Preparing for College Music Auditions
by Dr. Tod Kerstetter
Kansas State University

• Get to know the teacher of your instrument. Most college teachers will offer a free lesson to students that are interested in their university (I always do!). Not only will this allow you to see what studying with this professor would be like, it will also make you less nervous when you audition for a scholarship!

• Find out exactly what the requirements are. Most places will require a prepared solo of some sort, some scales, and some sight reading.

1. The prepared piece. Simply put, pick something on which you sound good. Don’t pick something too easy or too difficult — often the piece you played for solo and ensemble or the piece you prepared to audition for all-district or all-state is your best choice.

Should you use a piano accompaniment? Most places (including K-State) do not require this, but if you have a good accompanist who would be willing to perform with you at your audition, it would probably make you sound better.

2. Scales. Some places will actually list which scales that they expect students auditioning for scholarships to know. To become a strong college-level clarinetist, you should know all 12 major scales and a chromatic scale anyway. Learn and master these as soon as you can!

I recommend playing scales all slurred with a straight rhythm. This does your fingers the most good — after all the reason you work on scales is to even out your finger technique. However, if you are more comfortable playing scales in a different manner you should do so. Also, have an idea in mind as to what tempo you are going to play. Simply be ready for how you would react when someone at your scholarship audition asks you to play a certain scale! Have a plan of attack ready to go!

3. Sight reading. Like anything else, this can be practiced. The only way to improve your sight reading skills is to work on them. Find an old band method book and see if you can play a short exercise perfectly the first time! Recording yourself will help you raise your level of concentration. Focus on the rhythm as your priority — playing the correct rhythm is the most important element of good sight reading.

• Finally, be ready to ask questions and feel free to bring your parents. At K-State, we even allow parents to be in the room (if you’d like them to be). It is normal to have lots of questions in a situation like scholarship auditions, so don’t be shy!

• Not planning on being a music major? While the opportunities for scholarship money will probably be less, most schools do have something available for non-majors. K-State, like most schools, encourages participation in our ensembles by non-music majors. If you’ve enjoyed band all the way through high school (and you must like it, otherwise you wouldn’t be here today!), chances are that you’d like it in college. There will be opportunities for you to play — just ask!

(handout distributed at the KSU Concert Band Clinic, Jan. 2004)

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