Auditions

What I Learned (+ Changed) About My Relationship With Self-Trust From a Golf Book

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Back in my most recent audition preparation experience, I bought a book called: Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella. I first heard about it in Rob Knopper's interview with Matt Howard on his strategies to win his audition with the LA Phil, where he discussed his elevated mental strategies and focus on his pre-shot routine. 

 

I recently picked it up again and started over from the beginning. 

 

Dr. Rotella is a performance consultant who specifically works with pro golfers on the mental side of their game.

There are some general, common sense ideas in there, and Dr. Rotella even attests that his simple methods often surprise his clients. 

The thing about reading and processing these concepts again and again is that every time, a new light bulb goes off. I can digest it in a new way that allows me to really become aware of my mindset and try something new.


My Relationship with Trust: Doubt Comes First

 

"Many weekend golfers don't even wait for a bad shot to stop trusting their swing. They step onto the first tee thinking of a dozen mechanical concepts...Without realizing it, they're doing everything possible to undermine their own game." (pg. 48)

 

"The hot streak represents the golfer's true capability. It results, essentially, from trust. The golfer trusts his abilities. He steps up to the ball knowing that he can pick a target and hit it there. He does things unconsciously. The swing repeats itself. It feels effortless." (pg. 49)


I initially realized how often I direct the mechanics of my own playing thinking about my recent recordings for Etude of the Week.

 

I always think about the "what-I'm-doing" portion in practice. Of course, it's important to observe oneself and make corrections. 

 

I also know that thinking about what to do hinders a performance, but I have continuously obsessed over self-directing while recording my etudes due to fear of failure:

I want to create the best possible outcome, so I hang onto all the little instructions that steered me well in practice.

 

Ultimately, this becomes exhausting.

 

My intentions are always to let go and direct myself to freedom, but I often end up adding tension when it comes to performing or recording. I physically feel the weight of it.

 

Self-directing is a form of self-doubt.

 

I am not exercising trust.


TRUST IS A HABIT. (And So Is Doubt.)

 

Great golf players trust themselves. They put in highly effective practice, and then let go and trust on game day. They trust no matter what happens - they keep locking in on their targets, and going for them.

 

Thinking about the amount of time I spend over-thinking, especially in practice, I recognize that my habit is doubt:

 

On a deeper level with how I think and act, I am doubting that I can create a beautiful sound without telling myself all the steps first.

 

I spend so little time cultivating trust with my mindset during practice and in life, that it's almost impossible to fully access trust in a performance. Starting to think about cultivating trust comes way too late in the process for me.


Embodying Trust as a Habit

 

After this revelation, I recorded my Etude of the Week, and I dove in without overthinking.

 

I didn't analyze myself first. I didn't double check how to play all the low notes, or the short notes, or the trills.. I gave myself permission to trust and not direct anything.

 

Not only was it more fun to play, it went better than I expected.

 

My only goals were to think in terms of targets:

I imagined myself hitting them, and then I did. 

 

More importantly, I didn't spend an hour recording take after take, physically exhausting myself. I felt light and free without instructing myself to feel light and free.

 

I carried this into my fundamentals practice, where I am almost 100% of the time living in careful instruction mode. My default this time was to choose to trust and live affirmatively in the moment, and if anything went wrong, I could go back and fix it. 

 

Trust first, not doubt: Play affirmatively, not with a question mark.

 

This eased an enormous amount of the frustrations I felt earlier that day. This also made it possible to have a pretty successful sight-reading session, as well! 


Here are my reflections for the week:

 

  • Do I play, practice, and think with a question mark of doubt over my head?

 

  • What happens if I stop waiting to ingrain trust?

 

  • What happens if I decide I'm worthy of trust right from the beginning?

 

  • What happens if I embody trust as a habit, as my default?


What is your relationship with trust like? Do you notice when you're trusting vs. doubting? What is your default? Do you cultivate trust every day?



 

 

 

What I Learned Judging A Round of Pre-Screening Recordings

I was recently asked to be a judge for a round of pre-screening recordings, and it was my first time being on the other side of a recorded round. Listening through each candidate, I began to think about how I was listening based on the recording, and I made a mental checklist of things to take into account for myself and my students in future recording sessions.

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Here's what a I learned while judging a round of pre-screening recordings:


1. Recording Quality

Recording quality is really important for showcasing your true sound. The listener will have to guess about your tone if the quality is low or the distance from the microphone is off. Your tone is the first basis for determining your level of playing when it comes to competition recordings, and it makes the difference between the listener falling in love with your playing versus trying to decide on your ability in the first few moments. (Don't make them guess, make them love!)

2. Microphone Set-Up

Microphone angle and distance are just as important as a good recording device. Too far, and the quality can seem too low - the intricacies of your sound will be lost. Too close and you'll hear loud breaths and possibly even keys moving. Both things can distract the listener from how great you are.

3. Intonation

Intonation translates no matter the quality of recording! Take the time to practice playing in tune, and tune well on your recording day. A recording with few technical flaws but poor intonation throughout is very distracting to hear. Bring a recording device into your rehearsals - a phone works fine for listening back for pitch issues!

4. Play for the Space

Know the space you're playing in. If it's a dry room, be intentional about creating vibrancy and spin in the sound, and releasing the ends of notes. If it's a live or echoey space, keep things clear and precise.

5. Take a Sample First

Listen to the recording tests for yourself. Are your contrasts coming across? Are you happy with the balance? How's the distance and location of the microphone? Take a moment to make sure you're happy before proceeding.

Thinking back, I never heard the recording tests for myself - only the recording engineer listened. I didn't know how I was coming across in the room through the microphone, and in some cases, I would've played differently had I listened first. This can also help you hear whether you've tuned well or not before you proceed with a full take!

6. Have a Back-Up

Use a back-up recording device when possible. If you had a great take, but the recording device shut off halfway through (or you forgot to hit record altogether), you'll thank yourself for having a back-up device!

7. Don't Forget About Your Collaborator

Don't forget, your pianist is most likely going to be using an instrument that isn't their own. They may have insights or a preference as far as the location of your recording based on the instrument available, so account for this before deciding!



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Grad School Auditions: What I Wish I'd Done Differently + What I'd Definitely Do Again!

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Many students choose to embark on their grad school journey just after graduating as an undergrad, and this was the case for me. I found this helpful because I had my teacher by my side to guide me through the process.

Our lessons in my final two years were geared towards preparing for grad school auditions, and it really contributed to the sense of confidence I felt about going through every step of the process from choosing schools that were right for me all the way through making my final decision.

I've learned a lot in the years that have passed since graduate school, and if I were to go through the application and audition process all over again, there are some things that served me well, and some things I wish I had known or thought to do.


What I'd Do The Same

I had an overall positive experience during my grad school auditions, and I ended up attending the school that was the perfect fit for me. I'd consider the following four things again:

 

1. Choosing Which Schools to Apply For

 

I developed an interest in body awareness techniques as an undergrad, and as a result, it led me to seek out schools and potential teachers that had a strong interest in those techniques.

There are plenty of highly respected schools and teachers out there, but narrowing my focus in on my main interests helped me ensure I was applying to the programs that I'd be happiest learning in.

If you're still early in your undergrad career, take an opportunity to explore what you're passionate about. What kind of artist do you want to be? Get to know the artists, teachers, and schools that align with your values and interests.

 

2. Keeping Fundamentals Strong

 

I was working on fundamentals and etudes with my teacher every week surrounding audition preparation, and as a result, I was in good playing shape beyond my repertoire. I had a strong practice schedule that felt well-rounded, and I was committed to improving each day.

If I were going through the process again without the guidance of a teacher, I would be sure employ a strong plan for fundamentals that helps me address my weaknesses on a daily basis. I would challenge myself to go above and beyond what feels easy to make sure I'm fully prepared.

The Paul Edmund-Davies Warm-Up Book has been incredibly challenging and rewarding, and comes with a guided plan in the front of the book for rotating through all the exercises if you're looking to up your fundamentals!

 

3. Choosing Repertoire


Applying for grad school during undergrad meant I was also preparing for a senior recital. I chose bigger pieces I had performed at my junior recital so they would only need polishing, and for any new, required pieces that I needed to learn fresh, they went straight onto my Senior Recital program.

Don't spread yourself too thin by choosing too many different pieces. Overlap and re-use as much as possible! Fortunately, the repertoire at my four prospective schools overlapped quite a bit, which is common for many school requirements. 

If I were doing this all over again, I would still choose the pieces I'm familiar with and feel strongly about. Playing those pieces that you end up playing for fun from memory translate into energetic and convincing performances in the audition room.

 

4. Audition Day


I did four in-person auditions, (one of which was a regional live audition that was video-recorded by a representative from the school), and I felt confident at each of them. I followed along with several consistent things that really served me well, and many of these "Audition Day Rituals" still stick with me and bring me comfort.

I shared a post on the 9 Things I Did Before Every College Audition, and I would still do all nine of these things again!

 

What I'd Do Differently

Knowing what I know now, there are several things that I'd go back and change about my audition preparation and pre-screening recordings. Here's what I'd do differently:


1. Excerpt Preparation

 

Having spent more time preparing for professional auditions, I know WAY more about orchestral excerpts, their context, and how to practice and perform them in a consistent, convincing way.

If I had known about the resources I shared in the following post, my excerpt game would've been especially strong:

 

2. Pre-Screening Recordings 

 

I did my pre-screening recording the day before Thanksgiving, so campus was very quiet and it was easy to use the recital hall without feeling rushed. 

If I were doing it all over again, however, I would bring a back-up recording device. I utilized our school's recording services, but the best take of my Mozart Concerto had an issue where several seconds in, it only played out of the right side of the headphones. I ended up using this recording and passing pre-screenings, but it wasn't ideal. Take steps to avoid any issues that could be a distraction away from your playing!

 

3. Balancing Preparation + Travel with Everything Else

 

I remember one of the weeks where I was flying out for an audition but also had a million other things to do with concerts, recitals, recording sessions, projects, and more. It was overwhelming to say the least!

Your music professors understand the grad school audition process, so speaking with them early on and letting them know when you're going to be travelling is a good idea. Ask for advice on how you can get ahead and keep from falling behind, and get started on projects and big assignments early!

I was definitely a procrastinator and did not take initiative in this department. If I were doing it all over again, I would've given myself at least one good marathon day a week spent in the library with plenty of coffee, snacks and a best friend to focus on getting ahead. I'd also use the Pomodoro Technique to focus and be more efficient with my time!

 

4. Preparing For a Strong Performance

 

I didn't experience too many issues with performance nerves as an undergrad. It wasn't until the end of grad school into my first couple of years of independence that it really began to expand and become an issue.

Because of this, I've since practiced having stronger focus while performing under pressure, employed meditation and mental practice, and most importantly, learned to practice in a deeper way to ensure muscle memory would prevent slip-ups.

Here are a few of the resources that have helped me practice and mentally prepare for stronger audition performances:


Whether you're years away or just a few months away from graduate school auditions, know that you'll end up right where you need to be to grow in ways you haven't realized yet! Enjoy the excitement of it all, seek balance, and trust the process! You got this!


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Surviving the Warm-Up Room (2 Things That Helped Me Play My Most Confident Audition Yet!)

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In the last audition experience I wrote about, I had discovered the importance of simplifying my pre-performance routine to remove crippling over-thinking in the crucial moment just before beginning an excerpt. It helped tremendously. (Read all about that here!)

This time, however, I wanted to address another issue.


Confidence

...and how it all went out the window in the warm-up room.

Any confidence that I had mustered up on my way to the audition had crumbled once I stepped into the warm-up room and started hearing 20 flawless Peter and the Wolf excerpts from every corner.

It got worse once I heard the flutist in the corner telling someone else she just got her degree from fill-in-the-blank-conservatory and has been playing with such-and-such wonderful orchestra. 

I made my best effort to say: Don't listen...just warm-up...who cares...I'll be fine... but I spent so much energy trying to block out everyone else that I had lost myself completely. 


1. Finding Confidence Earlier in the Process

On Day 79 of #100DaysOfPractice on Instagram, I made an important realization when I started warming up just before going to get lunch one day.

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I had been listening to inspiring recordings by my favorite artists that morning. When I went to play, I waltzed right up to the big window in the living room, started playing, and I realized that I was uninhibited

I was not over-thinking any aspect of my playing, and I realized this is what confident playing feels like.

I knew that performance mode can't thrive when you're still in analyzing-practice-mode, but experiencing it in this moment was illuminating. This was a whole new level of letting go and simplifying my effortful thoughts and actions, and I wanted to access this every day leading up the audition.


2. Headphones

After understanding how I could access confidence through spontaneity and turning it into a daily habit leading up to the audition, I needed a new tactic for holding onto confidence in the warm-up room. 

Several books, articles, and friends told me to wear headphones. (Why wasn't I doing this before?!) I made a playlist of comforting and uplifting songs paired with about 50% Beyonce, and I warmed up with headphones on. 

I was already comfortable using ear plugs while warming-up, but I also made sure to practice warming up with other songs playing to get used to the feeling before doing this on audition day.

In the actual warm-up room, I still heard Peter and the Wolf, but I also heard songs that remind me of who I am and what I enjoy outside of a warm-up room.

This is the part that made a world of difference in allowing me to remain confident: not just blocking out everyone else, but also fueling my own identity and connection to confidence outside of playing an instrument.

 

The Bulletproof Musician just shared an article on the subject of using music to ease anxiety this morning: Click here to read it!


In Conclusion

With each new audition experience, some new part of the preparation process comes into focus, especially regarding the mental aspects of performing under pressure. 

Confidence comes with every new learning experience, and the ability to simplify and trust is key in removing mental obstacles.


How do you remain confident in auditions? Do you use headphones in the warm-up room? Tell me in the comments below!


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18 Resources for Studying Flute Excerpts

Are you preparing flute excerpts? If so, perhaps you've scoured the internet for resources to find as much information as possible to assist your preparation.

That's exactly what I've done over the past several months! In my search, I've stumbled upon many different videos, articles, and resources that are specifically geared towards flute excerpts.

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Here are just a few of my favorites!

Do you have any to add to this list? Share them in the comments below!


FOR PRACTICING YOUR PART IN CONTEXT

If you haven't performed your excerpts in a full orchestra before, simulate the context with a pianist or round up friends to play the other parts.

Here are some resources to help you practice in context:

 

 

  • Acapella App

    • Record each part and play along with yourself or a friend by reading off the score or using arrangements.

 

 

 

  • OrchestraExcerpts.com

    • In addition to simply playing along with many different recordings, some excerpts on this site feature quality orchestral recordings with the ability to alter the tempo.

Online Video Resources

A small sampling of the many free and paid online video resources!

 

 

  • PRINCIPAL CHAIRS [Paid Subscription]

    • My most-visited site for full-length video lessons on a wide variety of excerpts by Michael Cox, Aldo Baerten, Lorna McGhee, Jim Walker, Denis Lupachev, Paul Edmund-Davies, and more!

 

 

  • MUSIAC (New World Symphony) [FREE]

    • Free video lessons on Bach, Beethoven, Rossini, Debussy, Ravel, Mendelssohn and Dvořák with Mark Sparks, Bonita Boyd, Kelly Zimba, & Joshua Smith

 

 

 


Must-Haves for your Library

If you're just beginning your journey with excerpts, these are the most-loved books to add to your library!

 

  • Orchestral Excerpts for Flute [Book]

    • The must-have book of excerpts! Selected and annotated by Jeanne Baxtresser, Principal Flute, New York Philharmonic, Piano Reductions by Martha Rearick

 

 

 

  • Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo [BOOK]

    • "This book is a collection of excerpts compliled during Jack Wellbaum's many years with the Cincinnati Symphony. The selection of contents is based on those excerpts most frequently asked for in auditions."

 

 


Add your own favorites to the comments below!

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17 Must-See Resources if You're Preparing for an Audition

In the spirit of audition preparation, I've been collecting various resources on auditions, effective practice, mental skills, mock auditions, and more. There are countless resources available, but here are a few that I've found bookmark-worthy. Many of these resources contain further articles and links to even more resources that you may find useful in your own audition preparation.

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UNDERSTANDING + RE-FRAMING PERFORMANCE STRESS

 

Why I Don't Talk about "Stage Fright" and "Performance Anxiety" by Kate Conklin

  • "They’ve got the idea...that to perform, one should be “calm” or “relaxed.” And so when they experience *excitement, they re-interpret it as “stress” or “anxiety.”

 

Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement by A.W. Brooks

  • "Compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying "I am excited" out loud) or simple messages (e.g., "get excited"), which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mindset (as opposed to a threat mindset), and improve their subsequent performance."

 

Go Ahead and Sweat It! A Flutist's Unconventional Guide to Handling Performance Anxiety by The Self-Inspired Flutist

  • "When you fight your performance anxiety, you actually give it strength." 

 

What To Do About Performance Anxiety by Barbara Conable

  • "There are four distinct phenomena that go by the name performance anxiety. Each requires a different response, so it is important to name all four and distinguish them from each other so that the appropriate response may be chosen."

 

A Few Things Every Musician Ought to Know About Stage Fright

  • "Have you ever had a performance when everything just “clicked?" ...You may have heard of this referred to as “the zone.” Well, this magical state pretty much requires that you experience some degree of anxiety. No anxiety, no zone."

 

Helen’s Highly Recommended Books for Confident Performance via The Flute Examiner

  • Fourteen resources compiled by Helen Spielman, Performance Anxiety Coach

 

Douglas Yeo, Trombone, on Performance Anxiety

  • "Think about all of this in a different way. Instead of trying to solve the problem of performance anxiety, think a little deeper and work toward putting your performance in context with your broader life. Performance anxiety may not really be a problem, but rather may be a symptom of other issues (such as insecurity, or emotional hurt, lack of preparation and dedication, etc.) which, once addressed in a straightforward, direct way, can lead to a healthier life in all areas."

PREPARING TO PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE + STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE MOCK AUDITIONS

 

Bulletproof Musician: How Can You Create the Feeling of Real Pressure in Practice Situations?

  • "Being clutch under pressure is a skill we can get better at – by practicing under pressure...What are the most effective ways of manufacturing pressure training situations in advance of a big performance or audition?"

 

How Juilliard Teaches Musicians to Handle Stress by Daniel McGinn with Noa Kageyama

  • "In another class, he makes them do burpees until they’re sweaty and breathing hard — then asks them to play for the group. “It’s distracting when your heart is pounding,” he says, but if you practice playing while feeling that sensation, it can become a little less unnerving."

 

Rob Knopper: How to Stop Shaking Snare Drum [Video] + Stress-Inducing Exercises Download

  • "Going through a realistic mock audition forces you to experience the full range of things that you're going to have to get used to and get comfortable with at an actual audition. If you're not practicing like this, then you're not really practicing for an audition."

 

Four Alternative Methods to Make Sure Your Practice Efforts Survive the Pressures of Performance - The Strad

  • "A violist with a background in neuroscience, Molly Gebrian shares some alternative practice methods informed by studies on how our brain processes learning."

 

Audition Practice - Mock Auditions by Toby Oft, Trombone

  • "I want you to consider one thing: The better you get, the less often you perform for just trombonists."

 

MockAuditions.com - An Online Platform to Help You Win Your Next Audition

  • "Mockauditions.com is an online platform that connects and enables users to play for professional coaches and receive valuable feedback." 

ADVICE for Advancing in Auditions + REAL AUDITION STORIES

 

Rob Knopper's Free Mini-Course: How to Advance in an Audition 101

  • A free, 3-video course: 4 Reasons Why Anyone Can Win an Audition, The 3 Vital Phases of Audition Preparation, & What a Winning Audition Sounds Like

 

How to Win an Audition: Advice and Strategies from 3 Renowned Performer/Teachers by The Bulletproof Musician

  • "We all know that success requires talent and hard work, but on some level, we’re also deeply curious about the “secret sauce,” or those tiny, but significant little details that can be the difference between advancing and going home, or winning and being runner-up."

 

New World Symphony Audition Panel Discussion [Video]

  • "NWS Coaches on Auditioning with Craig Morris (trumpet), Marianne Gedegian (flute), David Allen Moore (bass), William VerMeulen (horn), Daniel Matsukawa (bassoon), Jonathan Vinocour (viola), Mark Kellogg (trombone), Robert Davidovici (violin)."

 

Doug Rosenthal's A Tale of Two Auditions

  • "This is an account of a specific time in my specific life.  What I did for these specific auditions worked well enough specifically for me at these specific moments. I hope you find it helpful, insightful, or at the very least, entertaining."

Have you utilized any of the above resources? Share your favorite resources in the comments!

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How I Upped My Mental Game For Auditions

The last time I took an audition, I prepared thoughtfully, recorded myself a lot, and learned about centering and mental focus. The day of, however, I under-performed.

This time around, I spent even more time working on my mental game. Here are a few of the key resources I turned to:

One crucial aspect of a strong mental performance that came up in all three was developing a Pre-Performance Routine, or a Pre-Shot Routine.

Pre-Performance Routines

A pre-performance routine is the idea of having a moment of simple, optimal mental programming that is consistent.

While I had specific ideas for how I wanted to approach each excerpt previously, I did not have a thought-out and consistent plan for my thoughts and actions. As a result, my mind ran wild with all the ideas I've collected from lessons, master classes and practice sessions over the years. Was this helpful? In the practice room, yes! On stage during an audition? Definitely not.

Instead, I followed the guidelines and advice from each of the three resources and came up with my own:

1. Breathe in for 6, Out for 8

2. "Feet, Peripheral Vision"

3. Hear it First

4. Move & Take the Leap!

In the moment, it became easy to sweep through these ideas, and I could efficiently clear my head and come to a place that felt grounded and confident.


Centering Breath

The Centering Breath was a part of my last audition preparation, but my mistake the first time around was way over-thinking it. I ended up adding tension as a result.

This time, I kept it simple and adapted the easy instructions from 10-Minute Toughness: A 15-second breath, counting 6 in, holding for 2, and out for 7. Focusing on counting alone means less room for mental chatter, and it prevented the issue of overthinking a "good" breath. According to 10-MT, a 15-second breath is also long enough to slow the heart rate.

Letting Go

While exhaling, I let go of tension in my abdomen and lower back. This was a far more simple "letting go" process than my previous one, where I tried to cram in a full body scan and get every muscle to be free and every bone perfectly positioned. While a full body scan is useful the day of an audition while laying on the floor, trying to do this in the moment before beginning each excerpt is far too overwhelming. The simpler answer is remembering to move as a whole. (See the last step!)

Reminder Statement

In 10-Minute Toughness, this concise, consistent statement is a key component of a pre-shot routine for athletes. For me, it was:

"Feet, Peripheral Vision"

That's it. I opened myself up to the room, remembered to feel my feet grounding me, and allowed myself to feel the confidence these ideas provide.

Hear It First

You're more likely to produce the sounds you hear mentally! Hear the most optimal, beautiful sounds, and the whole orchestral part in your head just before beginning to achieve the appropriate character and get your ideal sound concept.

Move & Take the Leap!

Taking the plunge to actually start the excerpt was the last part of the process I was overthinking before. I finally thought about the fact that if I simply take my flute of the case and begin wandering around the house playing Mozart or excerpts, it goes well because of the inhibition. I don't warm up, I don't stand in one spot and try to perfectly set myself up to play. I just go for it, move freely, and enjoy myself!

After going through my concise pre-performance routine this time, I knew I was ready to play, I felt calm and grounded, and I was able to take the leap of faith and just start. Allowing movement through the breath was the key to starting with ease and using the body as a whole. This ensured I would breathe naturally and freely, and tricked me out of overthinking my initial inhale, ultimately risking a tense breath.


Do You Have a Pre-Performance Routine?

Use a video camera and allow yourself only one chance to play through an excerpt or a piece you're going to perform. Identify the thought process you go through in preparing to play.

  • What do you instruct yourself to do?
  • What do you tell yourself not to do?
  • Does your process feel efficient in optimizing yourself for performance?
  • Is your process the same or different from how you approach a practice room mindset?

The Bulletproof Musician's Pressure Proof Hacks provide a guideline for developing your own pre-performance routine.

This is a commonly utilized concept, and there are many resources out there for both athletes and performing artists to check out!

In Conclusion

I can't begin to tell you how much this helped me. Doing it every time for every excerpt made an enormous difference when I went in front of a video camera for a mock audition, and again the day of the actual audition. Not having this mental plan the first time left far too much room for overthinking and trying too hard, and ultimately, I was inconsistent. 

I knew I could allow myself to take as much time as I needed before beginning each excerpt, but this time, I was able to use the time in the most efficient manner.

Keeping it simple and consistent is the key!


The 9 Things I Did Before Every College Audition

In the spirit of college audition season, I am reflecting on my own audition experience for masters programs. In general, I had a really positive experience at each of my four auditions, due in part to each of the steps I took to ensure it was positive and low-stress!

Here are the things I did before every audition for graduate school:

1. Travel Plan

The first step to avoiding added anxiety was to avoid stress while travelling. I know myself well enough to realize that I get nervous while executing an elaborate travel agenda, especially while traveling alone. I planned out every step of transportation, and stayed organized with audition information, directions, reservations, and music. 

2. Scope

Arriving the day before the audition gave me time to walk the route to the music building and scope out the practice rooms and audition space. Knowing exactly where I needed to go the next day eased any anxiety I had about finding my way around on the day of, plus, I could begin to mentally envision the actual audition. (See number 5!)

3. Sleep

Staying in hotels or with family meant being away from my the comfort of my own bed. I was prepared to make myself as comfortable as possible with lavender and sleep essential oils, chamomile tea, ear plugs, white noise, and comfortable clothing. 

4. Meditate

My preparations of the audition repertoire involved quite a bit of mental practice and meditation, and following along with a guided meditation to clear the mind and relax the body has helped me tremendously with feeling positive and grounded. In the night before the audition and the morning of, I could envision myself walking the route to the building and performing well in the actual space.

5. Eat Breakfast

Scrambled eggs, green tea, and a banana nut muffin. Quite simply, I ate foods that I knew would not upset my stomach or leave me feeling hungry too soon. Many people swear by bananas before an audition to assist with nerves!

6. Wear Lucky Pants

I always joke about my lucky pants, because they are the black dress pants that I wear for every audition and concert. (Express Editor Pants!) I have several pairs of them because they are comfortable and help me feel like myself. I also wore the same pair of broken-in black flats to each audition (after changing out of snow boots in snowy climates), and had gloves to keep my hands warm. 

7. Smile

As cheesy as it sounds, smiling at every person I encountered once I entered the audition building kept me feeling positive, and tricked me into feeling confident about being alone in a new place with strangers who were about to judge my playing. I also used some of Amy Cuddy's Power Posing ideas to feel even more confident.

8. Dance

If you were to ask me for the one thing I did to make my auditions better, it was this! I carved out considerable time to warm-up through exercise before every audition. I decided that adding in a 30-minute dance party to 90s boy bands would put me in a good mood, and it definitely did! I didn't want to take myself too seriously or find myself being overly-cautious in my every move before I was to play, so choosing to be ridiculous was the way to go. I followed this with some yoga to ground myself.

9. Have a Plan

Know the order in which you prefer to play pieces, because you may get to choose! I knew I wanted to get the Mendelssohn Scherzo out of the way early, but I wanted my strongest excerpts to come first to ensure I made a good first impression and felt the most confident. Adding labels to the sides of your music to easily find the next piece can help reduce stress as well!

 

How do you keep your auditions low-stress and fun? Tell me in the comments below!