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Audition Advice for Aspiring Musicians from David Sheets, AYO Double Bass Faculty

The 2018 Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO) Auditions begin in just a few days! Starting in Manila on 20 January, then swiftly traveling to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai, and finishing in Beijing on 25 March. (Click for full schedule) Our Faculty Jury have quite the trip in front of them! Today we’d like to share with you more Audition Tips from our very own David Sheets, Associate Principal Bass, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and AYO Double Bass Faculty.

If you missed our prior AYO Auditions blog, we do urge you to read “Audition and Practice Advice for Aspiring Musicians from Asian Youth Orchestra Faculty” next!

There is no denying that auditions are stressful. It is difficult to put yourself in front of a panel and play one part of an orchestral piece, make it convincing, and present your best playing. Luck also often plays a role, but audition preparation will allow you to control all of the factors you can control-- and is a great way to improve your playing, regardless of how the audition results turn out. With very little formal training, I have been able to make a 25+ year career as an orchestra bassist and I attribute much of my growth as a musician to audition preparation. Here are a few basic tips to help you prepare for your AYO audition:

Step 1 – Study

Focus on the excerpts you will play in the audition-- but it is very important that you learn the entire audition piece. Many players can execute excerpts beautifully but have trouble counting measures properly and being a good accompanist when their part is not the dominant one.

Spend time listening to the pieces with the score, and with your part. Next, run through the piece in your mind as if you were playing it, thinking about fingerings/bowings/articulations. When you can run through the entire piece in your mind, with nothing tripping you up, then you are ready to pick up the instrument and practice the repertoire.

Step 2- Practice

Each day, set aside an hour to practice technique. Only after this should you practice repertoire. Find fingerings and bowings which will present the music the way the composer intended, and don't miss a single detail on the page. As a colleague of mine I respect very much once very succinctly said, “Everything matters.”As the audition draws closer, ramp up the amount of practicing you are doing. ||:USE A METRONOME AND A TUNER! :|| RECORD YOURSELF and critically judge how you sound.

Step 3- Practicing Execution

Once you are very comfortable playing the repertoire and have decided on the fingerings/bowings/articulations you will use in the audition, it is time to rehearse. Set up a recording device (or play a mock audition for a trusted friend/teacher/colleague) and walk into the room the same way you would walk onstage with your instrument at the audition. Get used to getting comfortable and ready to play quickly and efficiently. Perform the excerpts for the recording device from start to finish without stopping, exactly as you plan to do at the audition. Listen critically to your recording and pay attention to how you present yourself. When you can consistently execute the repertoire, you are ready to play the audition!

Step 4- The Audition

Get plenty of sleep the night before and a nice healthy breakfast on the day of the audition. Show up early, with all of your music in order, instrument ready and in tune. It is impossible to overstate how important it is to have thoroughly prepared. When you know you can play everything your best, much of the nerves and tension disappear. Trust your preparation and play from the heart. No one wants to hear perfect execution without any emotion or musicality! Similarly, no one wants to hear a wonderful musical interpretation which is out of tune or rhythmically unstable. Audition panels want to hear players who play so brilliantly that there is just no question that they should win.

Regardless of the audition results, you will have improved your playing and learned important skills which will help you in your future performances and life in general! I wish you the best of luck in your audition, and if you are chosen to join the orchestra, I look forward to helping you further your development at AYO next summer.

David Sheets

Associate Principal Bass, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and AYO Double Bass Faculty

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