Stepping into the audition scene can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, whether it’s your first audition, or 20th. It’s essential to not only bring your A-game but also to navigate the audition room with confidence and grace, and knowing how to mentally prepare ahead of the big day is key to doing this successfully.
As those who have gone through the process before and have now found themselves on the other side of the screen, we asked some principal players around the country for their advice on how to set yourself apart from the rest. From the nitty-gritty technical aspects, to demonstrating broader musicianship, this is what they’ve shared:
Principal Trombone, Fort Worth Symphony
2019 – present
“Play with a point of view. Your conception of the music should be so clear that you lead the listener through exactly, specifically how the music goes to you.”
Principal Cello, Colorado Symphony
2019 – present
"I listen for good quality of sound that will blend in well with the orchestra, as well as if the person has the ability to play a variety of characters/styles of music. Of course intonation and rhythm is something that is super important.
I will also try to see if this person may hinder the ensemble in any way. Blending in is very important in all ways, not just for sound."
Assistant Principal Oboe, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
1972 – 2022
“My criteria for judging candidates always put the basics of musicianship first:
1. Reasonably correct tempi
2. Accurate rhythm and subdivisions
3. Intonation and tone quality.
4. Clear articulation and a seamless legato.
5. Attention to style in the concerto selection and all the orchestral excerpts.
If the candidate succeeded in the above criteria, I would vote to pass them to the next round. In the semi-finals and finals, I would listen to the finer points of the mastery of the instrument, and I would welcome discussion with fellow committee members and the Music Director when carefully considering my votes.”
Erin Helgeson Torres
Principal Flute, Lima Symphony Orchestra
2022 – present
"The best single piece of audition advice I can give is STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF. Are you a coffee drinker during the week? Drink coffee on your audition day. Are you used to sitting for your practice sessions? Plan to sit in the audition. Do you wear flats everyday? Wear the flats. I used to make the audition day an entire production and become another person to somehow "optimize" my performance but the truth is, the best performer you are is the one that shows up to the practice room every day. Be THAT person. Be yourself.”
Principal Harp, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
2023 – present
Principal Harp, Sarasota Orchestra
2022 – 2023
“The audition is not a test—it is a performance. It may feel like the jury is testing your ability to perfectly execute all the technical challenges on the audition list. But what they are truly listening for is artistry. Prepare the audition list so that your artistry shines through in every note. You will not win an audition because you performed perfectly. You will win because you performed beautifully.”
Bass Trombone, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
2023 – present
“Whether it's in the practice room, behind the screen, or in front of an audience, I allow myself to simply ‘be.’ Especially in an audition setting, I strive to live in the present emotionally and musically. Allowing my mind and body to be emotionally vulnerable and accept whatever music that follows has been the key to loving my own craft. I truly believe that if a musician can believe undoubtedly in their message, it will only bring prosperity and joy to every aspect of their music. Walk proudly on that stage, bask in the sight of a glorious hall, take a deep breath, and ‘be.’”
Associate Principal Oboe, LA Phil
1995 – present
"Visualize a great audition from your own perspective as well as from a birds-eye and
committee perspective. Obviously, it's important to visualize everything sounding beautiful, exactly the way you wish to sound, but also it is important to visualize how the instrument feels in your hands, and how the reed/mouthpiece feels against your mouth when you're playing each excerpt exactly the way you want it to go. Visualize the committee reacting positively to your audition and visualize the announcement that you advanced to the next round. Finally, visualize the announcement that you won the audition and that you got the job!"