A couple of months ago I decided to focus on piccolo for this season and about a second later, it was announced that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was holding auditions for piccolo. I submitted my resume and received an invitation to take the audition on my birthday! Last year when I auditioned for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, I used notes from a class I had attended at the 2009 NFA Convention by Sharon Sparrow called, 6 Weeks to Finals. It felt like fate when I attended the NFA convention in August and found that she had published the book, 6 Weeks to Finals: The Complete System for Audition Success! I purchased my copy and hit the ground running in my quest to play more piccolo this year!
I have six weeks until audition day, so it is time to get moving! I received my repertoire list for the audition, complied all of my music, and made three copies of my audition booklet. Next, I assembled all of my equipment and materials, including my instruments, tuner, recording device, blank staff paper for useful warm-ups, index cards for each excerpt, my audition booklets, complete scores of all of the pieces, etc. It’s time to get busy! A big part of this process is not only practicing the excerpts, but preparing the mind. In order to work on my mental toughness, I’ve been listening to You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero and Success Is A Choice by Rick Pitino. The last piece of the puzzle is physical toughness. Thanks to my BFF, Laura Roeth, I’m completing the 21 Day Fix Extreme workout and nutritional program. I haven’t felt this good and in shape since my college cheerleading days! Now is the time to “respectfully decline” any other plans, activities, or responsibilities that are sent my way in order to carve out enough time to practice and prepare for the big day.
It’s time to start practicing and establish my “naughty list” of excerpts. Luckily I’ve played most of these excerpts before on a number of past auditions. However, there are a couple new pieces and a few little devils I have yet to fully master. My naughty list includes 1) Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra, Mvt. 5 2) Berlioz, Dance of the Will-o-the Wisps from The Damnation of Faust, excerpt 2 3) Mahler, Symphony No. 2 4) Ravel, Piano Concerto 5) Shostakovich, Symphony No. 8 6) Shostakovich, Symphony No. 9. After using the “nitty gritty” practice method on my naughty list, I’m going to shuffle my index cards, draw, and practice! My main focus this week is rhythm, intonation, and expression.
The audition is a month away, so this week consists of my morning workout, the practice routine I established last week, healthy eating, and mental training. I’m also researching all of my music and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, their personnel, the hall, etc. I feel like I’m playing mock auditions in front of people all the time, whether it be for students, parents, co-workers at MTMS, or our poor cats who cry at the door while I’m practicing. Joe even walks through our house singing the excerpts, because he’s heard them so many times at this point.
My routine continues this week, but with the added challenge of making the music a little bit more difficult in hopes to make the actual excerpt feel easy. (Yeah right!) I continue to perform mock auditions all while doing visualization exercises. I’ve also played through all of the pieces with a recording. Sharon Sparrow suggests treating yourself to a small reward at the end of week 3, which is exactly what Brooke and I did. We headed to Canton for the Propel Women’s Leadership Conference. We spent the weekend reminiscing our cheerleading and roomie days and gaining inspiration from some really successful and inspiring women.
This week is all about reaching full potential. In order to obtain that goal, I’ve been using focus and visualization exercises before more practice sessions. This week is also the time to focus on intensity and extreme measures, such as temperature, food, acoustics, and sleep. When you are prepared for every scenario, it’s hard to be thrown off track.
I’m entering into my final week of preparations, so I’m doing mock auditions everyday without stopping to practice my focus and plan a routine and flow through the list of excerpts. At this point, I’m just trying to enjoy the music and focus on a “personal best performance.” I’ve packed everything I need for the audition weekend, including my excerpt books, water, snacks, a journal, a sweater, books/iPad, headphones, my phone, music stand, etc. I’m starting to feel the physical demands of an audition, so I’ve schedule a massage to hopefully relieve the back pain I’m experiencing from practicing so much. I drove to Atlanta on Saturday by myself and checked into my hotel to find that I chose the hotel with the anime convention! Doh! Everyone around me was dressed in costumes, so I decided it wouldn’t be weird at all to serenade them with piccolo excerpts.
7:00am: I woke up a little later than normal and completed my Sunday morning yoga routine, focusing on my breath and staying relaxed.
8:00am: I enjoyed the complementary hot breakfast at my hotel with all of these anime characters. :/ Needless to say, I was very thankful the hotel had good coffee!
9:00am: I showered and started getting ready while binge watching Netflix to stay relaxed.
10:00am: After a long morning warm-up, I did a little bit of practicing.
1:00pm: I ate lunch and continued my Netflix binge. This might be the longest day of waiting in my life.
3:00pm: Afternoon practice session…can I just get this over with already?!?
5:00pm: I left the hotel and drove downtown for the audition.
5:30pm: After a little wandering and searching, I finally arrived at the hall and checked in for the audition. Off to my private warm-up room I go to prep.
7:00pm: AUDITION TIME! I managed to keep my nerves in check for the most part, but I struggled to keep my excerpts grounded. I learn so much about myself and my playing from this process. While playing the waiting game afterwards, I took notes on the experience in hopes to make the next one a little bit better. I didn’t advance to the next round. Normally I would have a really good cry and “why me” fest at this point, but that didn’t happen this time. I simply told Joe what I learned from the experience and drove home the next day thinking about what my next goal will be, reminding myself that it’s about the journey, not the destination.