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Nathan Cole's Audition Challenge

I stumbled across a blog a couple weeks ago by LA Phil Associate Concertmaster Nathan Cole. He had a series last year issuing a challenge to violinists around the world to prepare the audition list leading for a New York Philharmonic audition, outlining the process from the very beginning to the big day itself. It's organized in 14 weekly tasks, with a requirement for the participants to make a progress video at the end of each week. I thought this was a fantastic idea and could easily be translated to any instrument, and I immediately got started doing this for myself.

Me, probably.

A slight roadblock I encountered was the repertoire list itself - the list of pieces and excerpts I need to work on is considerably longer than the list set out by the NY Phil. I'll be practicing everything on my list, but the actual pieces in my videos will ones that I feel may closest resemble the pieces on the NYP list in terms of necessary skill set. These may also be the pieces that keep me up late at night dreading the next day's practice session (I'm looking at you, Classical Symphony!).

Below is a chart with the NYP list and my comparable pieces. Obviously, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and may choose different pieces than the ones I selected, but this whole project is meant to document personal progress and self-improvement through time management and proper goal-setting, so whichever pieces you decide to prioritize are completely up to you.

Week 14 (if you're counting backwards) was a lot of technique, some of which I chose to do, and some I changed to comparable standard flute exercises. I explain it briefly in the video, but here's a clearer breakdown of what I chose:

Schradieck = Taffanel and Gaubert daily exercises 1 and 2. This is the starting point for a lot of flutists when really ironing out finger technique, and I come back to it a lot. I find it great for lining up your fingers with the slight changes in air speed and direction when going over the break, a necessary skill if you want to play in tune with consistent tone and colour.

Kreutzer #9: I chose to learn this one. It felt like a logical next step from Taffanel and Gaubert (or Paul and Phil, as I like to call it), which was the point. Not everything moves in simple step-by-step motion. Sometimes there are jumps.

Dont #6: I did this one as well. It's in a perfect key for some really awkward flute trills, many of which make an appearance in the Mozart Concerto and Quartet. As much as I struggle with the trills, I never really thought to isolate them in a separate exercise.

Spiccato = air and embouchure control. I'm still learning my way around my new headjoint and I need to spend a lot of time focusing just on fixing the pitch and colour inconsistencies that exist on the flute. Some tendencies have changed and it takes time to unlearn old habits and learn new ones. So I'm working my way through Trevor Wye's Tone book. While I do need to work on my fast articulation, playing in tune seems like more of a priority at the moment.

Just so you know, at the end of the video I said I would be playing Mozart D+. I had to change that to focus on some other pieces instead, so next week's video will feature the D+ flute quartet instead.

Come back next week for the second video. For more information about the challenge, the requirements for the weekly videos, and Nathan Cole himself, please visit

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