By Caitlin Wang
Question: Can you share your experiences on the process of preparing for orchestral auditions (NEC or others), and any advice you may have for those new to the process?
“I started participating in orchestra at NEC (New England Conservatory Preparatory Orchestras) when I was nine years old. Despite the fact that everyone comes from different schools, towns, and are of different ages, we are all connected by our shared interest and passion for music. I have been exposed to new composers and pieces through NEC, but I have also had the opportunity to play some personal favorites, such as the Carmen Suite and Rhapsody in Blue.
In regards to auditions, Celia and I typically choose my two contrasting solos that I plan on using for my audition at the start of the school year so I am prepared by the spring. We sort through many options, whether that be pieces she recommends to me or pieces that I am interested in playing. What we end up choosing is always a bit challenging so I can push myself as a musician. NEC also requires scales and orchestral excerpts for the audition, both of which they use to determine your various technical skills and ability to interpret orchestral music. At home, I practice for my audition by using a metronome and slowly increasing my tempo as I become more comfortable with the pieces. I mark any points of confusion, and I come to each lesson to sort through weaknesses or tough parts in the music with Celia.
After COVID began, NEC shifted their audition format from in-person auditions to video recordings. While they are now moving back to the normalcy of in-person auditions again, I have had to record many auditions from home throughout the years. On one hand, a video allows for you to re-record your audition multiple times, but on the other hand, you might also run into the problem of wanting to redo your audition again because you want to have the ‘perfect audition.’ I know many musicians tend to be perfectionists, and I am completely guilty of having this characteristic. However, my advice for anyone that has an upcoming video audition would be to accept the fact that no matter how many times you re-record to try to achieve the ‘perfect take,’ you will never be fully satisfied with your recording. There is a point at which you have to push through your mistakes and finish recording the piece. Remember to take breaks, stay relaxed, and try to have some fun with it! As for in-person auditions, remember that you will be done with your audition in 15 minutes or less. Nerves are completely normal, but try to channel those nerves into excitement that you are about to showcase all of the hard work you have been putting in!”
For your own guidance in preparing for an audition or competition, we'd highly recommend working with your trusted private music lessons teacher.