Audition preparation can be overwhelming.
There are so many moving parts to preparing that it can easily feel like there's just too much to do and too many pieces to practice and never enough time. It's so easy to get so hyper-focused on learning the excerpts that you neglect all other areas of your preparation... and of your life! (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has woken up the day after an audition, looked around at a messy, long-neglected bedroom, and wondered if I slept through an earthquake!)
I'll be honest... I have dined on Frosted Flakes and Advil at midnight over the kitchen sink far too many times after long practice days leading up to an audition. In those moments, usually while icing my shoulder and smearing Aquaphor on my lips, I tell myself, “No pain, no gain!” and, “I am really preparing well!” Regardless of the fact that, in the four weeks prior, I have not cooked a single meal (or probably eaten a single vegetable), I haven’t spent any time with friends or my hobbies, I haven’t taken a single day off from practicing, I’ve put off all of that “mental training stuff” for later, and I have practically lived by the old adage of "plenty of time to sleep when you're dead!" ... but I’ve practiced my excerpts for many hours a day, so I am super prepared. Right?
Inevitably, time and time again, this would lead to burnout, injury, and ultimately, a bunch of really, really crappy auditions.
Eventually -- and very stubbornly -- I discovered that my best auditions and performances were born out of a much more balanced and thoughtful type of preparation, giving equal care and attention to four specific areas of development: Technique, Music, Mind, and Wellness. I call these areas:
the Four Pillars
Together, they form the entire foundation of the product I wish to present -- my playing. All four pillars must be cared for and developed equally, for if any one pillar is neglected, the others must strain to compensate, and the whole structure is at risk of collapse.
sorting through all of the nuts and bolts of your playing
developing and strengthening your clear musical picture and understanding of the pieces
strengthening your mental training skills
maintaining your physical and emotional health and general well-being
While audition preparation is incredibly personal, I think it is safe to say that the most efficiently and effectively prepared musician at any audition is one who has taken the time to develop and nurture all four of these areas. Exactly what makes up all of the elements within each pillar will vary from person to person, but overall, these are the four fundamental qualities of a healthy, balanced, and prepared musician.
Technique, Music, Mind, and Wellness.
It is entirely up to you to determine the elements that form the cement of each pillar.
Maybe your Mind pillar is all about meditation while your friend’s is more focused on centering and visualization. What is important is that you give this some thought and you reassess your personal pillars throughout your preparation. Are you focusing on only one of your pillars? Is there one pillar you consistently neglect? Is the whole structure going to collapse? Are the elements right for you or do you need to adjust?
It may seem like slower progress, balancing your preparation deliberately instead of throwing all of your eggs into one excerpt-drilling basket. It takes patience and a willingness to trust in the process. But by refusing to buy into shoddy craftsmanship and cheap ingredients for the sake of time, we are building a structure that will last a lifetime, through the roughest weather and circumstance, not just the next audition.
What is the