Up until now, this blog has primarily been about my playing, teaching, work at Mason, Sewanee, and other places etc...but I thought it was time to start adding some educational articles and ideas as well.
So, why not start with what many of you have coming up
College Audition Observations - Part 1, some general thoughts
I am proud to say we heard a record number of undergraduate and graduate auditions, nearly 40 in all, with an overall quality that is higher than ever before.
Over the course of these and previous auditions, I have begun to notice some patterns emerge particularly among high school students. In discussions with my colleagues across the country I think it is fair to say these are national trends, which are both encouraging and perhaps a bit concerning.
I thought it would be helpful to offer some observations, thoughts and suggestions both for students and teachers. I won't be discussing the specific university selection process or how to "pick a school"..... Many resources are already available for those seeking that information. Of course, some of this is common and perhaps already out there in the community but it cannot hurt to hear it again!
To start, the level of keyboard playing, particularly four mallet solo marimba performance, literature, attention to detail and sound production are all at a level that is higher than ever before. However.....
YOU REALLY NEED TO BE ABLE TO PLAY SNARE DRUM.
For whatever reason, the development of snare drum technique and the ability to control and produce and even sound on snare drum is suffering. Decent rudimental skills are not enough ( and frankly are often lacking), the demonstration of concert techniques, soft playing and roll control are all vital to the overall development of the concert snare drummer. Most universities are looking for comprehensive players at the undergraduate level who can, at the minimum play keyboards, snare, and timpani, and demonstrate multi percussion skills - drum set skills are a plus and will often be asked on auditions.
Select literature you can play. Often students will try and push themselves to do something harder than they can, thinking they have to impress the committee - we really want to see where you are NOW and what your potential is for future success. Don’t spend your time searching for the newest, hardest pieces, just prepare well, and plan. It is painful to sit through someone struggle to play the latest and the greatest, only to fall apart in a basic sight reading....which brings me to -
Yes, you have to sight read. Sight reading is a vital tool that we use to determine not only how well you play your instrument, but how you will handle ear training, theory and ensembles. Keep in mind you are not just auditioning for a percussion program - there is a music school behind all of those drums. Which also means.....
You should be prepared to sing and match pitch. Again,it is not good enough just to be a decent drummer or a virtuoso marimba soloist, if you cannot match pitch, you will not pass aural skills. Understand music history, theory and have the ability to not only match pitch, but identify intervals and chords.
Dress for success. This one is pretty clear, isn’t it? You would be surprised how students will dress, both at the live audition and auditions video's.
A word on audition videos - if you send an audition video, either directly through youtube or using decision desk, acceptd or any number of other pay services, remember that this is an audition. Don't record in your bedroom in shorts and a tee shirt, or think it is "creative" to record outside, poolside or anyplace else that you think will make us "remember you." We will remember you if you play well!! Consider this a live audition, look directly into the camera, introduce yourself, tell us what you are going to play, and then play.
Bring a resume and literature list. Take the time to make a nice, clear, easy to read resume, a list of rep you are playing at the audition, and a representative list of music (orchestral, solo, chamber, method books and solos) you have done over the last two years. You can also put one set of copies of all the music in this folder, put a nice cover on it, and hand it to the professors in the room. Believe me, this goes a long way. If you are sending a video audition, make sure the supportive materials are sent to the committee, or available on your audition page.
Be prepared to answer " why". Why do you want to be a music major, why do you want to study with me, why did to pick that piece, why do you want to come to this university? If you mumble or stumble through these answers it will send a bad message to the committee. Also, have one or two basic questions ready to ask - often the committee will as you of you have any questions, and it is worth it to be prepared. They cane be generic " I'm curious about your scholarship opportunities" or more specific to the school/teacher/studio - just have something to ask that allows you to interact with the committee.
Next up - SOCIAL MEDIA! What it means, how we use it, and how you should use it!