Audition Tip #4: A stream becomes a river

I do know that the title for this tip doesn’t make a lot of sense, so be patient and read through this blog – the practical tip is at the end! Our brains are incredible, miraculous things.  Everything we do – colors we see, moving our toe a millimeter, is driven by a signal from the brain.  Our brains store literally millions of pieces of information at a sub-conscious level that are informing us every second without us actually being conscious of it.  Try to remember how you learned to read – isn’t it amazing to think that at one point in our lives, we didn’t know the letters of the alphabet?  Much less that the letters went together to form words, which form sentences, which form books, newspapers, websites, signs….It’s all there, but it’s become so automatic that we don’t even realize the volume of information that it takes for us to read.

Different types of information is stored in different places in the brain – a neurosurgeon could tell us exactly where in our brain memories are stored, large motor activities are controlled – research has even show that the lack of certain chemicals in the brain actually affects our ability to be happy.  What is miraculous, however, is that the brain can actually adapt to injury – if a certain area of the brain is injured, the brain may be able to literally move the information to another section of the brain, so that someone who lost the ability to speak, or even walk, can actually re-learn how to do so.  You may have read about Kevin Pearce’s head injury if you’ve been following the Olympics.  He is an American snowboarder who hit his forehead (yes, he was wearing a helmet), during practice for the half-pipe event.  He is at a brain-rehabilitation hospital, and will have to learn how to walk again.

If a river is blocked, small streams may start, and over time those streams will create their own beds and become rivers.

I am struck by both of these images. Our brain is quite literally who we are, and it is capable of incredibly adaptability.  Somehow, it relates to auditioning.  I went to the website of the hospital that Kevin Pearce was sent to, and found the following information about Skills Training therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):


Skills Training is based on none other than practice! Patients just practice a skill over and over until they master it. And, the more that their practice relates to something functional or useful - like driving, reading or writing, or following instructions - the better.

So, the most common way to help people with TBI improve their attention is by practicing. It helps when therapists monitor their patients' performance and give them ideas and feedback. They also found that attention training seems to work best when people are trying to learn new, difficult functional tasks or re-learn old, complex tasks. … And, practice does lead to improvement. Ask any concert pianist or Olympic skier.

Ok, so where am I going with this?

Mental practice.

Our brains control our fingers and feet, our vocal cords.  Our brains are our musicianship, our imagination, our concept of beauty, our desire to be artists.  Martha Graham said: “That is what technique is for – liberation.”  Liberation to express what we want to express, to communicate what we want to communicate.

So, here’s the tip:

Take the time to practice your music in your head.  In your mind, hear it perfectly, musically, expressively – know exactly what you want to happen, note by note, phrase by phrase, beginning to end.  If your brain practices – your brain knows what your absolute, most wonderfully imagined performance is – the streams will become rivers.  Your brain will communicate to your fingers, your breath, your embouchure, your vocal cords – the river bed will be so deep that your audition will be truly be the best performance that you are able to give.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Audition Tip #3 – Don’t practice in your pajamas