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Audition Challenge Week 1 and Day 0

So, if you've made it this far, you know what this week is. This is the week where we find out if the last three months were worth it. All the blood, sweat, and tears (maybe just sweat #flutesweats). All the doubting, anxiety, frustration, anger...just gotta let that go.

Going into this week I actually feel pretty good. I feel more solid and confident in my choices, and I feel I have something to say with each excerpt. I wonder if maybe I should have spent a little more time on fundamentals, but with a list this huge and my work schedule there's only so much time to practice everything. It's a pretty flimsy excuse, I know. It's not that I haven't worked on fundamentals, I have an exercise routine that I do first thing every day. I think it was more that I didn't really focus on fundamentals as a way to practice the excerpts, as though there's a divide between the music and the tools necessary to express that music. It makes me think of a trumpet player I knew in school. I would hear him through the walls of the practice rooms (how could you not?) but I never heard anything I would describe as recognizable music. Maybe snippets of a familiar melody here and there, but always just individual elements that together make up a whole. He's having a pretty great career as a principal trumpet, so maybe there was something to it? Something to think about going forward.

I didn't make a final video, as I...kind of forgot about it until after the audition... BUT I do have some audio of a mock audition I did with a friend. So while I didn't do two complete passes of the list playing the first 8 bars of each piece - hey, some of these excerpts ARE only 8 bars! - I do have a mock audition in which I used visualization under pressure and a time constraint. So it's something.

Now, unfortunately, I didn't sneak in any kind of recording device into my audition, as that is strictly verboten and I don't have great sneaking skills or a small enough recorder that could fit into the pocket of my jeans without anyone noticing. (Yes, I wore jeans to the audition. The first round took a whole day and it was behind a screen; I chose to be comfortable.) But I can give a detailed account of my day and experience.

My audition time was 3pm, and I was told to arrive no later than one hour before, so I arrived at Roy Thomson Hall at 2. The general warm-up room had a few people in it, nobody I knew, which I find helpful because I find it easier to get into the right mindset where I don't have to say hello and briefly catch up. On a table in the corner was a book with the first round list and the selections. The list was:

Bach: Domine Deus (short version)

Beethoven: Leonore (cut off after fff)

Mendelssohn: Scherzo

Brahms: Symphony no.4

Prokofiev: Classical Symphony, movement 4 (just a couple selections)

Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (first 4 bars)

Beethoven: Symphony no.3

Rumour was that most people were getting cut off around the fourth or fifth piece, so while I did practice starting each excerpt, my focus was the first five. In the big warm-up room I took out my music, made the necessary markings, and went through each piece in my head. I was not going to be that person practicing in the corner. It was too late for that now, I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about this day.

After a few minutes I was taken to my private warm-up room. I was really lucky, in that I was in the same room as last time I took a TSO audition. I piece of advice I've heard from many sources over the years, "The audition starts when you leave the warm-up room, not when you walk on stage." was something I took to heart when doing my visualizations, so to have them "realized" by being in the same room I saw in my head was a little bonus. I played the beginning of each piece in order, with my usual visualization, then sat back and tried to relax. I went through the routine I had practiced, and tried to block out the sounds of the other flutists running their excerpts.

After what seemed like *forever* it was show time. Closed my eyes, took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and walked to the stage. I chose to use my own music as my visualizations involved that familiar layout and my own markings. I used the orchestras music as a guide, just to make sure there was nothing crazy in there that was different.

To my immense relief, my nerves weren't a huge factor. I'm not sure I was in the zone, but I felt really good. I don't remember too much from my time on stage, but I felt a sense of freedom that I was doing exactly what I planned on doing and I was simply happy things were coming out the way they were supposed to. After I played the Debussy the disembodied voice from behind the screen said, "Could you please play the opening of the Brahms again, and pay close attention to the intonation?". Now, I figured I had probably played something out of tune and they were giving me a chance to correct it, but I honestly have no idea what I did the first time around. Odds were I was flat, as that's usually what happens, so I tried it again, really pushing up the notes I know cause issues. I'm fairly certain my first note was under, because after I played that section I was dismissed from the stage.

I didn't make the cut, which doesn't surprise me, but I still had a really good day. Nerves were under control, I played more of the list than I thought I would get to play, the audition panel liked me enough to give me a second chance on something in the first round, which I'm told is pretty rare. I left the hall with a huge grin on my face, something that's only happened once before.

Kinda like this

Overall, this was a success. Would I do things exactly the same way for a future audition? No. But will I take elements of this process and add them to my growing roster of preparation techniques? Absolutely. The 14- week timeline is a little much for me, but that's really the only thing. I won't be sharing my journey for any future auditions, as nobody wants to hear about the same struggles over and over again. But this process kept me honest and (sort of) on a strict deadline. Now that it's all over, I can say I'm so happy I did this. I know I complained a lot, especially about things that were beyond my control (August heat wave, I'm looking at you!) but really the positives outweighed the negatives in almost every aspect.

So, thank you to everyone who helped me by listening, reading, giving comments, and cheering me on when I was feeling low. A big thank you to Nathan Cole for firstly sharing this method, and for being encouraging to other instrumentalists who chose to attempt it for their own auditions.

This was really cool. Now on to something different!

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