August 2014 Convention
Chicago, IL

Career Mini-Conference, Day 2: “Unlock Your Potential for Success: Auditions and You!”

Alberto Almarza

Career Mini-Conference, Day 2: “Unlock Your Potential for Success: Auditions and You!”

On Day 2 of the NFA’s Career Mini-Conference, the Career and Artist Development Committee designed an event to help flutists expand their “repertoire” of practical ideas for successful auditions that open the doors for the right careers on down the road. This event was organized and led by Alberto Almarza and focused on important aspects of preparing and performing well at college auditions. His guest panelists were Stephanie Jutt, Nina Assimakopoulos, and Eva Amsler. Each person focused on one major aspect of the process. Here’s my summary of the highlights:

Organizing for Auditions with Nina Assimakopoulos

  • Prioritize and organize auditions: Pick more than one type of program, including some that are dream studios and some that you’re quite certain you could get into.
  • Contact teachers in advance, but always have your current teacher proofread your email.
  • Check out the success stories of students and alums from that teacher’s studio. If possible, see if you can contact a current student to get a feel for how students feel who are in the program.

Musical Prep with Stephanie Jutt

  • Teachers want you to play your best. They are rooting for you!
  • Consider the difficulty of the piano part if you play with a pianist at your audition. Pick music that highlights your skills but that isn’t going to need more than one rehearsal to put together.
  • Be original: Have something on your list that shows off any distinct abilities you have.
  • Record yourself every day, and listen, as part of your prep.

Mental Prep with Eva Amsler

  • Often the difference between a great audition and a frustrating one has to do with your mental training. 
  • Try to keep yourself neutral. Don’t spend your energy wondering what other people are thinking of your playing during the audition. Focus on the music you are making and stay in the moment.
  • Look up activities for keeping your brain from focusing on the anxiety. Check out Brain Gym exercises online.
  • Take into consideration your health and nutrition. Talk to doctors and specialists if you have physical or mental issues that are getting in the way of your flute playing.

Eva Amsler

Recordings with Alberto Almarza

  • Make sure they are good. It is hard to forgive mistakes on a recording, but much easier to justify in a live audition.
  • Recorded rounds are intended to save you money.
  • Teachers have a moral imperative to accept students who present the best auditions during the audition. Taking lessons ahead of time is no guarantee of being accepted, even if you really like the teacher.
  • Record yourself every day so the process of recording doesn’t create new anxiety.

The Role of the Teacher: Panel Discussion

  • Make sure the music preparation isn’t only about dissecting every detail.
  • At least three weeks prior to the auditions, move your assistance into that of a support role. Overworking the student’s critical ear only helps her be too hard on herself at that point.
  • It’s OK to be open about the role of beta blockers in the professional world, but let students know that there are great ways to deal with anxiety that require no medication. 
  • When preparing for auditions, encourage students to read books about dealing with anxiety that are written for athletes as well as musicians.

This event was a real thrill for me to attend. The room was overflowing with students and teachers who are actively engaged in the audition process. Almarza did a fantastic job of moderating and leading the panel discussions, and I appreciate his work. Naturally, the generosity of all of our guest panelists was evident in their smart topic choices and clear desire to help young flutists overcome the obstacles they face when preparing for auditions.

—Ellen J Mosley

photos by Ellen J Mosley and Brian Covington