Thursday, December 01, 2005

Auditioning (Accent 3)

I've mentioned before that a big part of my youth (junior high through my mid-20's, at least) was spent in the band. Concert bands, orchestras, small ensembles, whatever, if I could play in it, I would. Over time, and with judicious application of private lessons on my chosen instrument, I got good enough to play "higher chairs" in lots of these ensembles, and was afforded opportunities to play in some pretty elite groups.

When based on my skill alone.

Skill was good for me, because, sadly, I had a big problem with auditions. HUGE problem. Put me in a plastic chair in a high school classroom with some sight reading and the task of playing 2 octaves of chromatic scale, and I crumbled like dry cheddar. Typically, my mouth would fail to produce enough saliva to wet the mouthpiece properly, my fingers would tremble on the keys, and the pathway between my brain and my lungs and lips and hands would cease to function on all cylinders. Stage fright set in, in a very sincere way.

To make things worse, all auditions for regional bands or orchestras (the first step on the "state" ladder, the first cut to the really elite groups) were supposed to be blinded - the adjudicators sat behind a screen and you, as the auditionee, were assigned a number. Only the best auditioners, regardless of reputation or ability to thrash out difficult music with practice, got to make the cut.

Or so I thought.

See, my senior year in high school I, once again, went to regional band auditions. After an agonizing hour-long wait in the warm-up room (stage fright, here it comes), during which I got to listen to all the other very very talented players skipping smoothly through their scales and psyching each other out by playing very recognizable and difficult horn solo passages from very recognizable and difficult orchestral excerpts, I was ready to pack it all in and just go home without even trying. There were TONS of other horn players in my region - all of them better than me! What was I DOING in that room with some dude who could play notes that only dogs could hear, or the girl who could lip trill with no visible effort?

Anyway, one by one they were all called in and did their thing, then returned to the warm up room looking either smug or sheepish or sad, and packed up their gear and left. I was one of the last (actually, thinking about it, I might have been the last) person to audition, and by that time just didn't really CARE about how I did, I just wanted to get it over with so I could go home and eat doritos in my room while staring out my window at the falling snow, agonizing over my abject failure as a musician.

My number was called. I walked, funereally, to the audition room, sat down, and awaited instruction from the man behind the curtain. I dutifully played my chromatic scale - 2 octaves up and down, slurring up and tonguing down (it's not as sexy as it sounds), then playing the 2 scales that were requested by "the voice". So far so good, nothing majorly wrong. But......

Then came the sight reading, which, up until this point, was hidden inside a Manila folder, unseeable and therefore uncheatable. I slid the sheet music out, dreading what I would find. Would it be covered in BLACK, with weird sharps and flats? Would it involve lots and lots of slurring, which was a weak point for me? Would it have lots and lots of high notes, also a weakness? I was freaking out.......until I saw that it looked. like. MOZART.

I LOVE Mozart! Mozart and me, baby, we're like THIS. Aw, yes! Mozart!!! Wooooo! Tonality! Fifths and fourths and not so much with the slurring and high notes! Rock!!

I did spend time, however, singing the sight reading to myself just to get the notes right. I made sure to start on the correct note and tried to hit the intervals correctly while fingering the same notes. Not as hard a it sounds, but apparently it was fairly impressive because, once I stopped singing to get ready to actually PLAY the selection, I heard a voice come from behind the curtain:

"See? I TOLD you she would do that."

I started laughing, because the stage whisper, which was delivered in my horn teacher's voice, was meant to be overheard - which meant that somehow they KNEW it was me, and that I had freaked out for NOTHING because they already knew how I played and if I sucked at my audition, well, much would be forgiven, because that's how it works, kids, even in high school band.

I pegged the sight reading too, and played third chair in regionals that year, behind the kid with the stratospheric high range and the kid who could play every.single.horn.solo.ever.written.

(State auditions that year? Another story entirely. And too embarrassing to talk about right now. Bottom line = regional mojo doesn't work at states. Not at all.)

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