My second and last year of my Master’s has begun in full swing.  Both school and outside gigs have been keeping me busy.  I’m currently teaching lessons in the Lewisville ISD at Downing Middle School, taking auditions with orchestras around the area and playing some gigs.  Doing this has helped me figure out what direction I want to go as graduation gets closer.

For me, I very much enjoy orchestral playing.  With that comes auditions, which can be a grueling process.  As we work so hard and diligently on our excerpts, many factors go into these excerpts and what audition committees are looking for.  Here is a brief list of things I’ve noticed in my practicing and [limited] experience:

  • Basic musical things: intonation, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, etc.
  • Technique
  • Musicality
  • Consistency

For technique, this means determining what the excerpt is showing you can do.  This could be spiccato/sautillé stroke in Mendelssohn Scherzo, saltando in Tchaikovsky 6 or even just a good détaché stroke in Mozart 35, movement IV.  This seems very obvious but sometimes verbalizing and breaking down what an excerpt is showcasing can help.

For musicality, this is not only making the excerpt not sound like a boring étude, but also know the musical context from which your excerpt is taken from.  Knowing how a piece goes, what comes before and after, and knowing what is going on in other parts will help tremendously in determining how you should execute a particular excerpt.  For example, knowing that in Shostakovich 5 the cellos have an ostinato rhythm underneath the high melody in the violas (which is then passed along to violins) will help keep your steady tempo as well as the mood of the excerpt.

Consistency.  This is one I have been struggling with for as long as I’ve been playing music.  I’ve put in the hours in the practice room and know I can play these things, yet something happens and it doesn’t always come out the way I want it to.  Partly for me is not falling into “autopilot” mode, I’ve been playing for so long that I can become unfocused, especially when I’ve played something a thousand times.  I stumbled across an interesting blog post about consistency in playing, and I’d like to keep it in mind as I continue to take more auditions.  The author discusses reacting and responding to your music in a positive way, while you’re playing it, and being aware of crunching down and other physical reactions as we get stressed while playing.  Here’s the link, and I hope you find it as thought-provoking as I did.

As I come back from an audition just yesterday, all of the things I did wrong are floating through my head and what could have gone better.  Some things went better than expected, some not as good as I had intended.  As I prepare for my next projects, New World Symphony auditions and my master’s recital, my goals include paying close attention to every small detail in my music and remaining focused in my practicing.