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How to impress in your audition

Sunday 10 October, 2021

Prospective music students are adding the final touches to their programmes ahead of conservatoire auditions which are coming up soon. The audition process can be a stressful time, with a desire to impress in a competitive environment often piling on pressure as youngsters aim to take the first steps of the rest of their musical lives.

Amos Miller, head of brass at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, shares advice and tips on getting it right in the audition room.


Paradoxically, given the title of this piece, trying to impress is probably the least sensible or successful motivation to have as you prepare for and execute an audition. Auditions tend to assume intimidatingly gargantuan proportions in your mind as you approach them: by definition they are generally only going to be undertaken to try and achieve something that you really want, and so there can be a sense of overwhelming (and counter-productive) self-pressure.

This pressure can manifest itself in many ways including anxiety, “what-ifs” and performance nerves; as musicians, all of these things tend to focus our attention, very unhelpfully, on what our weaknesses are. In the world of psychotherapy there is a concept known as “top dog”: this is the internal voice (which we all have) that says negative and demeaning things to ourselves, especially in vulnerable moments. For example, as you approach a tricky high note, I don’t suppose there is a brass player anywhere who hasn’t heard a little voice saying “I bet you spaff this, this is really hard, and you’re not good enough” – or a variation of that.


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Issue 6112 digital October 7, 2021