Mental funk

I have a pattern developing with my auditions lately. I sound amazing getting ready. I feel like I’ve been playing better than ever lately. I go into the warm-up room at an audition and do some finger warm-ups, and scales and then start a few pieces. Secretly I might do that last bit to play with other people’s minds a bit. Then I walk down the hall when it’s my turn, and go into the room. A big, empty room with a great big black curtain hanging right next to a stand, and my heart starts pounding. I can’t think, or feel anything other than my whole body pounding from the nerves.

This last time I did myself a huge disservice. I changed the way I prep for the opening of my solo. The result was being a whole step off of the first pitch. I did it to myself. Heck I’m lucky they didn’t stop me right there. Maybe they noticed things got better in a hurry. I played all of the excerpts, and I played them really well. I didn’t get the job. It’s the story of my auditions. It’s mine to loose, and I did it to myself. Those darn nerves and all of the heart pounding. People have suggested medication, or alcohol, but I’ve decided to go a different route.

A friend reminded me a few weeks ago to go back and redo some of the exercises Don Greene teaches. If you haven’t heard of Don Greene than you will find out he’s one of the top mental coaches in the business. He’s helped musicians, athletes, Olympians, and everyday people get out of the mental head games that hold them back from their dreams. I am a great big old head case. It is not my technique, or ability, but my nerves that hold me back. I know I am good enough, and I love playing music. It makes me happy. So, I downloaded Don Greene’s newest book Fight Your Fear, and started working through assessments and exercises the same afternoon as my botched audition. It just solidified what I already knew. In pressure moments I don’t believe in myself, and I fear failure. So, now it’s time to start working on my mental game going into my next audition!

Audition – 3 1/2 weeks to go

I was reading an article last week that called music auditions the most intense 10 minute job interview ever. They’ve got that right! I’ve had the music for about a month now, and I’ve been working hard to get it under my fingers so that everything settles. This audition has an unusually long list of requirements:

  • Solo – a first or last movement from a Classical, Romantic, or 20th Century standard concerto
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 1st movement
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 3rd movement
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 4th movement
  • Brahms Symphony #4 1st movement
  • Brahms Symphony #4 3rd movement beginning to letter B
  • Brahms Symphony #4 3rd movement m295 to end
  • Strauss Don Juan (of course, it’s on every list)
  • Mozart Symphony #39 2nd movement beginning to m60
  • Mozart Symphony #39 2nd movement mm 96 – 130
  • Beethoven Symphony #9 Adagio mm 42 – 114 (another one on every list)
  • Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo (also on all the lists)
  • Mozart Magic Flute Overture
  • Brahms Piano Concerto #1

Yes, that’s 13 excerpts plus a solo. The viola audition only has 4 excerpts. Just a tiny bit jealous of that! I’m also starting to get to the recluse stage. That point where I don’t do much else other than practice when I have free time. How much practice time does that equal? Usually I aim for 3 hours any day that I can. On the weekends I’m getting in close to 4 hours of practicing. I know what the elite runners feel like. Eat, sleep, and practice. Somehow I still feel like I’m a bit behind. Out of 13 excerpts I feel like 9 are in decent shape, and I can get through them fairly consistently each time. Another one is really close, but 3 of them keep kicking my rear. At least I still have some time to iron them out. Here are a few examples (all are done in one shot with no editing):

This first one is the second Brahms excerpt from Symphony #4. Still needs a little polishing of the short first note to slurs, and some intonation fixes. It’s still a little under tempo as well.

The second recording is from the 2nd violin part of Mozart’s Magic Flute. The challenge is to make the spiccato lyrical, even, and not sound pecky. Plus the transitions from spiccato to smooth, and dynamics.

This one is the 3rd Brahms excerpt from Symphony #4. It’s one of my two favorites to play. It just needs the intonation to be consistent, and a slightly faster tempo.

This is an example of one is not quite up to snuff. This is the first Tchaikovsky excerpt, and fortunately I know the whole symphony well since I just played it back in February. It needs a bit more dynamic shape, but the tempo is pretty close.

This one is my other favorite the Brahms piano concerto #1. The challenge is making sure all of the spiccato is the same length, or nice and short. With all of the excerpts I have learned that things sound very different under my ear than they do in the recordings. So, while things sound short and quiet to me they aren’t always coming across in the recordings the same way. So, it’s back to practicing for me. I’ve already started putting myself through mock auditions, and yes I get just as nervous as I would for the audition. One shot is all I get.

What summer

I have been dragged back into the world of audition prep. Okay, not dragged. I choose to do the audition prep because I signed up for the audition, but boy did I forget how consuming this whole process is! I’m doing the majority of the work on my own. I just can’t afford the lessons after insuring the new violin didn’t quite go the way we had hoped, and well, instrument insurance isn’t cheap kids. Plus, something my teacher said kind of bothered me. He mentioned that he couldn’t get me ready for an audition 3 months away. Say what?! I feel like I have something to prove! To help I made a little reminder for myself:


With 12 excerpt to learn to play perfectly I have my work cut out for me. Admittedly I have been emotionally all over the map this week, which isn’t helping. Audition prep is technical. You have to be so completely honest about your playing down to the finest of details. There is no room emotional messes from other parts of my life. They don’t help with things like this:


I am trying to aside the fact that I’m tired, stressed, and frustrated by other things. They are out of my control. I can control bow strokes, tempos, rhythms, and intonation. I want this, and I’m willing to put the work in to get it!