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August 2007

Exceptional Excerpts

Proper preparation of orchestral excerpts can help ensure a successful audition.

by Adam Crane, Violist

Too often, the audition takers find themselves focusing on their solo pieces for auditions in a way that is out of proportion to the total task at hand. When auditioning for an orchestral position, remember that the committee is most interested in a poised, polished, team player. This is not to say that you should play your music as an android. However, during your audition preparation you should keep in the forefront of your mind that excerpts are the measuring stick that the committee uses to look for very specific musical skills and presentation characteristics.

One of the most helpful preparation tools is recording your excerpts! You should record yourself every three days or so. Remember, even a cheap little cassette recorder can help you immensely. There is really no need to go to a recording studio. After recording your excerpts, with your instrument in the case, be your own best audition committee. Be armed with a pad and paper and use the grid below as a guide. Listen to your recording of each selection 4 times. Each listening should be as if you are monitoring an Olympic event. You can even use a system of 9.9, 9.8 and treat this armchair assessment as a game, in a way. If you listen with a sense of humor, you will make a more accurate assessment of your level of preparation. Be cautious not to berate yourself to the point of being unfair to the overall picture of your preparation. No one but you needs to see your self assessment.

By doing repeated recording sessions, you can track and direct your practice time and find that, too often, people play what they can already play well and most of the time, the "difficult spots" have some type of disclaimer built into their preparation. Needless to say, this is not good! So try to keep you sense of humor and be fair!

List each section of each excerpt.
Tap and subdivide with that pencil! You are the Rhythm Judge!
Don't just hear pitch, really listen! Have Mozart's Ears!
Be a human volume meter. Tone colors too! You are the Contrast Judge!
Artistry, phrasing, nuances. You are the Artistic Judge!
Don Juan, Page 1 Score: 9.1 8.3 6.7 7.9
Don Juan, Page 2 (your score) (your score) (your score) (your score)

When playing your recordings of excerpts, you can do many things in order to try to "mentally create" an audition situation. Some people have been known to hang up a trash bag from the ceiling, using this as a pretend screen. Others go into the bathroom, not for just an echo-effect of pretend-concert hall, acoustical simulation, but to face the shower curtain as if it actually is an audition screen. You can even walk into the room as if you are walking out on stage. You can go through the routine of wearing the clothes you plan on wearing at the real audition. Your imagination can be your best training tool!

This article is an except from the "Audition Mastery Guide" by Adam Crane, violist, pedagogue and artistic director of the CraneClassical Music Society. This guide contains the following chapters: OUTLOOK AND ATTITUDE, THE ART OF SCALE,THE ESSENTIALS, SENSIBLE SIGHT-READING, VISUALIZATION AND IMAGERY, EXCEPTIONAL EXCERPTS,GETTING READY and ADDITIONAL ASSESSMENT GRIDS.

Trained in the old school conservatory atmosphere of Mannes College of Music, NYC Mr. Crane received his B.M. in both, Viola performance and Music Composition and went on to earn his M.M. and Post Graduate Professional Studies certificate from Mannes. His vast and varied music career range from concerto soloist, chamber musician, conductor, composer and artistic director of the Atlanta based CraneClassical Music Society. He has trained countless aspiring musicians to achieve their artistic goals for over 2 decades. In addition he is the creator of the Professional Music Educator's Mentor Network. More information about the "Audition Mastery Guide" and the Mentor Network can be found at