With auditions for our YAAOrchestra program coming up September 14 and 16, we sat down with our Music Director, Kristofer Sanz, to chat about what instrumental students should do to prepare for an audition, and how eating a banana can help!

What should students do to prepare for an audition for orchestra?

The best way to prepare for an audition is the same way you prepare for a concert. You need to know the music so well that it comes to you like breathing. I always recommend students perform in front of their peers if they can, or teachers, or parents. Even sometimes for the younger students, we say if you want to set up your stuffed animals for a concert, just so you can get a feel of performing and being under that pressure. Then, when you get into the audition room, it helps to ease that pressure.

And then my secret, which I pass on to all my orchestra kids, is bananas. Bananas have natural beta blockers in them. So many musicians actually usually eat a banana before they go out on stage. It fills your stomach if you're hungry, but it also has those beta blockers in there to help calm you down if nerves are spiking.

Besides bananas, any other tips for alleviating your nerves before an audition?

Before auditions for high school age groups,  the musicians are usually all put into one room. And this can be very intimidating because more advanced could be playing more difficult solos in front of them, or there are some kids who will actually posture in the middle of the room and play really loudly and intensely to kind of scare off the competition. So I always recommend finding whatever quiet corner you can, and to come up with some kind of personal routine before the audition, whether it's playing through scales or just playing some of the softer passages. 

What I don't recommend is to go into the practice room and find the hardest part of your selection and just sit there and play it over and over again. Because, since it is the hardest part, by the time you get into the room, you will be tired and that's all you'll be focusing on. And whoever is judging you knows young artists make mistakes, and so they're expecting that. But if you focus all your energy on that one passage, all the other passages will suffer. 

Make sure that whatever you do is highly musical. I know for me personally, that is what I'm looking for in a young performer. Because anyone can learn technique over time. But being musical is something that is inherent and harder to grasp.

What are lessons that can be learned from an audition, especially if it didn't go well or if you didn't get in?

I think that one thing is true for both the orchestral and the vocal side, and that is -- choosing the right repertoire. You want to pick repertoire that actually shows off your strengths. A lot of kids try to come in and play these really fast, virtuosic pieces. And they can kind of play them, but at the same time, it often doesn't completely come together. To me, it shows a lack of preparation and a lack of maturity, because they are auditioning to show off and not to highlight what they can actually do well. 

In an audition, the panel does not need to be impressed. We just need to know that they are musicians and they are musical on the inside. Because a big part of our job is teaching them, and so we want to find someone who is teachable and open.

Register for our 2017/2018 YAAOrchestra now. Learn more here.