(Head of Brass and Percussion,
Royal Welsh College of Music Drama)
Avoid travelling on the day of the audition. A night in cheap hotel or B&B is a good investment and easily outweighs the embarrassment and cost of a missed audition due to transport problems. Be careful to pack copies of your music to give to the panel and to read all audition requirements with great care, packing a copy for last-minute reference during your journey. Aim to arrive at least one hour before your allocated time in order to acclimatise and feel relaxed. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar in the days leading up to the audition and take plenty of long walks or light exercise before the big day.
Make sure that you dress in a way which reflects your professionalism and dedication. Wear smart clothes that you have worn before (new clothes or shoes can often feel uncomfortable and make you a little uncertain). Suits and ties for men always look good and long smart casual for ladies works well too. Low or medium heels are also recommended, as it is common to see high heels undermine efficient posture and breathing strategies on the day of a performance or audition.
Remember that the panel wants to discover what you know, rather than what you don’t know. They will ask you questions which are always intended to relax you and to discover what you are like as a person and as a musician. Try to be open, to smile and to take time to answer questions thoughtfully. Prepare your own questions too, as the panel want to see your enthusiasm and to gain an understanding of your aims and long-term goals.
Audition requirements vary greatly between colleges, with some asking for “set works” and others offering a “free choice” of repertoire. Choose from the “set works”, selecting pieces that you are comfortable with. It is important to offer two pieces which contrast in style and that are of at least Grade 8 standard. You do not necessarily need to choose pieces which are technically demanding. It is best to select repertoire which you can play comfortably and which shows off your musicality.
Remember that the 10-15 minutes of your audition potentially represents the first stage of your College course, therefore the panel generally views the audition as part of the “learning process” and as an opportunity to provide you with constructive feedback and advice. We are looking for “learning people” who respond to advice and constructive criticism, as opposed to a “perfect” performance on the day.
The 'S' words
Scales are the “alphabet” of music. They build brain patterns and physical reflexes that enable us to respond instinctively to the written suggestions of composers. Not all colleges ask for scales in auditions, but a working knowledge of the Grade 8 scale requirements will do you no harm. The confidence that scale preparation gives you will also help to develop a better ability to deal with the other “S” word: sight-reading. When looking at sight-reading, take your time and pay attention to details of tempo (candidates usually play too fast when under pressure) and musical moods. Details of articulation and note-lengths are commonly overlooked, along with dynamics. Try not to focus solely upon “the notes”, but always aim to convey the emotion and moods of the music. My peripatetic teacher at school always said “You are allowed to make mistakes, but you are not allowed to be boring!”
(Grant Jameson, winner of the BBC Young Brass Award 2015)
Although brief, I sincerely hope that this advice will help you to feel more relaxed
on the big day. Remember - we want you to do well and we are here to help,
rather than to judge you.
If you are organised and work hard, you can achieve anything.