All State Orchestra Audition Advice?

November 5, 2017, 5:59 PM · Hi there,

I will be auditioning for the SC All State Orchestra in January and would really like some advice for the audition. I have attached the excerpts below. Are there any suggestions anyone can give me on the music I've attached or trying to keep calm during an audition? Anything would be greatly appreciated.

Replies (44)

November 5, 2017, 7:17 PM · Well I'm an amateur and that doesn't look like virtuoso stuff to me. So, if it's playable, then it needs to be played really really well, cleanly, with very precise rhythm and in the correct style, and exactly in tune. Make a plan for breaking down each section and isolating the hardest bits.

There are no fingerings. Get advice on those from your private teacher. I've never auditioned excerpts before, but I think what I would do is listen to all the pieces on YouTube, find the right passages, listen to those over and over, and try playing along to match the tempo and style. There are a few excerpts that don't have metronome markings so you may need to estimate those from recordings?

November 5, 2017, 7:34 PM · I can only marvel at the stark difference in difficulty between this and Texas.
November 5, 2017, 8:39 PM · I recommend all my students read "The Inner Game of Music" and put its suggestions into practice. Best book I have ever seen on performance anxiety and the psychology of successful performance.
November 5, 2017, 8:53 PM · "I can only marvel at the stark difference in difficulty between this and Texas."

Lydia, no kidding. This year in addition to the DeBeriot and Mazas études, there were several excerpts from Alpensymphonie (Strauss) and Symphonic Metamorphoses (Hindemith), the latter at an unplayable specified tempo. By the way, results have just been published in Texas and four of my students made the first cut; two of those four made All-State.

November 5, 2017, 9:01 PM · What are you struggling with, specifically?
November 5, 2017, 9:01 PM · @Mary Ellen- congratulations... good job!
November 5, 2017, 9:15 PM · Yes it's wonderful that your students did so well. Congratulations.

There are more than 5 times as many people in Texas as there are in South Carolina. The median household income in Texas is almost $10,000 higher, and the total state budget in Texas is almost ten times what the state of South Carolina spends annually. Some of that data could explain, at least partly, why the standards for All-State Orchestra are higher in Texas.

November 5, 2017, 9:45 PM · I'm just intrigued by the selection. I'd never heard of either of the first two pieces, let alone played them (and the first one didn't even come up in a Google search so I'm assuming either very new composition–or else a movement from a suite or something.)

No practice tips to add to the excellent advice you've already gotten. Good luck!

November 5, 2017, 9:49 PM · Thanks, Jim and Paul, and yes, population and demographics make a big difference. I was mainly marveling on how much more pleasant my life would be in South Carolina.

Paul's advice in his first comment is excellent. I would add to that, once you have the excerpts under your fingers, record yourself and listen to the playback with a copy of the part in front of you to mark where the problems are. Then fix them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

November 5, 2017, 9:57 PM · DeBeriot and Mazas I can understand, but Strauss and Hindemith?

I live in a horribly unpopulated state (Idaho) and we get the same two Mazas etudes every year, so it's incredibly easy to get in.

November 5, 2017, 10:41 PM · Recent years have included excerpts from Concerto for Orchestra (Bartok) and Don Juan--the highest of the three All-State orchestras plays some ridiculously ambitious stuff. They sound wonderful, but the hidden cost is all the repertoire the students *aren't* learning while they drill such inappropriate music.
Edited: November 6, 2017, 8:03 AM · There is a downside to being not-all-that-good and still making all-state because of where you happen to live. Not saying that applies to you, Louis, but the downside is that you might become convinced that you're conservatory material when, in reality, the kids making all-state in the most competitive places find conservatory auditions tough.
November 6, 2017, 8:54 AM · The upside of being a high school student from a smaller state is that you may have a better chance of getting into a top school ( say Harvard ) that likes to have students from all fifty states. So, it is fair. : )
Edited: November 6, 2017, 9:19 AM · David the same might also apply to military academies. And it also goes for some awards, perhaps including National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

And then there is EPSCoR:

And finally, don't forget Miss Teen USA.

November 6, 2017, 10:02 AM · When I was in Texas they used Paganini #16 as the etude.
November 6, 2017, 10:11 AM · Paul, Agreed! many of my colleagues get NSF/NIH grants for projects that would not otherwise be funded if they wereb in schools located in the Northeast.
November 6, 2017, 11:07 AM · Marty, I remember that year well as does anyone else who was preparing students that year. Thankfully it has not been repeated. The études are never repeated while one cohort is in high school, btw.
November 6, 2017, 4:53 PM · I would be interested in hearing how folks here would deal with the D-G and G-D in measures 2 and 3 of excerpt #2.
November 6, 2017, 5:44 PM · Begin excerpt #2 in third position; small shift from 3rd position (D) to 2nd position (G) in bar 2; rest of bar 2 in 2nd position; small shift from 2nd position (G) to 3rd position (D) in bar 3.
Edited: November 6, 2017, 6:49 PM · To be clear, these passages appear to be for 9-10 grades? (as the file's name) and after I looked around there are other excerpts for 11-12 which appears to be the audition pieces for the senior all state orchestra in SC.

My limited opinion is that the typical student would find any of the all state auditions to be out of range without serious study - as they would be. All State is quite an achievement and a hallmark of many students' violinistic aspirations.

November 6, 2017, 8:46 PM · Kan is right, you just substitute 11-12 in for 9-10 in the URL, and you get excerpts that are definitely a few notches more serious.
Edited: November 6, 2017, 9:58 PM · So if you're in 9th or 10th grade, you have to audition for the 9th/10th grade orchestra? What about the more advanced younger students? Both of my students who made Texas All-State this year are 10th graders and would definitely be able to master the 11th-12th grade excerpts, without breaking too much of a sweat.
November 7, 2017, 4:40 AM · Yes, unfortunately, you can only audition for the orchestra corresponding to your grade level.
Edited: November 7, 2017, 12:18 PM · The purpose of that scheme is just to spread the opportunity around a little more. Is it better for the 9th-grader who is ready for the upper-level orchestra to do that for four years, or is it better to let another child have that spot for two of those years? If the young prodigy feels the "lower" orchestra would be a waste of time (s)he needn't audition.

Meritocracies are not always what they seem.
Differential opportunity masquerades as cream.

Apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan.

Edited: November 7, 2017, 1:14 PM · The fact that All-State was by grade level was the EXACT reason I never even considered auditioning. By the time the idea of it crossed my mind, I had already been to a summer music program where seating and orchestra placement were by grade. It was by far the lowest level program I had taken part in, since they were using age as a proxy for ability in their admissions process. I had also looked at some all-state videos on YouTube for my location ( California ) and wasn't impressed. I even turned down an offer to do the German version of all-state by one of my chamber coaches who had conducted for them.

I knew that there were better youth orchestras in my area that cared more about ability, screened the auditions, and which paid you a little bit for each concert, as well as much better summer opportunities where placement was flexible. I was much happier with what I decided to do with my time instead.

November 7, 2017, 3:19 PM · M.E. thanks for the fingering!
November 7, 2017, 8:15 PM · You're welcome!
November 7, 2017, 9:35 PM · @Lieschen
Here in Indiana, our All-State Orchestra has 1 orchestra. They perform pretty difficult stuff. I think this year is Billy The Kid and Prokofiev 5 Mvt. 4. We also have a really good summer camp at Jacobs School of Music, which I regularly attend. This past summer we performed Mahler 1 Mvt. 1, Prelude from Holberg Suite (Grieg), and my favorite: Autumn from Glazunov's Seasons. That Glazunov was really a pain. We also have a string ensemble elective there where we can perform some chamber music. i got to perform a movement of a Bacewiz violin quartet. I'm really glad we have a good summer program. We have a good youth orchestra too. The New World Youth Orchestra is the best youth orchestra in the state.

Mary Ellen, are you familiar with Music For All? I believe a few high school orchestras from Texas are coming to the Music For All festival here in Indy.

November 8, 2017, 5:10 AM · Oddly enough in the UK I never heard of a youth orchestra that tied admissions to academic year. Whether it was your school, the local music centre, the county orchestras, or the national ones - you were moved up in line with your ability.
November 8, 2017, 6:36 AM · Jacob--never heard of it, sorry.
November 8, 2017, 7:29 AM · I think age based policy is ok in that more kids get to participate in music. It is really not that of a new concept--there are jr divisions and age limit in major competitions.
November 8, 2017, 7:52 AM · David,

Explain how this would increase participation. Why would having Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, or whatever you want to call it, divisions with definitions for what constitutes each cut down on participation? How is that fair to someone who is exceptionally talented? And why should competitions have them? Are you implying that at some age ( seems to be 30 for most of the big competitions ), players are all old and washed up and not worthy of vying for the publicity and opportunities a competition may provide along side the young, fresh meat? And just because it isn't new doesn't mean it isn't worth scrutinizing.

Edited: November 8, 2017, 10:50 AM · Lieschen, let's say there is a kid of some talent in a "fly-over" region who is really hard working and is playing the Tchaikovsky at the age of 10. If there is no age policy, she is going to the CM in the best youth orchestra until she gets to college. The second best would have no chance.

It is without problems? No. But affirmative action of some kind ( either by age, race, or geography; see e.g. The US Senate) is necessary to make sure everyone gets to participate.

Edited: November 8, 2017, 8:57 AM · David, in that case I would recommend rotating the concert master position, at least amongst the top few. I have been involved in student orchestras who operate with a principal pool, which rotates by concert. Programs such as the Perlman Music Program rotate principals by movement, and everyone gets the chance to lead in a non-competitive environment. Rotation is good for students, because they are supposed to be learning in youth orchestra, and that includes learning how to be a leader. I wouldn't mind sacrificing a sliver of quality in that setting if it meant a good learning opportunity for the students involved. I could imagine it motivating the students to practice extra hard knowing that they would have to lead the section at some point during the season.

I could also see some point at which a music director recommends a student move on from a group they have outstripped long ago, similar to the way teachers pass students to the one more suited to their next stage of development.

November 8, 2017, 9:07 AM · That only works if you have a number of students who are relatively close in ability. The problem is exactly as David noted -- when you have a player who, at a young age, already significantly surpasses all of the other students in the orchestra. Yes, sometimes students get encouraged to move onto another group, but in many areas that's not actually an option.

I can tell you that age/grade stuff is a pain. I skipped three grades as a child, and the variable use of ages vs. grades caught me in a variety of uncomfortable ways, including weirdnesses where I was in a grade too high to enter my age category in a competition, but not old enough to enter the high-school category. I had the same issue for youth symphonies.

November 8, 2017, 9:16 AM · Lydia,

I suppose that either way, quality would be sacrificed. You either put the oldest, but perhaps not nearly the best, in a leadership position over a younger student who would produce better quality, or in a group they are less prepared for than some other canditdate, or you rotate people who have a significant ability gap and have a much less-skilled leader sometimes. I don't know if there is a way to give everyone a chance without sacrificing something. The choice has to be made between utter meritocracy and utter equality. I suppose that the best policy would be to consider things on a case-by-case basis.

Edited: November 8, 2017, 12:30 PM · Lieschen, meritocracy within an age group is a sensible compromise. It is also in the best interest of the kids. Imagine how a ten-year old with a very polished Tchaikovsky would fit in a group of sixteen-year olds, all with respectable but shaky Mendelssohn/Bruch but are denied the CM position.
Edited: November 8, 2017, 12:39 PM · David,

What would happen? The other kids may get a little jealous, but that's their problem. They would learn that sometimes there are people better and faster than them. Out in the world, especially in the West, you are going to get leaders of different backgrounds and ages. Also, chances are that some kids are also socially advanced and could lead people older than them, especially with a little bit of coaching, perhaps from their private teacher. I actually have some personal experience leading a section that was mostly older than me during this time period. No one in the section asked my age.

And what's wrong with sticking out like a sore thumb? Is not fitting in always a bad thing?

Edited: November 8, 2017, 1:16 PM · Lieschen, your points are well made. When I was a teenager, youth orchestra was my comfort zone. The friends I made in the orchestra were very important part of growing up. I stayed with the violin for as long as I did mainly because of them! That should count for something.
November 8, 2017, 3:17 PM · I think the reason for rotation using the 10-year-old CM example above would be because a 10 year old who plays really well will usually not have the same leadership chops as a 16 year old. Now, if he has both, then no reason to rotate.
November 8, 2017, 3:58 PM · I became the concertmaster of a middle-school-age youth symphony as a 10-year-old. The next year, at 11, I moved up to that organization's high-school-age orchestra, as the principal 2nd. And the year after that, I was displaced as principal 2nd by a 10-year-old Jennifer Koh (and I was promoted forward to sit 3rd chair first violin instead; a conservatory-bound pair of high schoolers occupied the first stand). Kids will cope with younger principals if the playing ability delta is large enough.

Section leaders in youth symphonies typically have substantially fewer responsibilities than section leaders in community and professional orchestras, as well, which also tends to mean that those positions go to technically adept kids who play confidently. (I was also in youth orchestras where as the concertmaster or principal 2nd, I did have more responsibilities, but not all of them explicitly chose section leaders for leadership as well as playing ability.)

November 8, 2017, 5:28 PM · Lydia makes a good point. Often, in a youth symphony, the conductor or someone else does the bowings and leads the sectionals. In some youth orchestras, the only real difference between a section leader and the rest is getting to play the solos, and even then, a lot of times, the string principals aren't getting to play the meatier orchestral solos.
November 8, 2017, 6:53 PM · **ahem**

Principal 2nd to 3rd chair first violin is not a promotion.

Just saying.

November 8, 2017, 6:57 PM · In a youth symphony it often is. :-)
(In that particular orchestra, P2 -> 5th chair 1st -> 3rd chair 1st -> concertmaster was generally the path.)

In other contexts I would agree, though.

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