Preparing an Audition – Tips from Juilliard

By Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean for Admissions, and guests

It’s hard to believe it’s already February, and our auditions are just a few short weeks away. I’m sure that many of you have already taken at least one audition for another school, and perhaps are even finished auditioning except for here!

While your previous auditions will serve you well at your Juilliard audition due to simple repetition of an experience, auditioning is a craft. It’s something that you can learn and get better at, not just a talent that some have and some don’t. There are some specific things that you can do in your preparation that will improve your audition – you don’t have to actually take lots of auditions to get better at auditioning! So for your weeks ahead, I thought it might be helpful to hear some direct advice about preparing your audition from some members of the Juilliard community.

Stephen Clapp has been an esteemed member of our violin and chamber music faculty since 1987, and has heard literally thousands of auditions (not to mention worked with probably hundreds of students preparing various auditions). Jesse Schiffman, Hannah Goldshlack and Tharanga Goonetilleke are all current students. Jesse, a flutist, started at Juilliard this year (so had many auditions this time last year!), while Hannah (a voice major) is a second year student. Tharanga is a second year Master’s student in Voice, who this fall auditioned for many Young Artists programs, and was admitted to the Juilliard Opera Center.

From Stephen Clapp:

In an audition, the first impression you make will prevail unless something dramatic happens thereafter to change it. So make that impression a positive one!

Begin with your most secure piece in which your artistic personality comes through. Security comes from confidence, the result of knowing a piece VERY WELL (thoroughly memorized, all technical difficulties worked out through slow practice, and numerous successful performances of the piece behind you), and being comfortable in the performance environment (if possible, get a good look at the audition space days or hours beforehand, and picture yourself in that space while practicing).

You will not be able to think while performing, so don’t plan on a mental check list of maneuvers at the weak spots. Practice those spots slowly until the correct physical motions replace inaccuracies and there is no longer a problem, so that your mind is clear to express character and emotion. Avoid distracting situations that will break your concentration (looking at your audience for reactions, shoes or jackets that are too tight, straps that slip, being too cold or too hot).

Plan to enjoy yourself and share your artistic self with listeners who want to hear you at your best.

From Hannah Goldshlack:

Understandably, the Juilliard audition experience can be a daunting one, to say the least. You are likely to be getting thrown tidbits of advice from just about every direction, so the most important thing is for you to stay centered, focused, and be objective about what others are saying. Keep everything in perspective; realize how fortunate you are to have the talent that got you this far, and believe that you are enough. Even if the judges have heard your audition repertoire a thousand times, they have never heard your version of it. Do your absolute best in the audition, and don’t criticize your performance until you leave the room, because the moment you let your confidence and clarity waver is the moment you let your potential slip. All the best of luck to you!

From Jesse Schiffman:

As someone with experience taking college auditions, having auditioned at 9 undergraduate schools and 5 graduate schools, I would like to share some advice that may benefit those preparing to audition.

1. Choose repertoire that flatters you. While remaining within the repertoire guidelines, select pieces that show off the best aspects of your playing.

2. Simulate the audition environment. Give recitals and practice run-throughs of your program for your teacher, friends, and in your own practicing.

3. Be ready to jump around. You will be required to prepare pieces from various musical periods, and it’s important to capture the style and affect of a piece from the moment you start playing.

4. On the day of the audition be sure to arrive at the location in plenty of time to check in, warm up, and find your way to the audition room.

From Tharanga Goonetilleke:

There are two stages that occur before an audition: the preparation period and the day of the audition.

The Preparation period is lengthy (length depends on the individual). The longer you have had your materials the more confident you will be. Do read and reread the audition requirements and know what is expected of you. Inquire and clear any uncertainties you may have in that respect. Be proactive!

After having learned the music and having found your own interpretation for each of the works, it is important to have everything memorized at least two weeks prior to the audition date. After memorization is done, one must rehearse/ practice these works by memory but must also practice them with the score. This is important because this will keep the audition from swaying too much away from what the composer expects and also simply helps you be more score literate. Mental rehearsal (running with audition materials in your mind without actually performing; seeing yourself performing in your minds eye) is a very helpful tool. Being healthy and eating well during this period is of crucial importance. Prepare your audition clothing during this period as well. One should wear something comfortable and something that speaks for one’s personality. However, one must conform to the boundaries of any specifics that may be required by the college/ institution that one auditions for. Pay special attention to the comfort of your foot wear.

Make your travel plans / find directions a few days before your audition. Have any printouts (maps/ tickets) in a notebook so you do not have to think about it at the last minute. Pack all you need to take with you the day before your audition or the day before you travel for your audition.

The day of the audition one must not be thinking about all of the above. Relax and run your materials in your mind if you need to. Eat well and be well hydrated. Know that you are prepared and think positive at every moment. Give it all you’ve got!

But that’s not all – look for an upcoming blog of tips from a recent Juilliard alum who won a professional position with the Oregon Symphony last year – coming next week!