Auditions

Practicing, Some Practice Advice (Part 2) — by Michael Haber

Frustration and Discouragement, Orchestra Auditions, Some Final Thoughts, a Final Comment   FRUSTRATION AND DISCOURAGEMENT: Now is the time to talk about our number one enemy. When I look back over all my teaching, one observation stands out above all others. It has not been a lack of talent or intelligence which stood in the way of progress for most students. It has rather been the fact that many people become both frustrated and discouraged by the amount of work and the unwavering discipline and persistence it usually takes to become an excellent musician. I have something simple to say on this subject: frustration and discouragement have been the common lot of most of the musicians I've known, born of the eternal gap between our dreams of how we want [...]

Preparing for Cello Auditions as a High School Senior – by Drew Cone

Applying and auditioning for schools can be really scary at times, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been working on my repertoire for auditions for well over a couple of months now and throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to preparing for college. Now, just to clarify, I’m no expert on this stuff; I just thought that maybe if someone if my position had any questions needing answering, it might be nice to hear from another person in the same situation, especially since I’ve already recorded most of my prescreenings and have that experience under my belt. Even if it’s a tiny tip that helps, I hope that this could help out people my age with the same aspirations! Prescreenings The nice thing about [...]

What if We All Did That? — by Martha Baldwin

OK, not to blog-rant (is that a thing?) but I’m often surprised by basic behaviors I see in music students (and professionals) and it reminds me of a saying we have in our cello section: “What if we all did that?” Here are my top 3: 1. STAY!!!!!! seriously, just stay to the end people. I realize that many student recitals seem endless but leaving as soon as you’re done playing is, simply put, rude. I’ve seen entire rows of extended family get up and leave noisily after the first performer (their kid) is finished and I’m shocked. Really? No one else matters? Your child is so special that this entire recital is there just for his/her 4 minutes of glory? People notice these things. As a side benefit - [...]

Beneath the Surface of Brahms — by Brant Taylor

Brahms' 3rd Symphony Cello Excerpt A successful audition performance involves showing many different sides of yourself, musically, in a condensed period of time. Therefore, it is useful if not imperative to conceive each excerpt on a list in its own distinct world of character and color. Despite being works from the same composer, the well-known cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Second Symphony, which we previously discussed, and the cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Third Symphony, which is the subject of this post, present quite different opportunities. While these suggestions are not the only solutions to the challenges presented by this excerpt, they are a starting point for practice and discussion and illustrate some of the details that must be carefully considered in any successful performance. Sound Production In thinking about [...]

Cello and Marathon Training — by Jonathan Thomson

Rule #1 and Rule #2 focus on the mental aspect of training: about setting your intention before working on a passage. This is necessary to practice effectively, and ultimately leads to better performances. Our experience playing the cello is a delicate interplay between mind and body, which is a balance that must be cultivated again and again as age, circumstances, and stakes change. Athletes face many of the same experiences in training and competition. Throughout my education, I found that my attitudes about the cello and the way I practiced stemmed from my experiences playing sports. Particularly during my graduate studies, running became a counterpoint to music. Running and cello both informed the other. Running helped relieve the stresses of performances, auditions, competitions, juries, and the ones made up by [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth: Second Variation — by Jonathan Pegis

Picking up where we left off last time, at the conclusion of variation 1 it is a good idea to keep counting in between the two variations.  You want to play this second variation in the exact tempo as the theme and first variation.  I will say right at the outset that there is no ideal fingering for this excerpt!  It just doesn’t lie well on the cello.  My fingering is a bit unusual in that I do not use the thumb at all, or any open A strings.  I do, however, use the A string for some of the notes.  I highly recommend not playing the open A just because it tends to really stick out.  Many cellists don’t use the A string at all which is also fine [...]

Exploring Beethoven 5th, Variation One — by Jonathan Pegis

Continuing our discussion of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, let us examine the first variation. As I did with the theme, I will first talk about the technical challenges of this excerpt and then look at the musical challenges.  First of all, it is very important that you play this excerpt in the exact same tempo that you played the theme.  A common mistake is to play this variation much faster than the theme simply because of that long first down bow.  One trick that helps is when you finish the theme keep counting the quarter note rests at the end of measure  10, and then count off the two quarter note rests in measure 49.  (Almost like you were making a cut!)  You can do the same thing at the end [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — by Jonathan Pegis

Here in just a few measures is an excerpt that has confused, befuddled, and downright scared more cellists than just about any other excerpt (please click image to enlarge): The theme from the second movement of Beethoven's fifth, along with the first two variations, shows up on the vast majority of cello audition lists.  I thought it would be educational to spend some time exploring this theme, and future blogs will explore the first and second variations.  To begin with, this excerpt is one of a handful that I have coached for many years where I am actually LESS confident than I used to be.  Why?  Because every teacher, every coach, and every conductor has had radically different ideas about all the different aspects of this theme.  Temp, color, dynamic, [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

Myth Busters — by Brant Taylor

Instrumentalists often prepare for an orchestra audition by seeking feedback on their preparation from a teacher or colleague.  Perhaps because my career includes both orchestral playing and teaching, I am frequently asked to coach players who are preparing solo work(s) and orchestral excerpts for a given audition.  Some players I hear are very new to the audition game, while others are already seasoned professionals looking to step up to another ensemble or for a promotion in their current group.  After years of talking with these musicians about auditions in general and about the specifics of their preparation, I've noticed several assumptions that players sometimes make about auditions.  While some of these assumptions are true, and made with good reason, many others are best described as myths. Some of these are half-truths, and [...]