Be prepared! Much of nervousness is caused by a lack of self-confidence. Adequate preparation, meaning what it takes for you to feel confident, greatly reduces anxiety. See Solos and Contest: How to Do Your Best for more suggestions on preparation.
Practice performing your music. Too often students don’t put performance pressure on themselves until the audition. Then they start listening really critically to themselves and hear many flaws that were always there but passed by unnoticed. Performance pressures result from: playing right now (whether you feel like playing or not), no stopping and starting over, and no second chances. Start performing your audition several weeks before the actual audition. Set a time to start, and then at that time play through your material without stopping. This will help you get used to the pressures that do exist during performance. If you can play for your friends, parents, or your band director, so much the better.
The time to listen critically is during your practice, not during your audition. It’s too late to change things during your audition, and you end up second-guessing yourself. When you make a mistake (because mistakes do happen), play even better afterwards to make up for it.
Sight-reading is an important part of auditioning. You can only sight-read something one time, and you can only get better at it by sight-reading. Borrow first trumpet parts from the band library, read through them one time, and return them. Get more parts and do it again.
Practice more than just your audition music. As your playing improves from practicing technical studies (see Entering Freshman Self-Study Materials, many of the passages that seemed so hard are no longer difficult. Technical practice isn’t the most fun part of playing, but it is very rewarding as you make improvements that benefit you in all your playing;
Practice hard, and play the best you can at the moment. We frequently adjust scholarships at the end of each semester to allow for improvement. Even if the worse happens and you don’t play your best, there will be many opportunities to redeem yourself!
Be sure to get a copy of How to Make First Chair by Henderson trumpet alumnus Chris Roberts!
Thoughts on All-Region and All-State Auditions
Every time you audition you win – you gain experience and knowledge about yourself to help you do better in the future. The results really aren’t as important as the extra practicing you do to get ready for the tryout, practicing when you don’t feel like it and forcing yourself to do whatever it takes to improve your playing. The only time you truly lose is when you don’t audition.
My advice is to put things into perspective — the worse thing that can happen is that you don’t make it. And the result? You get to stay home while others are stuck in rehearsals counting rests and listening to other sections work out their parts. And this is usually out of town, so you skip all the time “wasted” sitting in a car. Honestly, how terrible is it to stay home?? Certainly, the “winners” gain valuable musical experience, but will the results of this audition make a difference in your life ten years from now?? Twenty years from now???
I never made the All-State band in Iowa, but when I got to college the 1st band, 1st chair trumpet was also there. It took me three years, but I ended up better than him. (I have to admit, he was a physics major, so he wasn’t focusing much on his trumpet playing.) Not making All-State had only one effect on my long-term success as a trumpeter — it made me even more determined to succeed.
All-region bands and All-State may be the just the icing on the cake, but they’re a valuable inspiration to improve and to practice when you don’t want to. And, the audition provides a deadline and a sense of urgency. Audition for everything you can, do the best you can, but remember…winning is not the thing that is truly important. What really counts is practicing and making progress, and that will serve you every day you play your trumpet for the rest of your life!