September 17, 2010

Pool Auditions

The trumpet "pool" auditions were today--sort of a grand anxious climax to a week of orientation sessions and academic placement exams. I'd started preparing for this audition a couple months ago when the letter containing the repertoire was mailed out, and up untill my arrival on campus had felt fairly confident that I'd do well. My only misgivings stemmed from the chop "issues" I've been negotiating with over the last couple of weeks, along with the thought I've had lingering in the back of my mind that after a somewhat mediocre audition for NU this spring, I really needed to justify my presence at NU...particularly to Barbara Butler.

The audition consisted of Charlier etude #6, Arban's Characteristic study #12, the opening of Mahler 7, Lt. Kiji, the slow solo from Gershwin's Piano Concerto, and the last movement's opening of Dvorak 8. I felt great about everything except (predictably perhaps) the Mahler...which requires playing a melodic line containing 4 high Cs in close right after the other. It is a glorious segment of the piece to listen to, but it addresses perhaps my #1 trumpet-playing difficulty: high range. Before today I had only been able to play through this entire excerpt once...that magical experience having taken place about a month ago.

I'd had another bad-chop day yesterday and was hoping that a good overnight rest would leave my lips feeling refreshed and ready for the task at hand. I warmed up carefully this morning. My sound started out rather "hairy" and strained, so I did everything in my power to release the tension in my body and mind in order to purify and add a singing brilliance to the core of my tone...this means that I rested as much if not more than I actually played. After a few minutes things seemed to improve a bit and I spent some time just starting a couple of the pieces...pulling off a good beginning can do a lot to increase a player's chances of continuing success in a performance.

I could hear other players warming up all around me and they all sounded fabulous. During my meeting with Charlie Geyer yesterday he told me that because of my age and experience I'd likely serve as a mentoring figure to some of the younger students, but as I continue to listen to the glorious playing of my fellows, I know that the mentoring will be going both ways.

It is important in an audition to keep from being influenced or distracted by other players. I reminded myself that I deserve to be here as much as anyone else. I have talent. I've worked hard and done as much preparation as could be expected. There are things I have to offer in my playing that are unique and valuable. I am here to learn and improve.

I went down to the audition location about 5 minutes before I was to play. As I stood outside the door of the Regenstein recital hall I could hear someone else finishing up their audition...once again a wonderful performance. When it was my turn I took a deep breath and walked out on stage with as much assurance as I could muster. Charlie and Barbara were sitting at a table on one end of the stage and I took a seat in front of a music stand upon which all the audition excerpts were laid out in order. My stomach was churning and I could feel my hands tremble slightly, but I started in on the material with an attitude of letting go..."just play" I told myself.

My performance certainly wasn't anywhere near perfect. I had a couple of near catastrophic stumbles, but kept going with everything I had in me. My main failing during my entrance audition this past spring had been stopping, making a face, and actually vocalizing my displeasure when the first piece I played had begun horribly. Barbara had felt (correctly) that this was a highly unprofessional way to react, so one of my main objectives with this first audition was to behave as professionally as I knew how...I really wanted to make a better impression on Barbara.

A couple of the excerpts (the Gershwin in particular) I think went fairly well, and despite a couple hiccoughs, the Charlier was also decent. When I had finished, they said "Welcome to Northwestern!" and that I'd find out about my ensemble assignment early next week. Charlie said "That was a good first audition." and Barbara said "It was nice to hear you."

I exited the stage and walked back to my instrument locker trying to institute a pattern of thought that would allow me to take the audition I'd just experienced and use it as a stepping stone to better things. Everything I've seen of the music department so far has given me the impression that the Beinen School is a positive, dedicated, and supportive community of musicians ready to learn and work together. I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by being here. Cheers to the future!

1 comment:

  1. YOU ROCK!!! I know you are going to have a great year!