High school audition questions

December 13, 2018, 10:49 AM · We live in a big city, and the only way to get into a good public high school is to either take an academic test or audition into an arts program. My son will be doing both, and received his audition information, and I have questions, of course!

The audition level is much lower than what my son is used to, so he isn't sure how to handle it. For example, they ask for 4 major 2-octave scales. Is it best to play exactly that, or should he play 3-octave scales since that is what he normally plays? Would that be perceived as showing off or is that appropriate?

Next, they are "expected to perform an unaccompanied solo or etude that is written specifically for your instrument...." In my son's world, this would be interpreted as solo Bach or a Paganini Caprice since it says unaccompanied. But I think they just mean the audition is unaccompanied and you can play any solo you want. Since you only get to play one piece, I think a concerto movement would show more breadth than solo Bach or a Paganini Caprice. He has two concerto mvmts, three Bach movements, and a Caprice in good shape, so it is just about picking the right piece.

Unfortunately there is no one to ask questions to, and his teacher isn't familiar with our school system at all. I hope someone here has some ideas.

Replies (5)

December 13, 2018, 11:49 AM · I would think they are asking for 4 two octave scales do determine if students have the minimum skills that are required. Prepare 3 octave scales and at the audition, just check quickly that it's okay. Right before he plays, just say "I'm doing 3 octaves, is that okay?" They'll almost certainly say it's fine. 3 octave scales are pretty standard for high school players.
Unaccompanied in this context just means don't bring a pianist with you and don't expect one to be there. If they're asking for two octave scales, they are not expecting to hear Paganini. A Bach movement or excerpt from a concerto is appropriate. Anything you listed is fine, just make sure it shows his playing level and he can play it WELL. They would rather hear a good Bach partita than an out of tune Mendelssohn concerto.
Edited: December 13, 2018, 2:55 PM · I agree. Prepare both the 2-octave and the 3-octave (you don't want to screw up the easy scale just because it feels unexpected) and say, "I prepared 3 octaves also, would you prefer if I played 2 or 3?"

If the Caprice is #24 and well-executed, I would consider playing it, given how much it packs into a very brief time interval. Most of them are otherwise kind of one-trick or two-trick ponies.

Otherwise, IIRC, your son was doing Lalo recently? Both the 1st or 5th movements are popular choices at the high school level.

Don't be concerned about "showing off". This is a competitive audition. Just don't behave arrogantly with the jury.

December 13, 2018, 3:08 PM · Thank you for the advice, especially regarding the scales. That sounds like a good plan.

Tim, thankfully he is quite a bit past the out-of-tune Mendelssohn stage!

Lydia, he is currently working on Caprice 14, which I agree is mostly a one-trick pony. He finished Lalo a few months back and is pretty sick of it -- though he did very well competing the 5th movement, so it is a possibility. He has to play Wieniawksi Concerto as a required piece for a competition around the same time as this audition, so he will probably go with that. He just started working on Bach Sonata 1 and the first mvmt of that will definitely be ready, but I feel like the Wieniawski shows a wider range of technical/musical. It's not particularly hard for him, but he plays it well.

December 13, 2018, 4:46 PM · I agree with Lydia.

One thing to keep in mind is that the minimum audition requirements do not necessarily (and in fact likely do not) reflect the average level of successful applicants. It would be very useful if you could make contact with parents of current students and find out what their students played for these auditions.

Edited: December 14, 2018, 10:55 AM · Thank you, Mary Ellen. I am working on talking to some other families. The level of the average student is actually pretty low in this program (probably Suzuki book 3-4). There is only one other 8th grader in the city close to my son's level. Most of the higher level kids live in the suburbs. He wouldn't be going there for the strength of the arts program -- it's just an easy way into the door of a good high school.

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