Another audition, another first round cut.
I always have a hard time organizing my thoughts after an audition is over. The worst part for me is having to recount how it went every time someone asks, “So, how’d it go?” Not that I think people shouldn’t ask that (and I definitely don’t blame them for asking), it’s just trying to sum up the experience in words without asking for a pity party when things don’t go well. It’s been a couple days, so I’ve had lots of time to think and lots of time to talk about it with other people. I’m trying to figure out how things could have been better, and where to go from here.
I’ll start with how it went. If you know me, the biggest hurdle I’ve struggled with in the last few years is my nerves. And it seems to have gotten worse as I get older. When I was on the audition scene a decade ago I would get nervous, but it would never be as crippling as it has become. I’ve had teachers and colleagues tell me, “Just make sure you are 100% prepared, and that preparation won’t fail you”. Well, I’m going to go ahead and tell you for some people, like me, the amount of preparation doesn’t matter. I’ve gone into auditions so, so incredibly prepared, and then I still fall on my face. I miss things I never miss. Do weird things I’ve never done before. It’s because my anxiety was so crippling that I spent most of my brain power and focus trying to calm my body down, rather than focusing on executing the excerpts.
I feel like I’ve done everything so remedy my anxiety. Visualization, breathing, etc…you name it, I’ve done it. So, at the recommendation of many colleagues and friends I went to my doctor for, you guessed it, a beta blocker. This was my last resort.
I’ll tell you, it was a game changer. I should have done this a long time ago! All that physical anxiety was gone. I didn’t have to put in any effort to try to get my body out of that “fight or flight” mode, because it never got there. I got to focus 100% on the audition. And as a result, I played the best audition I’ve had since before I joined the Navy and I was on the audition circuit full time.
But just because the physical anxiety was gone, doesn’t mean that that my brain wasn’t still nervous. I still felt the pressure of the situation. I still heard that voice that tells me I can’t do it. Self doubt is something I still struggle with big time. And there’s no pill that can fix that. But, because I didn’t have to put in any effort to calm my body down physically, it was so much easier to quiet that negative voice.
Anyways, time to talk about the audition itself. My reed situation was really good (I’ve been doing a lot of reed prep!) and I had a few good reeds to choose from which was nice. I was expecting to struggle with reeds, because the weather changed so drastically Thursday into Friday. Like, 20 degree drop just on my drive up from Virginia Beach! Yikes.
For the prelim round, the excerpts were Mozart, Mendelssohn Scherzo, one of the marches (Fillmore’s Man of the Hour, last strain), Verdi La Forza, and Pineapple Poll. I was a little surprised at the selections for the first round; I thought for sure they would put Oberon on the first round. I ended up playing everything, which is always a good sign.
I was really confident coming out of the audition. There was no way I wasn’t getting through! I played great. Unfortunately, the audition panel didn’t agree. In fact, they didn’t like anyone in my group and none of us made it through.
At first I was mad and confused. What didn’t they like? Were they being extra picky? I was in the first group of the day (I was #2 in fact!) so could that have been a factor? There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you rocked it, when obviously there was something missing.
I had a four hour drive home to think about how it went. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was probably my Pineapple Poll that cost me the round. It was the last excerpt in the round, and it’s rhythmically very challenging, and I don’t think I played it as perfect as they wanted. It was always the excerpt that I got negative comments on in my mock auditions too…
But who really knows what they didn’t like. That’s something I’ll never know. And maybe my perspective is a little jaded by the fact that I was so happy I played an audition without totally crapping my pants – figuratively, of course.
So where do I go from here? On Friday, I was dead set on giving up the audition game entirely. It’s so much time, stress, and money for a bunch of disappointment, usually. And really, the fleet is way better. Better gigs, better travel, better duty stations. I mean, come on, I got to live in Hawaii for four years and got to travel to other countries! Really can’t beat that.
But there are some things that are enticing about being in the DC band…more money, and a permanent place to live (no more moving!). Especially as my son moves into school age and starts making friends that he actually remembers, it’s going to start being really hard to pick up and move every few years. So we’ll see if I do another audition. I am lucky, there’s always a clarinet audition every couple years, at least. In fact, I’m sure there will be another one while I’m here in Virginia. I know there are some improvements I can make now that I’ve figured out the anxiety problem, like my crazy self doubt. I guess I’ll have to play it by ear and see where I’m at the next time there’s an audition. For now, I am just going to concentrate on my job here. And as always, getting better at clarinet!
I started a 100 day practice challenge awhile ago, and I still have just over 25 days left. I have a tendency to let my practice habits falter after an audition, and I’d like to avoid that! So I think I’m going to revamp my challenge and do a 30 day practice and reed challenge. 30 days of practicing (mental practice and score study counts!) and/or reed work. I’m not great at making videos, but I’m going to make it a goal to at least journal what I do every day and post it here. That should bring me right to Christmas time, which is a good time for a break.
Any of my musician friends want to do the challenge with me? I could use some accountability! Let me know!