Finally I have a bit of time and I thought I would post about my Navy Band audition nearly three (!) months ago. If you don’t feel like reading a lot today, here’s is the long story short…I felt extremely prepared, and I probably played the best I’ve ever played in an audition for a long time. Not the best I can play, but the best I’ve played in a high pressure situation. But despite playing ALL the excerpts in the 2nd round PLUS the sight-reading selection, they didn’t advance me to the final round. And according to the guy who was running the audition, they (the audition committee) talked about me a lot, which means that at least some of them wanted to keep me around. That’s almost worse than playing crappy!
So here’s the long story: unfortunately, I didn’t start the day very well…I was told to be there by 9:00, although the check-in began at 7:30. I decided since I’m a fleet MU and will be automatically advanced to the semis no matter what, that it would be better to go later in the day. What I didn’t count on was how terrible the parking situation was on the Navy Yard. I ended up having to park on the other side of the Yard and didn’t get to the building until 9:15…oops. But it was all good, I just was the last person to show up, so I was dead last in the prelim round.
So I think I only waited about 3 hours to go, which is pretty good, considering at the President’s Own I waited about 5 hours to play my round. I saw some familiar faces, my old boss from Fleet Forces, and another officer from the fleet who works in DC now. This guy was also there to wish me luck in my “on deck” room:
What a funny painting. Anyway, despite all of my preparation and the total lack of consequences in the first round, I was extremely nervous. I tried to mentally “center” myself and calm down, but it seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my heart rate down. So my first round was OK. I had to play a couple of excerpts over, just because my nerves really got to me. I can’t remember exactly what I played, but I do remember that I played the march and I absolutely nailed it!
Since I was last, I didn’t have to wait long to get the results of the first round, although I knew that I would be going through no matter what. We had about 30 minutes to get ready for the semis, and I drew the number 4 out of 9 (I think)…right in the middle. This is the round that is going to count for me.
So, once again, I found myself being extremely nervous and anxious, AGAIN. I went in, and I fell on my face (figuratively, not literally, haha!) a couple of times, but I replayed those excerpts and completely nailed them the second time. The committee remained silent, so I just kept on playing excerpts! I fully expected a “THANK YOU” every time I finished playing something, but didn’t get it. Finally, I got instructions to play the sight-reading selection on the stand. I did ok on it, I’m not the best sight-reader, so I did well for me.
I had hopes that I would make it through to the finals, because when I did play well, I played really well. And I played everything, which many others in the round didn’t get to do. But I had too many mistakes, so that was it for me. 3 months of hard preparation and sacrifice done in about 10 minutes of playing. It’s really depressing when you think about in that way. Like I said before, the guy running the audition found me after everything was said and done and explained how the committee felt about me. They want me to come back next time. Its going to be hard, since I’m in Hawaii now, but I think I’ll be willing to try to make it happen when the time comes.
At the end of the day, I was really disappointed with how things went. This is by far the most prepared I’ve been for an audition ever and I still let my nerves get the best of me. Seriously, I had absolutely no reason to be so nervous. The worst that would happen would be that I didn’t get the job and I would get to move to Hawaii. It was a total win-win situation. This was probably the least amount of pressure that I’ve had for an audition! So I’ve really began to explore other options when it comes to managing my anxiety at auditions.
In the musician community, things like beta-blockers or other types of “medical” ways to manage performance anxiety can spark a lot of controversy. Some might consider them “performance enhancers”. I disagree. If someone takes beta-blockers for an audition but doesn’t prepare well, it’s not like they magically become well prepared! I have never taken them, and I don’t look down on people who do. I do think that they should be an absolute last resort and one should only take them if necessary. I’m getting to the point where I might consider it. It feels as if I’ve tried everything! I’ve read books, tried relaxation techniques, mental exercises, breathing exercises, vitamin supplements, etc. Nothing seems to ease the anxiety at the moment of the audition. It seems to be calming right up until the moment, but when the moment comes, nothing seems to matter and I’m still paralyzed by my anxiety. So am I a good candidate for a more medical approach to my anxiety? Maybe. Will I do it? Who knows. My sister suffers from true anxiety, and she’s found some success with hypnosis. I think I would try that over taking a pill! I’m open to anything now!
So we will see what the future brings. I think I have found a great preparation method for auditions, so something good did come out of the whole thing. For now, I’m just trying to get situated in Hawaii. We finally move in to our new place this coming Thursday. We scored a three bedroom place, so I get my own practice room! I’m very excited about that. Finally I get a space solely dedicated to working on clarinet. Teaching there is out, just because its government housing so they have certain rules about running a business in your residence. But that’s ok, I think I want to take some time off from teaching anyway. I was starting to get burned out in Virginia. I just want to play my clarinet, and enjoy living in paradise for a while!