As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am currently in the process of preparing for All-State auditions. All-State “preparation season” begins in late July when the etudes are released, and goes until late October when auditions are held. The audition consists of three components: scales, a solo, and the etudes.
When you walk into the audition room, the very first thing you play is your solo. This allows you to become comfortable during your audition by playing something you are very familiar with. The solo is any selected piece of music that lasts about one minute. It is a piece that will really show you off, and all you have to offer as a player. In fact, I recently switched part of the solo I will be playing this year because it didn’t fully show off my best abilities.
The etudes are quite similar to the solo, minus the fact that everyone auditioning on a particular instrument will be playing the same etudes, whereas there is not a specific solo that must be played. In general, two etudes are selected out of a book that is used year after year. To prevent unfair repetition, etudes can only be used once every four years. Traditionally, one of the etudes chosen, is faster, which displays the player’s technical abilities. The other selected etude is normally a slower piece that allows tone and phrasing to be highlighted. Technique, tone, and phrasing are still important however, no matter what type of selection is being played. During the audition, the judge will pick only a portion of each etude that you must play. This means that you need to be comfortable playing from any spot in the etude, not just from top to bottom.
Finally, we have the most important part of the audition: the scales. As my band director says, “Anyone can play their solo and etudes. Not everyone can go in and play the scales.” The judge will have you draw two slips of paper that have two different scale names on them. These are to be played at a specific tempo (88 beats per minute if you really care) that is provided by a metronome. Then you must play your “choice scale.” This can be any scale you want, aside from the two you have already drawn. The tricky thing about the choice scale, is making a smart selection. You don’t want to play something that is so difficult that you fall flat on your face, but you also don’t want to pick an easy scale that doesn’t show you have the ability to play something challenging.
I know I said scales were the last thing, but you must also play the chromatic (which is technically still a scale). In a chromatic, you must play every single note that your instrument can play in ascending and descending order. The goal is to play as fast as you possibly can without crashing and burning.
Hopefully this little walkthrough of a typical All-State audition gives you an idea of what I will be going through in about a month!