in the district if not the state. We have done repertoire such as: romeo and juliet, barber of seville, night on bald mountain, and hungarian rhapsody to give you a sense of the level. I practice at least an hour a day, but usually two and I'm aiming for 3 or more now since it's the summer.

My top choice school is Oberlin, which is also the biggest reach for me. It's the only big name school that I'm going for, simply because of the audition repertoire which isn't like other school's. It is: One first movement of a standard concerto,other than a Bach concerto; One movement from a Bach Partita or Sonata; A study such as Dont, Gavinies, Rode, Paganini; Major and Minor scales 16th notes, 3 octaves. Either the concerto or the Bach must be memorized.

I've heard they don't really ask for scales but I think they will in my case.

I know the whole 'it's not what you play, but how' so I'm looking for a concerto that's more on the beginning side but still can show that I have potential to grow as a musician if accepted.

I've heard Bruch is good and easily learned, any other suggestions?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

Replies (26)

July 6, 2010 at 10:15 PM ·

 Well it can't hurt you to try buy (or download) a few concertos like the Bruch, Mozart and Bach concertos and other concertos and see what you have ahead of you. You should also look at and listen to a few performances on Youtube. You can find professional as well as student performances. Listen and assess.

You are quite right that it won't be easy but there is plenty of information available to you to help you decide how you can make the journey. 

July 12, 2010 at 09:40 PM ·

 Thanks for the suggestions, I have been youtubing them! :D

I'm mainly looking for one that isn't played often, so that it will show that I can think outside the box and perhaps give me a better chance than averagely playing [or sucking!] a more common one like Tchaikovsky or Sibelius. 

July 12, 2010 at 10:15 PM ·

Thinking outside the box may not be a good idea at this level: consider the movie "Dark Matter."

The Bruch concerto is "easy" only relative most of the others. It is "easy" for the effect it creates. The Mozart concertos are note-easy, but it is all in interpretation and style. One thing to realize when playing for pros, teachers, or auditions is that you are trying to "pass" not to impress. The people auditing you have heard incredible playing. I've done a few stints as an auditor, and in my experience, I could often tell what would follow just be hearing a student tune up.

If you are up to "perfecting" the first movement of the Bruch or Mendelssohn, I'd certainly give one of them a try this summer. And get that vibrato really working for you!

What's wrong with Bach? The E-major is a wonderful concerto.

Best of luck.


July 12, 2010 at 10:37 PM ·

 How about the Barber? It's so gorgeous, and not as commonly played as some others. Bruch and Mendelssohn are also excellent choices. 

July 12, 2010 at 11:36 PM ·



The requirement says it cannot be a Bach concerto, otherwise I would consider it as they are quite lovely. 

What happened in the movie? I have not heard of it. 

Can you explain more of the 'pass' not impress' point you made? I would be interested in seeing what the difference is, because I thought to pass you have to impress them. 



July 12, 2010 at 11:38 PM ·


I will look into that also, I am not up on all of what the 'standard' concertos are. Barber Concerto Op. 14, correct?


Thanks guys, for all your help. I'm trying hard, I hope I get in!

July 13, 2010 at 12:07 AM ·

 Yes, it's the Op. 14 concerto. Have you checked out the Dorothy DeLay Concerto Sequence? It contains most of the "standard" concerti. Here's a link (it's at the very bottom of the page):


July 13, 2010 at 12:42 AM ·

Mia - thanks!!  That is an amazing list- its going to be something of a to-do-list for me.  Though looking through the suzuki VIII equivalent list it seems very varied in difficulty (e.g. Accolay through Wieniawski/Sarasate??). 

July 13, 2010 at 02:35 AM ·


Thanks! I've mostly been looking at the Violin Masterclass Graded Repertoire that was suggested around here, but now I'm going to look at that one. :)

July 13, 2010 at 05:38 AM ·


I have quite a few idle thoughts on the subject here and since you seem to be approahcing the topic (and your future) in a thoughtful and intelligent way i hope you don`t mind if I sort of blunder around with some bluntness.

Firts of all I am not exactly sure when you are auditioning. How far are you planning ahead? Do you have ayear, two years or what to get ready?  Some people begin leanring their audition repertoire three years befor eand never do much else!

I must confess I find a slight sense of contradiction in what you are saying and doing. You are certainly being honest about what level you are at and recognize your problems.  However, If this wa s coupled with a major sense of desire to be a musician then I would personally have thought you would be challenging yourself to practice six or seven hours a day (not that that is good ove r a long period) in order to correct your deficineces.  The statement that you aim to up your practic eto three hours just doesn`t rea d like a burning desire to be a violnist to my mind. And without that desire I cannot see you getting into gear and leading a happy life. Paying lip service to the idea that you are not in the top league is all very well if you are willing to make a really hard core comitmment to a life in music in spite of everything.  If that comittment is misisng then you really are wasting your young years and should do something more practical that you love while keeping the violin as a high level hobby.

No I do not think you should learn the Bruch at this stage.  It is not a piec e that can be used to train up technique. Playing major works is usually (although not always) best done by having a morre or les s adequate tehcnique for the piece in question. Anything less and one learns a piece while essentially struggling. that struggling, like it or not, becomes an integral part of the performance itslef and one never really becomes able to do more than hack through the work.  In essenc e one lose s the chance to play truly artistically at ones own level.  The question you are facing here is basically should you sacrifice long term gains (which are more importnat) for short term gains? 

What I mean by this is that before doing the Bruch ther e is a whole slew of repertoire and technique you would be advised to have unde r control.   For example (it is highly variable):

Bach Concertos.

Handel Sonatas.

2 or thre eMozart Concertos.

De Beriot and Rode Concertos.

Kreutzer/Mazas /Rode Etudes.

Flesch or Galmian Scale system.

My suggestion to you is find out if you really have what it takes.  If necessary take a year off. make a comiitment to practicing five or six hours a day for a year.  Make sure you have a great teacher.  Work and work and work.  Sevcik might be a good resource for you. 

Do you have the heart to do this? I am not sure you have really dug deep enough into your own psyche to answer this yet.  If you survive the year and mor e than just oe person thinks you can have something like a decent career at a lowe r tier in music then follw that road.  But i think you have a lot more to prove to yourself yet if you really want to enjoy your life in a terribly overcrowded and underfunded profession.

No offence intended,  I wish you all the best,



July 13, 2010 at 09:56 PM ·


I have about 7 or 8 months to prepare this, I know this is not a huge amount of time but I still feel that I can try my hardest and it is worth giving it a shot. 

I have heard many stories about people practicing 6 hours a day and burning out, eventually hating the violin. I am building up my hours, because I believe going from 1 to 2 hours in the school year, to 6 in the summer would not be beneficial. However, going from 2 hours and building up to 5 or 6 will be beneficial and will help prevent strain and injury. 

I have Sevcik books, I cannot recall right now which ones for sure but they are the later ones. I also have studies by a person called Trott, they're double stop studies.

I appreciate you giving me other suggestions instead of the Bruch, and I appreciate you being blunt with me. It teaches me to take criticism in stride, and I'm still going after this anyway because it is what I want. 



Thanks for all the suggestions, I've been looking into them! I've also found another school, McGill University in Canada, if anyone attends there or has toured, let me know your experiences! I heard their music school is brilliant, and they are overall one of the best schools in Canada. 

July 13, 2010 at 11:09 PM ·


glad you are takign my blundering in your stride. It`s not criticism per se.   People in your position can and do make the grade with tremendous effort.   The vital element you need is burning desire and a willingness to let go of a lot of the othe rimportnat things in life for a time.  That is quite a gamble. It helps if you have talked it over with your family and they cna be really supportive and understanding.   Only you can really answe r whether you have that burning desire.

You are quite sensible to say that working up to longer pracitce hours can prevent injury etc. Nonetheless,  I don@ ythink it is a problem a s long as you are sensible, to jump into five hours a day of work if you are free everyday so you cna spread things out. That will give you a taste of how hard it is hgoing to be;)

The sevcik book that rapidly improves technique is the shifting work pracitced with dotted rythms.  If you are just pottering around with scale sat the moment you need to jump thes e up to an hour a day. An hour and a half would be better.   Do you know the Galamian books?

Other cocnertos you might consider are Kabalevsky and Haydn c major.



July 21, 2010 at 10:24 AM ·


1st. I definitely Agree with 100% of what Buri said. Your practice will needed to be upped considerably.  At least 4 hours a day...preferably 5 or 6. That is simply a professional standard...I myself average between 9 and 14 and where that CAN cause burnout/injury etc and is ABSOLUTELY not for everyone, 5 hours a day is essential for any professional.


Also, I liked Buri's repertoire suggestions..particularly Kabalevsky concerto. I played Kabalevsky before Bruch, and I think it was good for both technique and musical development.  I do not like Bruch to be poorly played, and neither do judges-people often think it is easy, and there are many issues in it that in 8 months you will NOT have time to fully work out. Perhaps for your audition at Oberlin consider doing Kreutzer 8, and a Dont etude.  Josephine Trott will not be accepted...just fyi, I know that book, and it is excellent preparation for flesch scales.  I would get a book of Galamian Scales or Flesch Scales, and do at least 1 hour of scales, and 1 hour of etude practice, slow, diligent technique and etude practice EVERY day.

I would consider Oberlin strongly as your top choice. Be aware that they will also ask for sightreading at your audition. Mine was one of the Beethoven string quartets (vln 1-about a page...nothing too tricky) and I played Paganini Caprices #4 and #24, and they asked me for all of both of them...I thought this was insane.  Do you know what teacher you're considering at Oberlin? I would highly recommend Milan Vitek...he's a brilliant teacher, and an amazing person and performer as well.


Other Schools I would consider-

University of Texas at Austin-to study with Brian Lewis.

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor-to study with Dmitri Berlinsky

Texas Christian University-to study with Misha Galaganov

Lawrence Conservatory

Arizona State University-to study with Katie McLin (AMAZING teacher, disciplined, and a fantastic person to work with)

Lynn Conservatory-to study with Elmar Oliviara



I would not apply to McGill. The visa process is difficult, you will have to travel for that audition, and international auditioning is not easy at all, and the admissions at McGill are far more competitve than Oberlin especially in violin+viola.  If it is really your top school, than go for it, but not otherwise.


Also, I don't know your criteria for picking schools, but especially if you're a performance major, one of the primary things you should look at is who your private teacher would be/who you want to study with.  I don't know what you want to do with your degree, but sometimes picking a teacher with similar background can be helpful (eg, if you want an orchesteral career, pick a teacher who is the concertmaster of an orchestra, or has had students go on to orchesteral training programmes like New World Symphony, or get good Orchesteral jobs from Undergrad)

Finally, Please do NOT play the following pieces for auditions-Brahms Concerto, Beethoven Concerto, Tchaikovsky Concerto, Sibelius Concerto, Paganini Caprices, Dvorak Concerto, Saint Saens Concerto #3, Wieniawski Concerto #1 (fminor), any Paganini Concerto, Korngold Concerto, Introduction and Rondo Capriciosso, Lalo Symphonie Espagnol, Bach Ciaconne, Bach Fugues from any sonata for unaccompianied violin, Red Violin Caprices, Prokofiev Concerto #1 or #2, Ravel Tzigane, Khachaturian Concerto, Prokofiev sonatas, Brahms Sonatas, Faure Sonata, Franck Sonata, Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata etc.


Another useful online resource is

sign in as a guest, and look at the list of repertoire. some can be misleading in the upper I don't think Paganini Concerto #1 is more difficult than Brahms Concerto....but in general it is a good guideline.


Look at the rep that Buri listed. I think it has some excellent choices there. That is a good starting place.

and above all

best of luck!!!! toi toi :D

August 4, 2010 at 04:31 AM ·

I think it's never too late to get "serious". I know many people that started late and ended up with very successful professional careers. I do think, though, that you're smart to know that it's going to be an uphill battle. I agree you need to up your practice considerably. Yes, you need to be very careful not to injure yourself, but you can gradually up your practice over the course of a week or 2, and spend the rest of the summer (and school year!!) practicing 4-6 hours a day.  Oberlin and the like are very competitive. I tell my students who are a little behind but wanting to go into music that they are essentially competing with people who started young AND are putting in many hours a day. You have to make up for that! There is no getting around the fact that everyone puts in the time at some point in their career.

I also agree that it's better to play an easier piece well than a hard piece badly. Not knowing where you stand right now, it's hard to say if Bruch is hard or easy for you!! It's all relative.

Also, I wanted to suggest, have you considered taking a year off to practice? I know a lot of great players who took a year between high school and college to practice. If you did that and just practiced your butt off, attended concerts, and took lessons with different people at the schools you want to go to, I think you would have a much better chance of getting in where you really want.

Good luck!!

August 4, 2010 at 02:31 PM ·

I agree with the Kabalevsky and Haydn C major suggestions Buri made for your audition. I don't know how Oberlin would respond to either of these, but I know several good violinists who got into quality State schools auditioning with those two works.

Alexandra: Interesting list of what NOT to play :) I imagine these are the works everyone plays for auditions, but your list does eliminate almost everything I would include under the normal audition requirement rhetoric of "standard".

If I could go back in time (with more technique then I had then) I would audition with the Dutilleux concerto just to see their faces :) 

August 6, 2010 at 03:25 PM ·

@ Buri & @ Alexandra:

you make really interesting points!

Now please forgive my ignorance. I just wonder, is 3 hours / day really so little? I heard Heifetz and Richter were practicing around 3 hours daily during their entire lifes...and they were quite fantastic musicians. Does this not mean that it is achievable to get fantastic technique and musicality by "only" 3 hours daily?

August 20, 2010 at 05:31 AM ·

Hey Nicole! I'm an upcoming senior and Oberlin is ALSO my top choice for this coming winter auditions :) I hope I get to see you there! I'll message you my audition date once I formally start the application process xD

I think 3 hours is NOT reasonable, but then again we have very different circumstances. I started playing violin the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I went from barely practicing 3 hours a week to 6-10 hours a day in present time. From the beginning I knew what my goals were and started to build up from 3 hours per week to 6-10 hours a day.

Here's the audition pieces my teacher is prepping me for:

1.) Bruch Concerto in g minor 1st mov. (I found it easy to sight read, but pretty difficult to polish. Either way my teacher wants me to finish up other concertos on the list before teh Bruch (for now) that I haven't played so I can be more technically equipped to perfect the Bruch by November)

2.) Bach Partita no. 3 Preludio OR Bach Sonata in G minor Adagio (we can't decide yet)

3.) Kreutzer studies (still finishing the entire book so that by the end of September, I know which one i want to use). We might possibly do a Rode or Dont study instead but Kreutzer seems the best for me right now

4.) As for scales, I stupidily never asked anyone (not even my teacher or Ms. Mia Nardi-Huffman [one of the posters who gave you advice], who is a friend and a former student of my teacher) if the panel would just randomly name a scale and have you play it. Or maybe they'll give you the option. Don't know and never thought about it. Right now, I'm just focusing on going through my Flesch book (just recently upgraded from Hrimaly) and trying to conquer Cflat major, C sharp major, and D sharp minor scales (since everything eelse was pretty easy)

I think you have the advantage in terms of being in an orchestra of good standing. I haven't played in an orchestra for about a year now (excluding the summer camp i just went to in Maine) so my sight reading skills just disappeared on me haha.

And Mr. Buri makes up a good point about how badly you want it. I wanted this so badly, I quit my job, quit all my after-school clubs, and took off school work on my priroties list just so I can catch up to students my age in violin. (Proof being, I went from an unweighed GPA of 4.0 to a 3.2 and I BARELY passed my Physics class, and got a pretty low score on the SATs [1800ish]).

But I'm extremely content with my development and progress and it's so relieving to hear my teacher tell me how proud she is of me. I wish you can get a private teacher who can develop such a bond with you. My teacher and I (though we're not exactly like family) have a pretty good teacher-student relationship. She is so understanding of my troubles and is never too hard on me. The only time she even SLIGHTLY yelled at me was when I showed up at a lesson not having practiced at all the week before. Either way, get a GOOD teacher. Not just in terms of teaching, but someone who can know you very well in the short amount of time given and care about you and your success like a parent would.

And I know it's too late, but in the summer, go for music camps! They're the best! You improve no matter what. If you have to take a year off to get into Oberlin, then I strongly suggest attending one. My teacher and I have already discussed the strong possibility of me having to take a year off, but I won't be disappointed no matter what the results.

And I know that half a year seems like a small amount of time. Trust me i know that pressure. I'm a pretty late starter and bad at coping with stress, so I had bad anxiety problems in terms of timing my development with the year. In the long run, I learned that time is DEFINITELY subjective. There are people who made more progress in one WEEK than someone in a whole year. If you realize that you can control these things, you'll be better equipped than others. I had to learn this lesson from a very dear friend who assuaged my fears about not making it into a conservatory.

Best of luck! I suggest doing the Bruch because it IS easy to learn, but so beautiful and difficult to make perfect. If you can do the Mendelssohn by November, props to you! I wish I could haha. Hopefully we'll both be Oberlin students in the future :)

August 20, 2010 at 01:41 PM ·

@Liandra and @Nicole: Don't get lazy and start getting bad marks in the other subjects just because you want to do music professionally. You might want later to do something else, and with bad marks it wont be as easy to get admitted to some other field of study. You will have much better success in many things if you can not only feel as a good musicians, but also can feel as smart musicians! By studying subjects such as math/physics/history/theory subjects, you broaden your wisdom and train also your other brain-half. That opens up for analytical work around music, and you will have an easier way of understanding music analytically and not only intuitively. This can bring another dimension to your playing.

August 20, 2010 at 06:01 PM ·

Lena- I understand now how misleading my post was about academics. But I actually do a lot of reading and researching on my own, outside of school. I don't think grades are a good reflection of one's intellect, never did. Half the things i did for my junior year I already studied on my own as a 5th grader. I just ended up having to sacrifice less important things. I'm taking the SATs again just to improve on the score, and I signed up for "easy" AP classes this year just so I don't feel the stress of getting homework done (which was what brought me down).

August 20, 2010 at 06:56 PM ·

Why not try Accolay Concerto No 1 in A minor (for violin and piano), or Elegie for Violin Op 30, by Vieuxtemps (orginially written for the viola).

August 20, 2010 at 10:37 PM ·

 I wouldn't recommend Accolay for college auditions.  To be completely honest I agree with Liandra's estimation that grades are not an accurate gauge of intellect, however the academic world doesn't have a standard by which they can measure you better than that.  By all means, maintain your grade if you wish to succeed.  If you have to delay going to college for a bit after you graduate to make sure you are ready it's better than entering the program only half-baked.

August 20, 2010 at 11:46 PM ·

Yeah especially since she's trying to get in to Oberlin, i don't think Accolay will cut it. She may with Kabalevsky but even my violin teacher agrees that Bruch is a gamble. Um I think I can boost up my 3.2 back to the 4.0 it used to be so I'm not too worried but I don't regret anything that happened. A 3.2 isn't bad at all though not stellar.

August 21, 2010 at 12:14 PM ·

@ Michael and @Liandra:

I also do not believe in a that intellect can be measured by grades. But, the world needs some kind of way of measuring your abilities and your knowledge. Even if you know that the reason why you got bad grades was anything but intellect, the guys at the admission committe at some school/university/job do not know that. I myself do not care about grades while studying at the university (i care about publications), but this is my weakness-- not my strength. And even if its the way I have chosen, I will not encourage others to do the same, since I find the disadvantages being greater than the advantages.

Also, being an artist is quite a gamble. Its an insecure future. If you get any damage from all practice, its not easy to economically survive (also a teacher needs to find students). Putting all your eggs into one basket, is quite a risk. Even if you yourself take the risk and gamble to win (and do poor in school), be aware of that it might not be wise to encourage others to do the same. Not everybody have a safety net to catch them in case they fall.

August 22, 2010 at 03:44 PM ·

 It may be useful to look through the Suzuki volumes 4-10 for ideas.  #4 has concerto movements by the 19th c pedagogue Seitz - all in the first position, but don't be deceived by that, there's a lot of work and thought needs to be put into these student concertos.  #4 and #5 further include the Bach Double concerto,  and two by Vivaldi, the well-known one  in A minor from Opus 3 and a rather less well-known one in G minor from Opus 12. Later Suzuki volumes include the Bach A minor, and #9 and #10 are devoted entirely to two of the Mozart concertos with a very detailed analysis of the music and the technique for playing it.  #4 - #8 (I'm not sure about #9 and #10) have corresponding CDs of the music being played by senior Suzuki tutors. 

September 17, 2010 at 03:57 AM ·

 Oh wow, this thread still got replies. 

Hey everyone, I suppose  I owe you all an update:

Unfortunately I realized that music school auditions aren't feasible for me right now. Don't get me wrong, I still love the violin and will continue to play and advance my level while upping everything violin and music related in general that I do.However, I have also realized that being in a professional orchestra isn't the one thing that earns a person the label 'great player'. I'm betting there are many players out there who are just as good as any professional player, but they just chose a different path; instead of throwing the stress of hitting deadlines into their passion, they took the route that kept a passion, a passion. I definitely know at least one or two people like that. 

Thank you for all of the suggestions, and by all means go ahead and keep posting them [I know I'm keeping tabs on new things to play from this thread!] hopefully others will find this thread as useful as I have!

November 15, 2010 at 12:57 AM ·

 Another update!:

I might be chosen to attend the Luther College Dorian festival for orchestra! It's up to my director to choose people, and he had people who wanted to attend sign up, and he's choosing from that list. Well I'm the only one who signed up, so I have a 50/50 shot of him nominating me. 

If chosen I can audition for a music scholarship during the festival! I might take advantage of that opportunity, since I'm applying to Luther anyway. Except, silly me, I only have 3 months [to the day!] to practice for the audition. I'm terrible about making up my mind whether I want to do it, but I've decided I want to. 

Here's what we have to play for the audition: 

Prepare a solo piece which demonstrates your most advanced technical and lyrical playing styles, or two contrasting pieces. Solo literature is preferred, but orchestra or chamber music is acceptable. Memorization is not required. Accompanist is not required.


Wish me luck! I don't know what I'm going to play, but I'm going to figure out soon. 

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