This afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of watching the Miami University Marching Band perform in the 2013 Inaugural Parade.
The students performed brilliantly with focus, discipline, and teamwork; however, it was the passion radiating from each member of the ensemble that inspires this post.
As a performer, it is required to practice hours alone in a cramped space that often smells of the day's occupants. You diligently work your muscles to the bone practicing scales, technical studies, articulation, vibrato, phrasing, and a multitude of other details merely resembling your performance goals. You get discouraged, frustrated, and even angry. You long for those moments when you "simply played."
First, you are not alone. Your colleagues, your mentors, your students, and your friends all relate.
Now, what to do? (Let's use vibrato as an example)
RELY ON YOUR EVERYDAY HABITS. Pull out your iPad and google "Bassoon vibrato"...find 3 articles to read. How about your iphone during a much needed practice break: Try "bassoon vibrato" on youtube. Better yet: check out different instruments! What about downloading a soundwave app so you can visually monitor your vibrato studies? Those apps are cool! They record you as well...
How does any of this help? It re-invigorates. It puts YOU back in control of the stinky practice room. Music is inspirational, teachers are inspirational, but we have to remember to inspire ourselves as well.
The start of classes is always exciting. I have a particularly gregarious group of bassoonists at Miami, so teaching them is always entertaining.
As many music professors can relate...this is audition season! As soon as classes begin, so do auditions for the 2013-14 School Year. I give many lectures to varying groups of young students on 'performance anxiety' and 'audition preparation.' This is a high stress time for professors as well. We work diligently years in advance to gain students interest and enthusiasm. At the audition, we are forced to make decisions relating long-term quality potential not only with regard to musical ability, but also potential in the music degree program. Simultaneously, we weigh this against a students viability for attending our program.
To have the BEST opportunity for that acceptance, scholarship, &/or assistantship, read on--
My primary advice for aspiring music students:
1.) BE A KNOWN FACTOR. This means be in contact with the professor and school.
2.) HAVE A GOOD AUDITION. Be prepared. Practice well, and have good reeds. Check the website for listed audition materials. Know your scales. Practice Sight-reading.
3.) SHOW YOUR POTENTIAL. Dress nicely. Be articulate. Have your music/reeds/etc. organized.
4.) SHOW YOUR SCHOOLING. When emailing: Use a greeting. Use spell-check. Use complete sentences. Use titles (i.e. Dr. Schillinger).
5.) BE PREPARED. Read all admissions material (on school websites). Have all materials submitted prior to audition.
6.) HAVE FUN! Honestly...this is the most important. You are here because you have a passion for bassoon...so do the professors for whom you are playing. Keep that in mind!