Preparing for Graduate School Part 2: Adequate Preparation

Without a doubt, the best way to ensure a great audition and application experience for graduate school is adequate preparation. As I see it, there are two big ways to do this: organizational/application prep, and audition/mental prep. One thing I was I had done a little better would be organizing my materials and pre-screening requirements long before the applications were due (Dec. 1 in many cases). I recall checking one school’s website a few days before the deadline to find differing information on pre-screening requirements than the previous time I had looked. That being said, here are my suggestions for your best preparation:

Organizational/Application

Narrow down your schools (maybe 1 safety, 2 attainable, and 1-2 reach). Of course this is just a suggestion allowing the most open of options after the audition.

Lessons and emails with professors- contact early on, ask questions, ask for possible lesson and be understanding if they can’t do it.

List of requirements. What I suggest you do here is to get the app Evernote or some sort of file that you can have on paper and on a mobile device, this way it’s accessible in lessons and practice rooms, etc.

  • Does the school have prescreening? If so, what are the requirements and what is the date? Get the exact materials and formats for uploading (sound file, pdf, video).
  • Audition date(s)?
  • How many letters of recommendation does the school request? Email your professors at least a month out for this.
  • Do they need a resumé or a repertoire list? Save your programs! (Sample Rep List)
  • Do they require essays? PDF format?
  • Fees? Consider fees for sending transcripts as well.
  • Do they require the GRE?
  • Is there a separate Teaching Assistant application or a separate application for the graduate school and school of music?

Travel plans

  • Drive or fly?
  • Arrive at least a day before your audition to relax and get some good sleep.
  • Money can be a big factor in where you apply as you will need to find a way to get there.
  • Email your university professors a month ahead of time asking to be absent from class if need be. Send a reminder email a week out.
  • Figure out a place to play your instrument before. (I played in my car outside of a hotel in Michigan… until someone told me they couldn’t sleep because of it)

Audition/Mental

Prepare material you can play well, even if it seems easy. Any panel would prefer to hear a solid performance where they can hear your musical voice rather than a battle for notes.

Understand that the panel wants you to succeed and have a great performance. Nobody is rooting for you to stumble, they want to hear you play well.

Practice the way you want to perform.

Have fun, what’s the point if playing music isn’t enjoyable and rewarding.

The next post will be discussing the audition and how not to psych yourself out! Stay tuned for more to come and some suggestions on reading for audition success.

Performance Majors: Sound

During a recent lesson I had with one of my professors, we discussed the expectations that should be held for performance majors. One idea struck me as so simple but something I believe is often overlooked.

This little nugget of wisdom was as follows: the sound out of the horn should always be recording quality.

That is not to say that every note, rhythm or articulation will be spot on every time, but that the tone remains of utmost quality during practice or performance. This kind of dedication to great sound will often strengthen other weaknesses in playing.

What other expectations should be held for performance majors?

Always knew it would help me play better. ©2014doughertytuba

Always knew it would help me play better. ©2014doughertytuba

Preparation is the Key to Satisfaction

Prepare properly in a timely fashion, and nerves, uncertainty, and frustration can be avoided. The key to confidence, is preparation.

Embarking on an audition, jury, or performance can be very stressful, for the amateur and the elitist. The difference between those who progress and those who fall behind is the methodical practice done beforehand. The knowledge and skills gained from this type of work will yield confidence, leading to a successful performance.

Knowledgable practice and a healthy level of confidence will diminish fears, leaving you with the joy of musical satisfaction.