My audition experiences – A Bass Tale

by Jonathan B.

A small introduction: I’m a freshman classical double bass student at Juilliard. I’ve been asked to write about my general audition experience, but I realize that what happened with me certainly won’t happen with everyone. However, there are definitely some things that will happen to everyone, and I hope this blog will be of great help in your preparation for the upcoming month.

College auditions are really simple; it’s important to not expect too much. Most likely, all you’ll do is walk into a room, play what you’ve prepared, and walk out. Rarely are auditions more than this. Your audition experience will differ at each school you go to. Some auditions could be more intimate; I’ve had some where potential teachers have asked me to try playing an excerpt with this bowing or with this phrasing. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared for something like that, and it’s important that you work well with them. Teachers want to study with people they know can work well with them. However, most of my auditions were very formal, in-and-out type procedures.

I auditioned for seven music schools last year, both conservatories and universities. Each was different in its own way. For example, finding a place to warm up wasn’t very easy at some places and pretty smooth at others. Some auditions ran on time, some didn’t. I tried to follow the same procedure for each one. I would usually arrive at the audition site a couple of hours before my time and try to find a practice room to warm up in. I personally play best after a couple of hours of practice that day, so I tried to time it so that I felt best when arriving at the audition. In my practice, I would do a lot of playing and not a lot of drilling, trying to think more about the music I was playing than the upcoming audition. The more satisfied I became with the playing, the less I became nervous for the audition. I would move to the audition room 20 minutes before and mentally prepare for what was about to happen, making sure I was calm and focused. After each audition I would reflect upon the experience and try to fix what went wrong for my next audition. Taking these auditions is definitely a learning process; I think my last audition was much easier to do than my first.

For Juilliard specifically, I remember showing up pretty early for a lunch with the auditionees and bass faculty members. The masters students had just had their auditions, and the undergrads were next. Afterward, I remember trying to find a practice room, but it was really difficult. Now that I go to school here, I can safely say that on audition day, set aside a good amount of time for finding a practice room. Juilliard does provide you with a warm-up room near the audition room 30 minutes prior to your audition, but like I said, I like to practice a good amount before. Unfortunately I didn’t get as much as I would have liked, but I felt pretty good about my audition and wasn’t worried (Juilliard was my penultimate audition). An audition monitor sits outside of the room and moves you from your warm-up room to the audition. The monitors are pretty helpful; mine was a bass player so it was nice to talk to him about the studio and section. The audition itself was quite straightforward: I was asked to play certain things, which I did, then was thanked and exited. The four faculty members were behind a long table and were taking notes. I think Juilliard may have been my most formal audition of them all, which I think is pretty nice. No curveballs, just straight cruising.

I’ll close with some advice. These auditions are important, but please don’t stress too hard about them. You need to be relaxed, confident, and healthy when taking them. Nerves will happen to most people. For that, eat a banana! It’s actually supposed to help calm you down. Other than that, don’t let them get the best of you. However you can go about doing that is different for each person. Also, be very prepared for anything. You should know where you have to go when, make sure your instrument is in tune, etc. Don’t let anything go wrong that’s within your control go wrong.

I was generally happy with my audition experience. It was way easier than I thought it would be. It was a lot of driving, but the auditions were fine. Take an open-minded approach, and things will go well.