I'm a terrible auditioner. I'm a pretty good performer, but the pressure is REALLY intense for me. My professor in University never really understood my nerves, and I would really do crazy things without being able to get in control of myself. I never really understood why, and I'm going to talk about the therapy that helped me to get rid of these feelings in a different post, however I have collected huge amounts of research that should be able to help someone with normal amounts of nervousness and stage fright. So here goes (it was originally going to be 10 tips and then I just kept going...)
1. Keep in mind that you are making music.
We are here to make music. That is why we play, that is why we put effort into our instruments. We want the violin to express the deep feelings that are inside of us, and we are constantly searching for ways to do that. When we get in front of judges, or a panel, we sometimes forget that. Don't! You are making beautiful music and there is no tangible reason for you to be tied up in nerves.
2. Take deep breaths, relax, and be prepared
Being relaxed is important. You can only really have control over your body, your motions and your playing when you are relaxed and in control. So whatever it is that makes you relaxed, be it yoga, meditation, drinking lots of water- being relaxed is important, maybe even more important than squeezing in that passage one last time
3. Focus on the way you will feel when you are finished it successfully
Don't focus on the fear of playing in front of people who are deciding whether or not you will have a career in music, or will get in to whatever orchestra you are auditioning for. What is the end result, and what are you doing to get there. When we focus on the goal, we are far more likely to breeze past the parts on the way to get there
4. Learn your material COLD
Here's an easy one-When you know your material %100, you will probably play %85 at the audition. 85%, you'll probably play 70%. If you know your material 120%, only then will you be able to play 100%.
5. Know the piano part inside out and give the pianist the music organised-no loose sheets
Hopefully you will have had a chance to do a run through with the pianist before the audition, but not knowing what the pianist is supposed to playing should THEY screw up is just setting you up for failure.
My first professional audition was to the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and I set up a rehearsal with the pianist beforehand, in order to appease my nerves. Then he arrives late, and totally screws everything up! I knew my part pretty solid, but my nerves got the best of me, and my playing was pretty terrible as a result.
6. Prepare anything you will need the day before
You need clothes, food, water, sheet music, shoulder rest, rosin, lucky rabbit's foot…but you don't want to be scrambling around for it on audition day. Get it together the night before and save yourself a few extra zzz's
7. Be friendly but don't be overly talkative
If it's not an audition behind a curtain then walk in with a smile, but don't get overly chatty. <----says the girl who can't shut up when nervous!
8. Rehearse as much as you can
Rehearse with the pianist once, twice, three times-as many times as you can! The more you rehearse, the better you will feel
9. Be confident!
Don't have a bad attitude. Expect success. Or actually, be fine either way. Come in with the attitude "I am here to share my beautiful music with some people who I know love music and really want me to succeed." No judge on that panel is not a musician themselves who hasn't worked incredibly hard and been where you are. They really want someone to come in and knock their socks off. That someone could be you, you rock star!
10. Know the background on the piece you are playing
This is an extra little thing that my grand father, Zvi Zeitlin used to always ask me, and sometimes I would do my research and have the right answer and sometimes not. Knowing the whole picture of the composer and his life, and when he wrote the piece can be incredibly liberating. Especially since that question might come up.
11. Give something to the listener
Your job there is to make music. And to get better at making music in different stressful situations. You are giving something to the listener EVERY TIME YOU PLAY. And I am passionate about this subject because I really believe that that is the purpose of playing the violin and every time you lift your instrument to play in front of people is to give them a gift. I hope that I am giving a gift to my listeners that they can accept. And changing that attitude is super super important.
12. Focus on your musical expression
We sometimes get kind of robot-like when we are in front of an audience, and all that beautiful expressing of your soul that we talked about in the last paragraph gets lost along the way. Plus it's a good thing to focus on to get your mind off the nerves!
13. Turn off your electronics
You don't want a cellphone ringing in the middle of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. 'Nuff said
14. Bring something to do
I know that for me it helps to have something to do with my hands so I don't need to fidget. I like to crochet. And that's just me. But I've seen people with Rubix cubes, and other people who seem like they are poring over the score just in case they missed a rest in their thousands of hours of practicing. By the time I'm waiting to audition, if I think I need more time, I should just go home...
15. Drop the "if I don't win, I'll die attitude"
We all have it. It's so incredibly difficult to figure out how to negotiate the attitude of what is the right attitude at an audition. Meanwhile the mantra goes as follows: "I am here to play my violin". That is the be all and end all of the audition that you're at. To play your violin, to learn how to give a little more, and a little better.
Another thing-you could be the BEST VIOLINIST/NOSE FLUTE PLAYER/DIGERIDOO player they've ever heard. But if you're bringing your digeridoo to a symphony audition, you just won't be accepted. Because there is no regular position for a nose flute player in this day and age. Racists, you might say. Same thing goes in a smaller quotas. If your style doesn't perfectly match the style they are looking for, they may not take you because of a thousand different reasons, not all having to do with how well you played! That being said, you'll know if you played your best. Take time to analyse afterwards what was good and what wasn't, and brainstorm about how you could do better in a high pressure situation in the future.
16. Memorize everything, even if you will be using sheet music
I know I hate playing from the music. The sheet music is really just a way of the composer writing down the music so you can learn it. Once you know the notes, take the notes and put them away. Take a little time to make the music YOURS. If it's not yours, then whose is it? And how can you give it to someone else? A little trick I do sometimes in performances is knock the sheet music off the stand when doing a very rough page turn, and that certainly impresses everyone!
17. The people auditioning you are JUST people
This is a scary one. Well, not really. They ARE! Even if you're playing for the most fabulous, amazing violinists in the world, the criticism that they might give you if it's a masterclass is not an attack. Everybody wants you to succeed. And if they don't, well why wouldn't they??? They're looking for someone to fill a void in their orchestra, right? So why not you? The only reason that they might be critical is because they have so many people to sort through. So really you're not losing anything by playing your best.
18 . Close your eyes
If this helps you, do it. You can imagine yourself anywhere you want to be that will make you feel less stressed. Go there.
19. Be decisive
You are amazing. Kiss yourself in the mirror. Failing an audition says NOTHING about you as a person. It just means that they were looking for something different. Yes, you can keep working on improving your craft and become better and better for yourself and for your audience. But this has nothing to do with whether or not you get accepted to this audition or you don't play well. Playing well doesn't make a difference in you as a person though. You have infinite value as a person whether or not you get the position.
20. Make your first 20 seconds count
The first notes will prove about a million things to the listeners-and what you want them to do is say "I want to hear more". So how are you going to do that? Playing clearly, concisely, and with the greatest feeling you can.
21. Don't start over.
If you make a mistake, keep going. Pretend it didn't happen. See, inside of our brains, we think "That was a terrible mistake! I definitely failed!". However, the judges might not think that at all. They might not have even noticed it. Just keep going.
22. Keep going for it!
Even if this one doesn't work out, ask for feedback if that's viable (and only if you REALLY WANT TO KNOW, because that takes nerves of steal, babe-kudos). And then go to the next audition that comes up. You should be getting better each time. Less nervous, more confident. And the more you do it, the better you will feel about doing the next one. It's hard to put yourself out there, but when you do eventually make it, that's the best feeling in the world
23. Play the way you play
Don't try to play the way you think they want you to sound. First of all, it's kind of like a little musical lie, second of all it's not worth it when you join the baroque orchestra and your hard rocker sound needs to stay bottled up inside of you really deep down.
24. Go to sleep.
I think this is another no-brainer, but maybe you didn't know-sleep is good. Not sleeping-no good. I notice when I don't sleep, I have a very hard time regulating my heart rate. I also have a hard time thinking. Both of those things are really important in life and actually pretty darn important when it comes to auditions! I don't know about anyone else, but that's just one in a long line of various things that don't function correctly when we don't sleep.
What helps you to prepare yourself mentally for the best audition?