Thoughts on Auditions

It’s the audition time of year.

This is the time of year, when many of you will be preparing for school, or summer camp, auditions. Here are a few, hopefully, helpful reminders.

Let’s talk about the audition. In most cases, you have about 12 minutes to convince people that you would be a great person to have at their school, or camp. Don’t waste any of those precious minutes. Before entering the audition room, be sure…  

  1. your endpin is out or shoulder rest on

  2. your bow tightened

  3. your instrument tuned  

  4. you music in order

You may be asked what you would like to play first. Know what you want to start with and have that piece ready to go. Nothing is worse for a panel, in hours of auditions, than hearing  “Hmmm…I’m not sure. I could play the Bach but,…it might be better to start with my concerto…” Show that you’ve thought about the audition and are ready to demonstrate what you are capable of.

When it comes to your repertoire, be sure to practice everything. You only have a short time to play and you don’t want to be surprised by someone asking you for the coda, or the recap, or variation seven.

Challenge yourself. Practice your audition, and not just the music. Imagine you are walking into the room, greeting the panel, then sit down and play through your first piece. How did it go? What could have been better? It’s all about preparation and being as comfortable as possible in what can be a rather tense situation.

Let’s turn the situation around. If you were auditioning a prospective student, what would you want to hear? When you think of teaching someone, what would you be looking for? What qualities would be important to you?

Good luck and happy auditioning!

Summer Festivals: Hiking, Swimming...and Practicing!

You have your summer festival plans all set and are looking forward to a great summer of JUST practicing and concerts.  What can you expect to accomplish?  I believe, quite a lot.  Here are six points to help you have a successful and an enjoyable summer.   

  1. Read as much music as you can. Chamber music sight reading parties are a great way to get to know repertory, as well as people. I know you can’t wait to dive into those Brahms Sextets but, don’t neglect early Haydn Quartets such as the Opus 20s or 33s. A wonderful violinist I know (and a great character) says “We can read all the Opus 20s in 2 and a half hours, IF we don’t talk too much!”
  2. Speaking of people. Getting to know new friends and teachers is one of the great pleasures of summer festivals. These friends are your colleagues for years to come. If you find people you work well with, don’t let them go! These are connections that will last a lifetime.
  3. Speaking of teachers. I urge my students to play for as many people as they can. Summers are a great time to explore new ideas. No one teacher has all the answers. While it’s invaluable to work with one teacher over a number of years, it’s crucial to hear what other wonderful cellists have to say.
  4. Choose your repertory wisely. It may, or may not, be the best time to start a major concerto. Given that you have about six weeks or less, you could stick with shorter pieces or a movement or two of longer repertory. Do some research. What is the repertory that is special to your summer teacher? Gain their insight into those pieces.
  5. Bring some works you would be comfortable playing on short notice. If you are asked to play in a concert the first week or so you, want to be able to say yes.
  6. If you are attending an orchestra festival, or chamber music festival, listen to several recordings of the repertory you are going to be working on. Know the range of tempi and know how your part fits in with the whole. Be a complete musician. Learning the notes is just the first step.

It’s summer! Hike, swim, eat ice cream AND practice 4 hours a day.

Smaller Cellists Staying Healthy by Playing a Smaller Instrument

May I just say, I'm not tall, nor do I have large hands. I have always played a 7/8th sized instrument (except for an occasional concert with my carbon fiber cello). Thanks to a very patient luthier, Curt Bryant, and good strings, I can easily have a large enough sound.

As the teacher of many petite cellists, I feel compelled to say: you do not need to try to play a large instrument. What you lose in agility is far worse than any gain in volume. I see too many people with smaller hands playing at a great disadvantage, not to mention possible and real injury, by trying to play large cellos. It's not always a simple question of hand size. Some people are more flexible and can get around a longer string length. It's ale, length of arms and shoulder width. One should not struggle to play the cello like someone hanging onto the mast of a ship in a raging storm.

I hope teachers will join me in helping students to choose cellos appropriate for them. Here's to calmer seas for all cellists!