auditions band clarinet excerpts music practicing

Pre-audition thoughts

So lets see…its been almost three years since I’ve taken any kind of audition.  Wow that’s crazy!  Time has flown by since I’ve been in the Navy.  Tomorrow I’m headed to Washington, D.C. once again to be one of the probably hundred clarinetists to take the President’s Own audition.  This time is going to be quite interesting, because I am certainly a different player than I was three years ago.  The change has come mostly to adjust to my life as a Navy musician and a professional march player.  I learned quickly that its very difficult to play those crazy marches using the heavy reeds that I was using.  While I was in school (Eastman specifically) I was always so concerned with making my sound as dark as possible, so the heavier the reed, the better.  But it made it hard to play things sometimes, I think that’s why I had so much trouble in auditions most of the time.  My reed was so heavy that if it wasn’t absolutely perfect in the audition room, it was over for me.  I wish I had realized that sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

Since I stopped taking auditions (and especially since I joined the Navy), I have realized that I really don’t want that dark sound, and I’ve been trying to brighten it up a little.  I’ve since dropped down to a Vandoren 3 1/2+ V12, and I couldn’t be happier.  Its so much easier to play things now!  And I am really starting to enjoy my sound.  I also feel that I’ve matured incredibly over the last two years musically.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I can truly express myself musically.  It’s a great feeling!

Its interesting…I really didn’t, or couldn’t, discover who I was until I had no teacher to tell me what to do.  Granted, I am extremely grateful to my teachers for pointing me in the right direction, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without them.  But, I didn’t truly grow as a musician until I had to listen to myself 100% of the time and be my own teacher.  When you have a teacher, its easy to turn off your ears and just do what they tell you to do.  But when you don’t have that, you are forced to grow into something beyond what your teacher has taught you to be.  I think that’s pretty amazing.

For this audition, I’ve really paid a lot of attention to the details.  Like, REALLY paid attention, and committed to making things perfect.  Before, I kind of glossed over little things and hoped for the best at the actual audition.  A really good example of this is one of the excerpts on the list this time.   It is from De Meij’s Lord of the Rings Symphony, specifically the “Gollum” movement.  There are a lot of grace notes in the excerpt, and one of them really gave me trouble:


I kept getting a grunty sound when I would re-articulate the C grace note.  UGH so frustrating!  Before I would just forget about it, and assume and hope that all the other applicants had trouble with it too.  I’m not sure if it was a time thing (my practice time was always limited, especially when I was working full-time), or just a laziness thing, but I knew if I wanted to do well, I needed to abandon that attitude for this audition.  Maybe boot camp taught me something after all…attention to detail!  After a lot of trial and error, I figured out a way to get the C out, and I played just this measure literally hundreds of times, slowly and correctly.  I think I annoyed some people at work, because I would just play it over and over before rehearsals, haha.  It is a pretty annoying figure to be playing over and over, but whatever.  Anyway, it was worth it, because now I can play it right nearly every time.  Yes!

I’ve also spent a great deal of time trying to visualize the audition.  A lot of my audition failures in the past have been due to my own mental sabotage.  So instead of going to my “happy place” during all those boring change of command and retirement ceremonies that I have been at for work, I’ve simply been imagining myself at the audition, playing through the excerpts in my head, imagining my inevitable anxiety, etc.  Its pretty easy because I know what the room looks like, and how the room sounds because I’ve been there before…January 2010.  Wow that was almost four years ago!  Anyway, I have no idea if the visualization is going to help when the time comes, but when I step into that audition room I will take comfort in the fact that I have been there done that a number of times already, even if it was just in my head.

Yesterday I got some news at work that might make the audition easier for me to get through.  It’s not for sure or official yet, so I can’t say anything at the moment.  So we will see what happens Monday.  Wish me luck!

(Wait, I don’t need luck because I’m super prepared and I’m going to rock it!)

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