We are completing band placement auditions for Spring Semester this week.
This is a very stressful time for many students as they strive to move up in a very competitive program.
Here are some "points to ponder" about the process:
1) Auditions were announced and explained during the first week of school. It was suggested that students print out the materials from the band website RIGHT AWAY and begin the preparation process. This would give them approximately 11-12 weeks to prepare the 5 minutes of materials needed.
2) The materials were assigned as regular class projects during the semester. The students prepared and played for us all of the scales and the prepared etude prior to playing them in the audition. Sort of like a "practice run" or a "warmup to the audition".
3) Reminders were given throughout the semester about the upcoming auditions. The section coaches who came in and worked with the students during class devoted one of their sessions to the prepared etude for the audition.
As you can see, we really set the kids up for success... IF they followed through on their part and did what we instructed them to do.
The truly frightening part in all of this is that the audition counts as 20% of the grade for the semester... and students came in and played less than 25% of the required material. They did not even attempt many of the parts of the tryout. How can you expect a good grade when you turn in less than 25% of the work? What is your SAT score if you only answer one out of every 4 questions?
1) Many students did not print out the materials until mere days before the auditions. Several of the section coaches came to us on the day they were working on the materials and told us "the majority of kids do not have the music".
2) Many students came in to their project days unprepared (as witnessed by some of the low grades on the scale projects). Some didn't even attempt the material.
3) Some of the students waited until the week of auditions and tried to "cram" the material by practicing during AO, lunch period, and before/after school one or two days before their actual audition date. They were able to get a portion of the material learned, but left out many important details and did a sub-standard job on their tryout.
What we need to learn from this process:
1) Playing a musical instrument is VERY DIFFERENT than memorizing facts for a test. You cannot "cram" dexterity, tone quality, control, range, or finesse. These take concentrated time to develop over the long term.
2) The materials for a full scale audition are complex. The prepared etude is challenging and it takes careful study of each component. You have to learn it slowly in small segments and then assemble it as a whole. There are many small details to grasp and you can't get them all with only limited, last minute practice.
3) When given so many prompts and the opportunity to prepare and present the audition material for feedback as projects prior to the actual auditions....TAKE ADVANTAGE! Get the material ready and then all you will be faced with is detailing it for your tryout.
Following the auditions, we will face the "post-audition emotional roller coaster".
One of our long-time instructors states the outcomes brilliantly.
1) You deserve to make it and you make it.
2) You deserve to make it and you don't make it.
3) You don't deserve to make it and you make it.
4) You don't deserve to make it and you don't make it.
First, you prepare diligently, perform near-flawlessly, and you get the exact result that you earned. This one is simple.
Second, You work hard and do a good job, but due to some other factor (numbers auditioning, limits of spots for your instrument, etc.) you don't get where you had hoped to go. Nothing bad about what you did...just didn't quite get you high enough in the rankings. This one is fairly typical. Find ways to make your next attempt even stronger.
Third, you really didn't prepare well, but due to other factors (other people also didn't prepare, more spots than players of your instrument, etc.) you get in anyway. In this case, you will have to work hard to keep pace.
Finally, you didn't prepare well and don't make the group you wanted. Hard lesson, but reality. You must do your part of the process successfully in order to reap the rewards.
Many factors go into band placement.
1) Balanced instrumentation
We can only have certain numbers in certain sections in order to maintain a proper ensemble sound. We can't overload a section and we can't do without key instruments.
2) Natural breaks in ability
We initially seek 4 of an instrument and the results between number three and number four are 15 points apart...
number four probably isn't ready to be in the higher group.
Conversely, we have four and the gap to number five is only .001, but between five and six is 25 points.
We would add one to the section as long as it did not adversely affect the entire group.
3) What's best for the future of the student.
Would it be best for a younger player to play a low part in the top band or would it develop them more quickly to be a first chair player/soloist in the second band? This is a difficult and complex call. Sometimes, a student needs to be in a more demanding and "leadership based" role. They actually develop more skills by being in the lower group for a semester and come out of the experience stronger.
What is the best way to ensure solid auditions and upward movement in the program? Private lessons with a qualified instructor. It is the single most valuable tool in musical growth. If you have a private teacher and do not feel that you are making progress, look into a new teacher. If they are not helping you with fundamentals and audition preparation, find one that will. If they do not have you working on specific materials in addition to your band music for school, you might want to consider someone who will challenge you further. There are many fantastic teachers in our community. Ask around, find out who the top players study with, and contact them. Through our conservatory program (www.popeband.com), we can connect you with specific teachers who come to Pope on a regular basis.