How to Ace Your Conservatoire Audition and 10 pitfalls to avoid

The time has come. The performance of a lifetime. The Hunger Games of music auditions. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. Play or be played.

Competitive death matches aside, you will no doubt be slightly nervous for your musical school audition, but not to worry! Jellynote has got your back.

Read these tips for how to ace your audition and you’ll be swell!

Not paying attention to the details

Knowledge is power so start researching the audition process early. Firstly, find out when and where the audition is.

When it comes to choosing your pieces, pay close attention to the audition requirements. Are you expected to memorise your pieces? How many pieces should you play in the audition? How long should each piece be? Do the pieces you pick need to contrast with each other? It’s important to find the right balance between playing something impressive and finding a piece which you can realistically learn to a high standard before the audition.

Once you know what you’re going to play, the next, and most important, step of the whole process is learning it. We recommend you start learning the piece about 10 months before your actual audition. For some auditions, there may be set music that you have to learn, we recommend you start with this as the audition panel will probably know it very well having heard countless other performers playing it.

Cue practice montage set to “Make A Man Out of You.” – find your inner courage with this piano solo arrangement of Mulan by Matthew Wilder.

Once you’ve learned the pieces, the best thing you can do is start playing in front of an audience. Go to open mic nights, volunteer to play at school fairs, etc. It’s really helpful to play in front of strangers or in new places as you’ll have to do this in the audition. Having this experience will improve your overall performance. If you need help finding gigs, check out our article outlining the process.

Don’t underestimate the value of insider knowledge. Know anyone who attends or attended the conservatoire you’re auditioning for? Ask them for advice! What’s the venue like? Do you need to bring your own music stand? If you don’t know anyone currently studying there, try and get some information about the process online.

Of course, in most auditions you don’t just have to play for the panel. You may also have a short interview or some aural questions. Try to also spend time prepping for the other aspects of the audition too.

What else might you need? A headshot? A CV? A demo? Find out and prepare it at least a month in advance.

Remember: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Over practice the night before

There’s really not much you can do the night before so don’t get yourself into a state by over-practicing. At this stage, it won’t make you any better. In fact, you might just become more stressed and tire your fingers, which will have an adverse effect on you the next day. Have an early night, a relaxing bath, maybe even try some yoga.

Before you go to bed, make sure you’ve packed your bags and are familiar with the route you plan to take to the audition the next day. Be aware of any train cancellations just in case you have to change your route. You don’t want to be the person arriving late, sweaty and bleeding suspiciously from your elbow…

Long commute in the morning

Depending on how far the interview is, you may have to get up quite early in order to arrive on time. If it’s too far, you should consider coming down the night before and getting a hotel near the audition venue. This means you won’t have to wake up obscenely early on the audition day!

We recommend eating a good breakfast so you’ll have energy for the day. Bananas are good because they contain chemicals which boost your mood and reduce anxiety! And they are such fun snacks!

Neglect the dressing part

Find the balance between comfort and professionalism. Black shoes, black trousers and a white shirt always looks good. Don’t go overboard though…a three piece suit might be taking it a bit too far…

Arrive on time

The last thing you want is to turn up late to your audition! You’ll be stressed out and it’s quite unprofessional. On the day of the audition, we recommend arriving at the venue 15-20 minutes before the sign-up.

Stress out before the audition

Take some time to yourself to warm-up and make sure you’re in tune (both musically and mentally). Think calming thoughts. If you experience stage fright, check out our article on how to combat nerves.

Here’s what Caspar Singh, recent graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama has to say:

“Before performing I try and act as normal as possible, perhaps listening to some music or getting some food/water etc. I like to treat it like any other job. Just before I go on stage I will do some breathing exercises to calm me down and also a physical exercise that helps me feel grounded.”

Stop at the first mistake

What you have to remember is that music schools aren’t looking for perfection. The whole point of training is to learn how to be perfect. This means it’s really not the end of the world if you make a mistake. Most of the audition panel will be impressed if you can recover from the mistake and not let it distract you from the rest of the performance.

Act cold and distant in front of the panel

When you enter the audition room, try and seem confident (even if you’re not). Be friendly to the panel, shake their hand and look them in the eye. They may well be teachers at the conservatoire and will be more likely to admit you if they want to teach you.

Not enjoy yourself

Remember why you’re doing this…you love music. Relish the opportunity to play in front of industry professionals…who knows when you’ll get the same opportunity. Let your passion come through your performance and the panel will enjoy it even more.

Let it be

After your interview, try not to dwell on it. Nothing good comes from thinking about all the mistakes you made. Distract yourself with other things until your results come out. Like politics! Or “Cats”!

Think failure means the end

If you don’t get in, it’s important to remember that rejection is rife in the creative industry. You’re not alone. If you do find yourself on the wrong end of a music rejection, don’t let it get to you. All the greats faced rejection. Rosamund Pike was rejected by every drama school she applied to and now she is literally Rosamund Pike!

Try not to put all of your musical ambitions in one basket. Branch out and apply to different schools to maximise your chances of getting in somewhere!

May the odds be ever in your favour!

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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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