Post Audition Thoughts (Again…)

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!


#100daypractice challenge, day…whatever

I think today is day 48, actually.  And I didn’t practice today because I was scheduled to get a filling at dental, and I didn’t want to try to play after having local anesthetic.  So I’m not doing so great at this challenge, but…

…its official, I’m taking the D.C. audition in November (uh, next month…uh, three weeks!).  I honestly didn’t need the practice challenge to keep me motivated because I had an audition date to work towards!  I am going to continue counting the days though, just because it will extend past the audition date into December, and I know I will need the motivation then!

Last week was the first week that I have felt “in the groove” with my routine.  And I got 6 days in!  Felt really good.  In fact, everything is feeling really good right now.  I hope that lasts…

I’ve spent the last 3 (or 4? don’t really know…) weeks “in the shed” with my excerpts.  Most of them I know already, but I like to start from scratch when preparing for auditions.  So that means bumping the tempo down to half, and starting from there.  I also focus on the technical excerpts, giving more time to my weaker ones, or ones that I have never played before (only one this time!).  That means lots of mind-numbing practice.  Here’s a lovely video of me working the trills this past Sunday in the Mendelssohn Scherzo:

Don’t mind the mess, the doggies curled up in various places, and the giant crayon in the corner.  And my struggle with the F to G trill.  Ha.

This week, I’ve started my “polish” phase of my audition prep.  I can play everything at tempo now, but now I need to work on smoothing things out, making it musical, things like that.  Recording is the name of the game.  My routine is to work on an excerpt, then record a performance of it.  Then I listen to the recording, figure out what can be improved, make a plan for the next practice session, and repeat.  For now I’m just using the voice memo app on my iPhone, its good enough for this purpose.  I’m also trying to practice in different environments (big room, small room, etc.) to get a feel for different sounds.

In a week or so, I’ll switch to the final phase of my audition prep, which is performance practice!  Or in other words, mock auditions.  Every. Single. Day.  Woo!  And of course any other final adjustments.  Also making sure my reed game is strong.  My reeds quite literally broke my last audition so I want to make sure that doesn’t happen this time.

For now, I’m going to ride this good practice wave that I’m on.  I hope I can keep on it for the next three weeks!

#100daypracticechallenge day 24

Today is Sunday.  Under normal circumstances, I don’t like to practice at home or on the weekends. Weekends are supposed to be time off from work, and practicing clarinet is part of my “work”.  Well, today I did practice.  At home.  On a weekend.  My goal is 6 days a week, at least during these 100 days.  On my day off, I’ll do some mental practice, score study or listen to recordings.  Normally, I find that 4 days a week is the perfect routine for me.  Enough to keep things consistent, while allowing time to do other stuff, because surprisingly, my life doesn’t always revolve around the clarinet!  But, unfortunately, it’s usually not perfect for whatever audition or concert I am preparing for.  I need to devote a little more time for things like premiere band auditions.  So six days a week it is.  Unfortunately, counting today, I only got five days this past week. Ok fine, not perfect, but I’ll take it nonetheless.

To get myself back into shape, I’ve been playing a lot of Rose etudes (of the 32 variety). So that’s what I decided to record today.  Nothing like a little Rose 32, #1!



Pay no mind to the movie playing in the background…my husband was not home so I was practicing in the living room while my son was watching TV. He even came up to me during recording and tugged on my arm wanting something haha…

I’ve also been spending the last couple of weeks getting back into playing my personal horns, rather than just my Navy issued one. I haven’t played them regularly for at least a year or two, and they do play very different, especially my A. The reason is mostly because I don’t have a good A clarinet that I can use at the band here like I did in Hawaii. So in order to match for the DC audition, personal horns it is! It’s super fun trying to remember the tendencies of each. NOT.  I recorded this video on my Bb, with my Richard Hawkins R mouthpiece.

I’ve been doing mostly the slow Rose etudes to work on endurance. I’m just super happy that I was able to get through the whole thing without my embouchure completely dying. Gotta work on that intonation though!! Yikes.

I’m back baby! Lets do a practice challenge!

Oh hello.  I’m back.  No, I did not drop off the face of the earth for two years, but I did get insanely busy and I kind of forgot that I had this blog.  In fact, I let my domain expire, and someone else picked it up for a year…weird.  Well it ended up being available again so I snapped it back up and decided to resume my blog posts.  So what has happened between now and 2017 (which was my last post)?  Well, a lot.  My family and I left Hawaii and moved back to Virginia (insert crying emoji here), and now I’m back at Fleet Forces Band.  Circle of navy band life?  Maybe.

We moved back to Virginia initially because I was accepted into the Unit Leader Course at the Naval School of Music.  Starting in January 2019, it was 8 months of cramming as much music theory, ear training, conducting, rehearsal technique, drum majoring, arranging, and leadership training as humanly possible.  Seriously, I think the curriculum was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and that’s saying a lot considering I have a MM in performance from Eastman!  I won’t go into too much detail, but I spent the last 8 months getting up at 4 am and working 10-15 hour days 5 days a week.  Mostly because I felt like I was terrible at everything and I had to devote at least some time each day to all the above subjects.  Needless to say, I’m glad it’s done.

Luckily, it just worked out that instead of picking up and moving again, the Navy sent me back to Fleet Forces Band in Norfolk.  Cool.  It’s boring for me, but really good for the family right now.  I know it sounds crazy, but uprooting and moving an entire household sucks.

After all that, I took three weeks of leave, went home to Colorado (sans instrument), and I didn’t even crack my clarinet case for almost a month.  You could say that I was out of shape!  I’ve seen a few people on social media do a 100 day practice challenge, and I figured, why not?  So here we are!

Its been 23 days since I decided to undergo the 100 day practice challenge.  But I haven’t posted anything about it since the first day…

Yeah, that first day sucked.  The following twenty-something days were mostly filled with improving my endurance and sound.  I haven’t posted anything because, well frankly I didn’t want you all to hear how terrible I sounded, haha.  But, I think I’m ready to start recording videos now, to start helping me be accountable.  I’ll probably only post them on here via YouTube, just because I don’t really want to overload my Instagram with clarinet practice videos.

I’ve started preparing for a D.C. Navy Band audition in November that I may or may not be able to take…so we’ll see where that leads me!  See you tomorrow for day 24!

Oh hey.

Oh hey.  Remember me?  Yeah, I know.  I blinked and all of the sudden it’s July.  What happened?

Well, I’ve been super busy (obviously).  Between juggling work life and home life, there’s not much left over.  In fact, I’ve had to sacrifice clarinet practice a little, just to keep a good balance.  I wish it didn’t have to be that way!

I’ve definitely been in survival mode when it comes to my clarinet practice.  I’m lucky if I even get past my fundamentals.  It sucks, because I want to so much more than just keep my head above water!  I haven’t even come close to achieving the goals that I had put forth in my last post.  It drives me crazy, but the best I can do right now is maintain, and I have to be OK with that.

In early May, I got the opportunity to go to Queensland, Australia with my quintet.  What a great trip!  We spent a week doing military ceremonies, school clinics, and recitals.  This is what I joined the Navy to do!

I also had an awesome opportunity to play the Artie Shaw Concerto again, this time in an indoor setting!  It was programmed into the Joint Forces Concert this year.  Here’s an amazing video that my student’s father took and posted of the performance:

I’m pretty happy with my performance, although I almost had a music malfunction…haha.  The page turns are crazy, and I had to tape part of one page onto another and it was pretty much literally hanging by a thread.  Luckily it didn’t fall off until after I passed that part.  Also, luckily everyone loved my performance.  It’s definitely a crowd pleaser!

So I guess my goal for the rest of the year is to just keep swimming with my head above water.  I can’t even think about taking any auditions right now!  I hardly have time to practice my work stuff.  I suppose that’s ok for now.

New Year, New Goals

Happy new year!  I hope you all had a great holiday season and a great start to 2017.  2016 sure was a blur for me!  A good kind of blur, but a blur nonetheless.  Watching my son grow into his own little self has definitely been a highlight.  I also started teaching private lessons again a couple months ago, which has been a great change of pace.

We were also able to come home to Colorado for Christmas, thanks to my in laws.  It was Oscar’s first trip off the island, and he got to experience snow!  In fact it was quite a winter wonderland when we landed three weeks ago.  Quite a change from the 80 degree weather we left in Hawaii!  It ended up being a well deserved break from the craziness of my job the last couple months.

I’m not one for new years resolutions, but I always seem to pause for some reflection at this time of year.  I am painfully aware that I haven’t even started my “challenge 2.0” that I set out to do a month and a half ago.  Ouch.  Life got in the way, big time!  So because of this, I have made the official decision to not go to the Navy Band audition in February.  It makes me sad, but there’s just no way I’d be ready for it.  Six weeks is not enough time to prepare!  And I want to be 100% ready, especially since I have to travel so far (an pay for it).  Its not something that I want to half-ass! 

I’ve been thinking about what some realistic goals for me could be for 2017.  Maybe this year isn’t my year for auditioning, but it might a good year to work on fundamentals and audition skills, to get ready for that audition that I can take, whenever that will be.  I also want to make sure that I don’t lose sight of my actual job that I have right now.  Although audition preparation does have a positive collateral effect on my overall musicianship, I want to shift the focus back to being the best musician and leader I can be at my band right now.  That was not my focus in 2016.  I was caught up in auditions and the transition to being a working/nursing mom.  This year will be different.  Even though my little one is still breastfeeding (and will be for awhile, the little rascal!), I am able to wean off the breast-pump to just once a day now since he’s over one year old (off from 3-4 times a day).  Doesn’t seem like a lot, but it opens up a lot of time during the workday for me!

With all that said, I’ve decided to set some specific goals for 2017.

  • Make time for reed working, separate from practice time.  Set aside an hour or two each week to only work on reeds.
  • Set specific practice goals each week, and record a video (like in the audition challenge).
  • Make practice (at least the fundamentals on busy days) a priority.  Shoot for 4-5 days per week.
  • Practice visualization for 10 minutes 4-5 times a week

I’m trying stay away from setting goals for specific repertoire.  I do have pieces and excerpts I want to work on, but things change all the time and I don’t want to nail myself down to specific things like that.  It’s too restrictive in my eyes, and doesn’t help me get to where I want to be in the long run.  

And looking at the list of goals, I’m wondering if I really have the discipline to do this the entire year.  But I need to get my butt in gear if I want to end up in D.C. one day.  I’ll take it one week at a time for now!  Its all about establishing a routine, right?  Perhaps after a month of doing it consistently it will be easy!

What are your goals for 2017?

Perfect Storm

Wow, talk about making a plan, and then just watching it go down the toilet…that was my week in a nutshell.

I mean, I knew it was going to be crazy.  I have so many responsibilities at work right now that I knew it was going to be a stretch to even sit down for a few minutes each day for practice. Just to be clear, we’re talking 10 gigs in a 10 day period (yesterday was gig number 4 of the 10).  And that doesn’t include all the rehearsals for those gigs!  While that may not sound like a lot on paper, when you’re in charge of logistics for 8 of those gigs it can start to feel like I’m going a little bit insane.  And plus all my non-musical duites!  It basically turned into a perfect storm of responsibilities, which came to a head this past week.

So what is it that is making it so busy?  This year is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  There are so many memorials, ceremonies, and concerts devoted to remembering what happened right here 75 years ago.  As busy as I am, I am honored that I get to be a part of something so historic.  This is why I do what I do!  But I’m still going to be doing the happy dance on December 10th, when all the craziness is over.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, my son is turning one year old in the middle of everything!  Luckily there is a small gap in the schedule on Wednesday afternoon, so we are able to celebrate his birthday!  I am planning on making a smash cake for my little guy to go crazy on.  I have my ONE day off today, so I’m going to be doing that, ha.  I seriously can’t believe that he’s a year old already!

So with all that said, I didn’t even have time to think about my “challenge 2.0”.  It seemed like whatever I did, by the time I did everything I needed to do, it was the end of the day and I hadn’t practiced a lick.  Ugh, its so frustrating when that happens.  But although I have a busy upcoming week of performances, all the legwork and rehearsals for those performances are pretty much done, so I should be able to devote a little time to practice.  Therefore, I adjusted my challenge plan so that I start this coming week (December 5th).  That still gives me 10 weeks to prepare for the audition in February.

Speaking of the audition, I still don’t know if I’m actually going to be able to make the trip.  The navy is unable to pay for my travel this time, so its basically on me to come up with the funds.  I’m keeping an eye on airfare prices, so if I can get a good deal on a plane ticket, I’m going to go.  If I can’t, then I won’t.  Pretty simple.  So we’ll see.  I’m still going to prepare and practice like I am going.  I really don’t have anything to lose!

I hope I survive the week.  Its a countdown to December 10th!  I can make it, I can make it…

Family picture from my work holiday party on Thursday.