Sample Audition Preparation Plan
Disclaimer: Obviously, there are a million ways to practice, especially for an audition. This is a plan I developed, and what I did, give or take, what I did when I was preparing for the auditions I took between my 3rd year in college and when I took the St Louis Symphony audition, which was when I was about 25. As I got a little older, I took the "imitation method" and shifted it into a "imitation, plus my own style". So take this all with a grain of salt, and use it as a springboard to developing your own plan! In general, I find the more of a plan you have for your preparation on the day, the better… cuts down on wasting time, blowing out chops, mental psychosis/neurosis, etc. :-)
8 weeks out
There is plenty of time, so you are just going to acquaint yourself musically with the list, and start the process of technical work.
1. make a minidisk/tape/CD of excerpts in context, record your favorite recordings in order with 8-20 bars leading into excerpts. LISTEN CONSTANTLY (cannot emphasize enough!!!)
2. start running excerpts, label them 1, 2, or 3(degree of difficulty, ) record some sample prelim lists to see where you are starting from, start determining adjectives (2-4) for each excerpt
7 weeks out
Start your actual practice/wood shedding, alternate with run-throughs.
1. Still listen to minidisk CONSTANTLY (on subway, working out, studying, going to gigs)
2. choose a possible practice routine:
Example of a 3-day-plan:
Day 1: Practice/woodshed maybe three #3 (difficult) excerpts, three #2s (moderate)
Day 2: Record and run those 6 excerpts from day1, and plus two #1s, listen back, correct details, take a breath, run-through again, record, but don't listen back, let them be.
Day 3: Listen back, think of over all comments (as if you were a judge or a teacher) work on some basics, listen and play along with a mvmt. of Mahler or a Strauss poem, etc. Enjoy the process of playing in an orchestra, doing what we do. Then start over with Day 1 woodshedding.
At this stage,
1. I am practicing maybe 2 hours a day,
2. Listening to the excerpts in context on minidisk/tape maybe 1-2 hours a day.
3. Take Don Greene's test online (dongreene.com), start 3-week-plan to improve one
area of mental prowess.
6 weeks to 3 weeks out
The bulk of hardcore preparation (for me)
1. Start a solid visualization routine. Practice CENTERING everyday
2. Start developing your on the day, on stage, between excerpts plan (VERY IMPORTANT!!) + Practice/performance the plan with every run-through you do! (Be incredibly specific: 5 seconds of recovery from the last excerpt, 3 adjectives, singing x number of bars (predetermined!) in head while dancing along (seriously!) Head banging is important to physically manifest what you want to do musically! 5 seconds of CENTERING, then up the volume on the orchestra in your head, 2 bars subdivision, 2 beat breath, then go!) That's just a sample, but fill the time with some plan, then no negativity can get in there-will help style differences, conviction, nerves, confidence, self-talk, body/mind, rhythm, creativity, you name it!
3. Continue to woodshed as you have been doing, recording yourself, etc. Start thinking not just technical details, but musical details as well: not only are you clean and technically sound, but do you feel unbelievably excited when you listen back to your Mahler 5 or Heldenleben? What is lacking: sustaining of line? articulation that is varied and splashy and confident? a booming, rocked out clicktrack pounding in your head as a subdivision? (which coincidentally, will allow you to play more excitingly without so much volume...). Are each of your soft excerpts a different feel, a different emotion, color, story line? Think vowels and syllables with your slurs, think color changes within excerpts, look at the structure of the piece and enjoy and accentuate suspensions, 1-2-3 progressions, appogioturas, fool around with a bunch of different articulations, ways to lean on a note, devise different types of accents or staccatos for different composers, listen to lots of different recordings and choose to sound like different orchestras for different excerpts: old Szell Cleveland for Brahms, San Fran for Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet or Don Juan, Chicago for Mahler 5 and 9, Vienna for Beeth 6, Rostropovich NSO for Tchaik or Shosti, or whatever your favorites are! Anything that is convincing and gets you excited or moved, you should latch onto and let it help you develop your ideal you!
2 weeks out
At this point, I am spending a lot of each day preparing in some way: not just playing, but possibly a whole afternoon of: a long yoga/breathing exercises/go running, routine, good warm up (lots of basics/sound, core, evenness, focus), maybe along with the recording (record myself with them), listen back to that, compare with Dale or whoever, eat, relax, practice focusing by lighting a candle +staring, stretch out on my bed, buzz some long tones, woodshed a bit, sing through a sample round, go through my on stage plan, dance around the house to Mahler 5 or something, visualize a sample prelim round, buzz, run through + record again, listen to Marriage of Figaro then sing through Mozart 2 trying to sound like Sylvia Mcnair, or Rosenkavalier 3rd Act Trio, then sing Strauss 1 sounding like Renee Fleming etc.etc.(don't play too much!, you are as you are and that will have to be good enough!)
See if you like the 3 day plan, maybe to go to 2 day plan (cut out basics day/playing with recordings, substitute in more listening to minidisk +singing through excerpts away from the horn. Start wood shedding with acceptance: accustom yourself to this is as clean, or as even or loud or as perfect sculpted or whatever, as I can do at this point in my development. And that's OK. I am a work in progress (very important, because ultimately, this has to be a semi-fun performance, confident, with flair and enjoyment. Do a few mock auditions for people, behind screens or not, in a hall, 3 feet from people, cold, warmed up, tired, etc, keeping in mind that equally important to running the excerpts is running and perfecting your on stage plan. Visualize a different round every 2-3 days, start eating better, curb drinking heavily, etc, but start consciously choosing fun, relaxing activities, (walks, roller blades, good meals out, whatever) + truly let go +enjoy =rewarding yourself for all your hard work (it is the process that is important, remember?!!!)
The week of
Take it EASY! Very easy! Very little woodshedding, more run-throughs +mental practice. Listen to minidisk +sing+dance along in your heard. Play through (with a recording or without) the entire pieces of whatever excerpts are on the list that don't have specific bar numbers, or that you know have heavy horn parts throughout, just in case. Practice just starting first phrases of each excerpt, to get yourself into the style and body-timing of it. Work on variety of characters, see if you can sell the excerpt within the first bar. Do a final mock audition maybe 4 or 3 days out? Barely play the day before. Buzz a lot to make sure you have your response there, stretch to make sure your body feels good. Do breathing exercises and sing the excerpts in your head. Gear yourself up for a fun, exciting performances; go show off, get them excited, enjoy a new city, a working vacation. Enjoy it!