Taking an audition


General preparation for any audition should include rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm. If it’s not perfect, it’s not right (this includes the rests). Technique is not everything, but stay home if you can’t play the notes.  Memorize as many of the excerpts as possible, especially the technically difficult ones.  Be sure to play in tune with yourself, check with a tuner on a regular basis.  Play conservatively; an audition committee is not looking for a soloist, except for a principal job in the big orchestras, they are looking for a player that will fit into their section and blend.  You have to get through one or two auditions before you get to play for the conductor so you have to please the committee first. Only in the smallest orchestras does the conductor listen to the preliminary round. You need to be flexible so if someone asks you to do a passage differently you can change on the spot. Be prepared to play faster, slower, louder or softer if asked.  And of course have a great reed. 

Most of the time the music you are expected to play is in order on the stand but you can usually bring your own parts if you wish. Just try to be organized so you don’t take your precious few minutes of playing time wasted looking through your music to find the corresponding part.  Most of the time there are three rounds, the preliminary round, giving you 5-8 minutes, a second round that may or may not be any longer and the final round, where the conductor shows up, you will asked more extensive material.  This is when you will be asked for more excerpts then you were given on the other rounds and will probably be asked to play with another member of the clarinet or woodwind section depending of what position you’re auditioning for. (See the bass clarinet page for what to expect for that position)

When preparing yourself for an audition, be very self-critical of your playing.  Tape yourself, critique your playing and play a mock audition for your friends or family. Make sure you play in tune, don’t over phrase or under phrase or do anything unconventional.  You should listen to several recordings of the excerpts to learn the “average” tempos and styles of the period.  Don’t choose the fastest or the slowest one; they may very well be the exceptions. The trick to winning an audition is to play perfect, in good taste, in tune with a good sound and then you have to be lucky that what you have to offer is what they want to hear.

In most cases you will be given a trial period to play with the orchestra if you either win the audition or you are one of two or three final candidates.  If that’s the case, be very polite and cooperative, don’t come on strong.  Try to blend, balance and adjust to their intonation. Don’t expect someone else to adjust to you; they want to see if you’re flexible and make sure you follow the conductor very carefully.