Music Performance major

Tag: Music Performance major

The Art of Auditioning (Part II)

By Abby Atwater ’19


 It’s audition time! I hope my last article provided some valuable information on preparing for the audition. Now the audition is nearing and it is time to really buckle down. This post will focus on the actual audition as well as some additional non-musical preparation and well-being that may not always be taken into consideration as much as the musical aspects.


Plan Ahead

 Unless it is in a nearby city that you can very easily travel to and from, arrive to the audition city at least one night before the audition. Travelling the day of is quite risky and many auditions will often start rather early in the morning so this just wouldn’t be entirely practical. Remember to pack appropriate clothing, audition materials, money for food, and, of course, your instrument! See if you have a chance to play in the audition space the night before to get an idea for acoustics and make sure everything is sounding good. Realize that you may be spending a full day taking auditions if you advance so remain near the vicinity and don’t plan on leaving until later that night or the next day.

Make sure your instrument is in top playing condition

 A few weeks or maybe a month before the audition, take your instrument in for a tune up. Make sure it’s well oiled, keys and pads are in good shape, and there aren’t damages that could hinder your ability to play well.

Come prepared with repair tools, extra reeds, rosin, etc…

 I don’t want to caution anyone to “expect the worst” when it comes to auditioning, but come prepared with tools and materials in case things do go wrong mechanically. Bring screwdrivers, cork grease, extra reeds (new/unopened and old ones that might work better in a different environment), rosin, valve oil, reed working tools- whatever you may need. A lot could potentially go wrong while traveling and a malfunctioning instrument is one stressor nobody wants to deal with.

Try to stay healthy

 Make sure to take time for yourself and be well-rested for your audition. Get a good night’s sleep, drink lots of water, and eat good foods: bananas help calm nerves, carbs are good to provide energy, and try to avoid greasy, dense food that might not sit well. Possibly take some time between warming up and the audition to meditate or go on a short walk. Try to keep yourself as healthy as you can leading up to the audition. You don’t have complete control over how your immune system functions so it may be a challenge to overcome an illness to deliver a great audition, but try your best and just don’t push yourself too hard.

Warm up the day of

 Although it is tempting to want to show up to the site of your audition on the day of and just run through all your excerpts, this is not an effective way to prepare yourself. Spend time with a meaningful, complete warm up consisting of long tones, scales, thirds, arpeggios, extended range, and articulations exercises. This will help to prepare you both mentally and physically. I have been told numerous times that “it is never too late for slow practice” so spend time slow practicing spots in some of the excerpts and do not just run them carelessly.Dress Properly

 Even though you are behind a screen, you should be dressed as if you are attending an interview. If you win the position, later that day you will probably meet the audition committee and/or the music director so be dressed to impress. Another important, but unfortunate note: do not wear heels. Although orchestras have progressed a lot in this aspect, hearing heels walk into the room can indicate to the audition committee that a woman is about to audition and there can still be some bias held in this field. It is sad to admit this is still a concern today and that the shoes you wear could influence the committee as much as your actual audition does, but wearing flats or even going in barefoot would be the recommended way to go.


Talk behind the screen!

 Similar to the dilemma with wearing heels, you don’t want to give anything away about yourself from behind the screen. Talking and even sneezing or coughing can be a giveaway about your gender. The audition committee uses the blind auditioning process to conceal your identity as best as possible and to not create any bias so your playing is all that they have to consider. Abide to the no speaking rule and only communicate very softly or nonverbally if absolutely necessary to the proctor that will likely be behind the screen with you.

Overdo it the day of/before the audition

 Definitely make sure to warm up and have your chops in good playing condition, but don’t practice 5 hours the day before your audition. You will be exhausted plus you don’t want to psych yourself out with a lengthy practice session.

Be intimidated hearing others warming up

 The day of the audition (and even the night before when staying at your hotel), there is going to be an abundance of very talented musicians present. Sometimes what you hear behind closed doors is not actually as impressive as what you hear in person. You can hear someone play the runs in the cadenza from Dances of Galanta at a wickedly fast speed and doubt yourself for playing it at a slower or more standard tempo, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that musician is any better especially if there is a lack of musicality behind the playing (see my next point about this).

Expect to play a “perfect” audition

 There is no such thing as “perfection” so don’t expect your audition to be perfect. Play the best you can with good rhythm, pitch, and expression. Even if you feel like you messed something up and it wasn’t the best audition you have had, the audition committee might not have even noticed or are impressed and see something in you. This might be the audition you end up winning!

Be defeated and give up if you don’t win the position

 I have heard from so many musicians that it can take 20-30 auditions before landing an orchestral job. You are bound to face rejection while auditioning and it is completely OK. It doesn’t mean you are a bad musician or that you will never land a job so be persistent. Even if at first you don’t succeed, one day you could be playing on a famous stage like those in Carnegie Hall or the Musikverein.

 Consider auditions to be the musician’s equivalent of an interview: you’re displaying your talents in an attempt to impress a selection committee and a great deal of preparation goes into it. The only thing that’s really different is the fact that all the “speaking” is done through your instrument and not verbally. Being a good musician is one thing, but knowing how to nail an audition is a skill of its own.

Feel free to check out some of these other helpful links from musicians who have won orchestral jobs!:






The Art of Auditioning (Part 1)

By Abby Atwater ’19


 Are you an instrumentalist interested in performing in an orchestra one day? Perhaps the Chicago Symphony, or maybe you would like to play in the pit of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I aspire to be a professional clarinetist and play in an ensemble like one of these one day. At the moment, I can’t say exactly who/where/what it will be- orchestra, wind band, opera, ballet, chamber ensemble- but I am very determined to succeed in this field. No matter what kind of ensemble, there is always one generally despised process to go through before securing the job: the audition.

 In the past few years, I have become very fascinated with learning about the “art” of auditioning and I would like to share some of that with you. In these two posts, I have compiled a list of the “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to taking a professional audition that should help improve your chances of landing that esteemed position you are aiming for. This first post will focus on the process throughout the weeks and months leading up to the audition while studying and refining the audition material. The second post will discuss the week or so immediately before the audition, the audition itself, and the audition results.


Turn in a polished, high-quality resume and cover letter

 Many orchestras will require a resume and/or cover letter for you to even be invited to audition. Include performance-specific experience and awards on top of your resume to highlight your musical accomplishments. In the cover letter, explain why you want this position, what you know about it, and why you believe you are well-qualified. Make sure to have an extra set of eyes read over these before submitting them.

Rhythm, intonation, articulation, and tone are everything!

 Really nailing these four aspects of playing are vital in an audition. Practice a ton with a tuner and metronome. Use a drone to tune intervals especially in more lyrical passages where tuning can be most tricky. Make sure to know your tuning tendencies in general and be able to make proper adjustments on the go. Also, tuning varies for ensembles usually between A=440-442 so tune to whatever that orchestra tunes to. When practicing with a metronome, use a variety of subdivisions. For pieces that have contrasting accompanimental rhythms from your own part, like the bassoon eighth notes in the first movement of Beethoven 6 or the cello triplets in the third movement of Beethoven 8, have those rhythms clicking to imitate the orchestra playing. When playing in the actual audition, take time before each excerpt to really internalize pulse and know what is going on in the music. Practice slowly and be very attentive to all aspects of your playing. Record yourself and keep a chart/take notes about practice sessions so you don’t forget what you worked on or need to improve on for next time.

Make sure you have ALL the excerpts prepared and practice in different orders

 Double and triple check the audition requirements to make sure you are preparing all the right works and the specific excerpts they ask for (you don’t want to end up having to do some spontaneous sight-reading at the audition). When practicing and running through all the excerpts, switch up the order in which you play them since you likely won’t know the exact order the committee will ask for the excerpts to be played in. I am not sure if it works this way in most professional auditions, but I have had various auditions where I got to choose the order I play my excerpts. If this occurs, start with your best one to give a strong first impression and make sure to end with another that is also quite strong so you can both start and end on a good note ♫ (got to throw in some musical humor here).

Research the orchestra you’re applying for

 Orchestras around the world have drastically different sounds from one another and their conductors take many different approaches to the music. The Philadelphia Orchestra sounds very different from the Los Angeles Philharmonic which is also remarkably different from orchestras across the sea such as the Berlin Philharmonic or London Symphony. Attend concerts and/or listen to recordings of the orchestra you are applying for to get an idea of the sound they are looking for especially from the other musicians currently in the orchestra who play your instrument. Also get familiar with the kind of repertoire the orchestra tends to program or perform frequently to get an idea of what you are in for.

Play in front of others, take lessons, and receive advice on the material

 It is always good to have feedback from other people especially other musicians that might be in the same boat as you preparing for auditions. Get some family and friends together to play through your audition repertoire (blind or not) to get some feedback, get yourself out of practice mode and into performance mode, and calm your nerves. Take lessons from other professionals who have gone through this process. It is definitely beneficial to study with someone who plays in an orchestra and it is especially helpful to study with someone who has recently (I would say in the last five years or so) won an orchestral job. Since the art of auditioning has changed over time, it is good to hear from someone who has experience winning a modern-day audition.

Mental practice

 Sometimes you don’t always need to physically practice with your instrument to get a lot accomplished. Set aside some time to mentally practice/ practice parts of the music away from your instrument: score study, sing the music to yourself, or vividly imagine yourself performing. These can all be effective ways to be purposefully thinking about the music in a less strenuous way than playing it (this is also great to do to spend time while traveling).


Only know the excerpts

 It is important that you know the full works for the excerpts you are playing and not just those 20 or so bars of the piece you are required to play. Members of audition committees will be able to tell if you know them- at my ensemble audition this year, one faculty member actually thanked me for knowing the full works just based on what he heard from my excerpts so that was a pretty proud moment for me! Also be familiar with when you are melody or accompaniment and what other instruments play during the excerpts: know that second clarinet and bassoons are also playing in the second movement of Brahms 3 and that flutes have the melody in the beginning of the Mendelssohn Scherzo, not first clarinet. Listen to a variety of recordings and even try to look up master classes for each excerpt to get a better understanding for interpretation.

Forget to play musically

While you should be particularly concerned about playing with very precise rhythms, pitch, and dynamics, be sure to play expressively and musically. This can be a determining aspect when it comes down to selecting between players that play these other elements wonderfully. When you are practicing, try recording yourself once playing the excerpts rather conservatory, adhering to all the “rules” of the music. Then challenge yourself to take some risks with the music, but still keep it contained and nail the essential aspects. Exaggerate dynamics, spin the long notes, and try different tempi. Be prepared for the committee to ask you to change something and demonstrate your flexibility on the spot at the audition!

Put off practicing to the last minute

 There are dozens of commonly asked for excerpts in nearly all auditions, excerpts you will be working on for essentially your entire life. Don’t take for granted the fact that you know these excerpts well and can pull them off with just a week or two of practicing them. Start (re)learning them as soon as you find out the audition requirements- I would recommend at least eight to ten weeks in advance. Try to approach each excerpt like it’s your first time working on it: listen to a variety of recordings to get an idea for style/tempi and break it down to its basics with slow practice and thorough tuner/metronome work.

Fail to understand theory and history of the pieces

Do some research on your pieces to know historical events at the time they were written, backgrounds of the composers, and any other relevant information. This information as well as being familiar with other works by the composers and their contemporaries can highly influence the ways they are played. Also, have a general understanding behind some music theory aspects of the music. A full harmonic analysis probably isn’t necessary, but at least have an idea when chords are changing and the importance of what scale degree you play.

What To Do During This Summer for Music, Art & Film Students

Step 1: Find out your goal


For musicians, you may already have a summer program opportunity or internship for the summer. If so, make it your goal to learn as much as possible during these opportunities. If you don’t have one of these opportunities lined up, that is okay! You can spend your summer preparing for graduate school auditions, summer pre-screens, academic auditions, or more. 


For those interested in the art field, you may have internships lined up for the summer as well. It may be your goal to get as much experience possible at these opportunities. If you don’t you can always work on projects to bulk up your portfolio or prepare for your academic art exhibits and projects. You can also prepare materials to apply for graduate programs or future jobs/internships. 


For film students, if you don’t have an opportunity lined up for the summer like an internship, you can spend your summer bulking up your portfolio as well. You can also prepare materials for the next academic year, graduate school applications, or just future job opportunities. 

Step 2: Figure out the steps to achieve that goal


For those who are music majors, you can check out a previous helpful guide we have created here


You can actually do quite a bit to achieve multiple goals during the summer as an art major. You can work on weekly pieces to bulk up your portfolio, or even create your own “artist residency”. To create your own residency you can try taking online classes that interest you, or if you are feeling daring you can even move to a different city for the summer and work at a makerspace to learn from other artists. Whatever route you plan on taking, make sure that your steps to achieve your goal are clear!


For those interested in film, working on projects over the summer is the perfect thing to do in your spare time. It can be hard during the academic year to find enough time to work on your big projects, so take the extra time to create something you have always wanted to create! You can also spend the time perfecting your portfolio to send to future opportunities. You can even reach out to local news stations or film companies to see if they have any temporary openings.

Step 3: Execute! 

For all areas of the Visual & Performing Arts Community, stick to your plan! If you end up falling behind that is totally okay, just be sure you have a chance to recharge and get back in there. Always keep in mind that even the tiniest amount of progress can make a huge impact on your career and your goals. 

Step 4: Keep track of your progress


For musicians, keeping track of progress is either incredibly easy for your or incredibly hard. If you are trying to practice more this summer, try keeping a video diary of your practice sessions and lessons. If that doesn’t work, try a physical practice diary to check in with how you and your instrument are feeling each day or week. If you are at an internship or program you can also use the diary method.


Thankfully for artists, it can be relatively easy to see the progress you are making throughout the summer. If you are building your portfolio up, you can compare your past pieces to your present ones or see if you want to improve any past ones you have done. If you are taking a class, you can gauge how attentive you are to the material or even ask the professor how you are doing. 


For those interested in film you can also see your progress relatively easily if you are building your portfolio. You can compare your past pieces with your newest ones to see how you have improved. If you are finding it easier to write your application materials the more you spend time with them, that is also progress! 

Step 5: Enjoy the benefits!

Once you have completed all of your steps, you can now go and get that audition, job, or internship a lot easier! Fill out those online forms, schedule those interviews and get those plane tickets to go and land those opportunites. If your goal didn’t include applying for anything, you now have the tools you need to become the best version of yourself and your artform! Hopefully, throughout the process you learned a lot more about yourself as an individual and what your interests are in order to inform yourself on what to do in the future.

#VPA Interview with Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Theatre Chair, Kathy Privatt

Q: What does the path to a career in theatre look like for a student currently at Lawrence?A: If they are in the major they take core courses that go across the discipline. They will have performance course work, design course work, and literature and history course work. We think of it like a 3 legged stool, since all performance takes from those main aspects. After these main courses, you have a choice to explore these areas further or you can choose an area of specialization such as design tech., directing, or literature history. You are also required to be involved in some aspect of 6 performances. Finally, you end with a Senior Experience that is individual to each student.
Q: What other majors or minors are often paired with theatre in order to reach different careers in the industry?A: Art History and Studio Art is often paired with Theatre to lead to a career in design. Those interested in dramaturgy or playwriting often pair it with an English or Creative Writing major. Performers often pair Theatre with Psychology or Sociology since you have to think about human behavior while you’re on stage. Many also do the double-degree program within the Conservatory if they are interested in Musical-Theatre, pairing with the Vocal Performance major.
Q:Can you estimate what the job placement percentage is for Lawrence students pursuing a career in the industry? A: The trajectory for making a living in theatre is often a lot slower than other areas. This could be the case for a few years post-graduation. However, many students end up going into grad schools later on depending on the school. Many grad schools prefer theatre majors to have some experience working in the industry before applying, which also makes the trajectory for immediate placement after graduation slower.
Q:What have students done after graduation that have gone through the theatre program? A: Professional actors. Some started teaching at the college level. We have people that immediately started work in scene shops, costume shops, and doing design work. Stage management. We also have some teaching secondary education, which is exciting for us since we want to build new theatre-makers and keep things going.
Q:What are the different careers within the field of theatre? A: There are the big ones: actor, director, and designer which could be set, costumes, lighting, make-up, or sound. You could be a stage manager or run-crew and light-boards. Dramaturgy and lots of people are teaching artists that are at regional theatres. Theatre management, which is management of the performing venue itself.
Q:What would you say is the hardest field to find careers in for theatre? Which ones are in high demand?A: Right now in the U.S. acting and playwriting is the hardest career to make a living off of. Many actors and playwriters have to have a second form of income. Some of the easiest are the production roles such as set construction and stage management.
Q:What influenced your decision to become a professor. What do you love about it? A: I genuinely get excited about what happens when you take scholarly inquiry and fuse it with creative choice. To share that with other people, and to collaborate with a company, which is how I think of the theatre department. I can’t imagine a more joyful place and way to be making theatre.
Q:Do you have any tips for current students pursuing a theatre career? A: Number one, think about internships, at least in the summertime. This is a way to explore what careers can be possible and which ones you are interested in. You will develop a network of people that know you and how you work. I would definitely say go to the Career Center from the moment you first can, so that you are doing things like practicing interview skills and writing resumes. Also, think about the skills you are learning in all of your course work and extracurricular activities, and what those skills might mean to your future employers. Connect with alumni relations so you have an idea of where you want to be.

YAP Tracker: A useful tool for Undergraduate Vocalists

YAP Tracker is a useful tool for looking for young artist, summer opera programs, and competitions! You may think you don’t have any use for YAP Tracker in your undergraduate experience, but it is actually a very useful tool, and you can do a lot with just a free account.

For undergraduate students, you can apply for many different summer opera programs all in one place! You can upload your repertoire to your video library, upload headshots and your resume to your profile, and select them to send to multiple applications. You don’t have to worry about searching the files on your computer every time to find that one aria you really want to showcase, because YAP Tracker keeps all the videos you uploaded saved to your profile to use again and again. You can even safely pay for application and audition fees.

YAP Tracker also tells you when your applications are received, being reviewed, and if offers were extended. You can also archive past applications of opportunities you’ve attended to see exactly what application materials to use in the future. 

You can also pay for a premium account. This gives you access to even more exclusive opportunities, extra space to save more video files, get notifications for upcoming deadlines, and tracking tools. Currently, the rate for a “full access” account is $59 for a year or $99 for two years.

Overall, YAP Tracker is a tool that every singer should learn how to use. Many opportunities are posted on it every week, and it is a great place to keep all of your application materials. This is one tool that classical singers are expected to use frequently, and there is no better time to start than now!

Create your Free YAP account today: YAP Tracker

Sounds of Lawrence University (SOLU)

For the students:

Finding gigs in Appleton has never been easier! Introducing Sounds of Lawrence University, a student-run gigging service made to connect student musicians to the city of Appleton. Founder and President Alex Lewis says,

 “Sounds of Lawrence University is a student-run musician booking service that contracts Lawrence University student musicians to play gigs in the Appleton and surrounding areas. An Executive Board takes care of management, outreach, marketing, contracting, and other needs so that the musicians can focus on their craft and creating the best experience possible for their clients!”

If you are a student looking to get on the call-list for gigs, please fill out this form and you will be put on SOLU’s roster. If you have any questions, please email

For the community:

Looking for musicians for your upcoming event? Whether it’s weddings, church services, or even dinner parties, Sounds of Lawrence University is the right place for you to find passionate musicians. With multiple 5 star reviews, SOLU strives to make sure that your event or big day is as perfect and stress-free as possible.

They offer string quartets, solo instruments, small wind ensembles, small jazz ensembles, vocal ensembles, and much more!

Have an event coming up? Liven it up with some live music from Lawrence’s musicians! Check out the website or email if you are interested in hiring musicians!