Orchestra Audition Tips from Conductor Spencer Aston

Orchestra Audition Tips from Conductor Spencer Aston

If you are a musician aspiring to become involved in one of many musical organizations that may be in your area, auditions and the knowledge of how to maneuver through the audition process is something that will be crucial to your success. Just the thought of the word “AUDITION” can elicit a response in our body that manifests itself in shaking, sweating, nervousness, and a general anxiety about putting yourself out there for others to judge. This can be a challenging thing for any professional, amateur, or student musician to endure.

Unfortunately, the audition has become a rite of passage that is a necessary hurdle before the eventual participation in a musical ensemble.

Listed below are some tips and techniques that I’ve adopted over the years that will increase the likelihood that you will have a positive audition experience. Remember that a “positive audition experience” doesn’t necessarily mean that you make it. You can only control how you play and the outcome of the audition will ultimately depend on many factors that are out of your control. Go in and play to display a fair representation of your ability and level. You cannot control the other variables. If you feel good about how you played, then it was a success!

Some of the ensembles/activities that you may need to audition for include:

  • Advanced ensembles within your school music program
  • District festival ensembles
  • MICCA Solo and Ensemble
  • Local youth band/orchestra
  • Summer music program
  • Community band/orchestra
  • Professional band/orchestra


Tips for Playing a Successful Audition
These are some helpful tips that I instill with all of my students during the process of preparing for an audition.

Scales are automatic points. Practice your scales. This should be the easy part of the audition….. as long as you are prepared. If you put enough time and energy into your scales, these can be played without any mistakes on a consistent basis every single time. Do not be the one who misses making Senior District Festival by 1 point because you missed 2 points on your scales. It happens all the time and breaks my heart every time because this can be prevented.

Perfect Performance vs. Musical Performance. We are often times caught up in the concept of playing it perfectly. It is true that we need to maintain a certain level of accuracy but if it’s not musical, it doesn’t matter how perfect it is. Always focus on the music. This is the single most important part about everything that you play. Without musical intention, it is just notes on the instrument and not a musical conversation between the performer and listener.

Sight Reading. Practice sight-reading every day. This is one skill that will not get better without going through the motions of the sight-reading process.


Most of my students get nervous when they audition. They also often find that when they are nervous, they do not play according to the plan and find themselves frustrated by their physical reaction to the audition process. I frequently hear them say, “If only I wasn’t so nervous!” To this reaction, I have the following response:

Always remember that the nerves you experiences are in fact a good thing. We get nervous because we care about what we are doing and how we perform. Ultimately, we are in the audition because we want to play well and have the opportunity to participate in whatever we may be auditioning for. If you don’t get nervous, that means you don’t care. So now that we’ve established that nerves are a good thing, we can go about the task of learning how to deal with the nerves in a way that will allow us to perform at our highest ability.

Be Prepared. I have found that I am most nervous when I know that I have not properly prepared for an audition. I trust that you have an excellent private teacher who is willing to walk you through the appropriate steps to adequately prepare for your next audition. Listen to them! Follow their advice! They have a wealth of knowledge about your instrument and the music that you are preparing and they will know what to do to ensure that you are prepared and ready to have a great audition!

Get Plenty of Sleep. During the weeks and days leading up to your audition, make sure to get plenty of rest. If you come into an audition on minimal sleep, your mind and body will not be prepared to perform at its best and the end result will be lacking the attention to detail that you put into each and every practice session leading up to the audition. In addition, you may not sleep very well the night before your audition. If you have been preparing well for this audition by getting lots of rest, then a few hours less on the night before the audition will not have catastrophic affects on your ability to play a successful audition.

Proper Fuel Makes the Engine Run Smoothly. Pay close attention to your eating/hydrating habits leading up to the audition. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water during the week of your audition and make sure that on the day of your audition, you’ve given careful thought to what you are going to eat so that your body has the energy needed to perform.

Consider the Mundane. Have you thought about the ordinary tasks you do every day and how they will affect your audition? It is almost inevitable that something will not go according to plan leading up to the audition. The only question is how prepared you are to deal with those little life occurrences that on a normal day would not be a problem, but on audition day, can balloon into something uncontrollable. Do you know where you are going? Do you know what time you need to be there? Did you factor in enough time for warming up? Did you factor in time to eat something, even just a snack? Will the weather play a role in how the day unfolds? There are many more questions just like these that will help you in preparation for whatever may happen.

Have fun! This is perhaps the most important aspect. We play an instrument because it can be fun to see that through hard work and dedication we can achieve our goals, we can make great music, and we can have fun with others while doing so. The stresses associated with the audition process can cause us to lose sight of why we play an instrument. Have fun and enjoy what you’re doing and you will feel truly invested in the process and the musical journey that you are taking.

All the Best! See you at the auditions!

Dr. Spencer Aston
Conductor of the MYSP Chamber Orchestra


Placement Auditions for the 2018-2019 Season!

We're holding auditions for our MYSP orchestras in spring and fall, as well as on an ongoing basis. Read more about the orchestras and find information on ages, rehearsal schedules, and audition requirements right here on our website. Current MYSP students planning to continue in the same level of MYSP need not audition again, unless they hope to move up a level.

You may sign up for one of the following audition times, or arrange a time with our Conductors:

  • Friday, June 1, 4:00-7:00 pm
  • Saturday, June 2, 3:00-6:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 3, 1:00-5:00 pm


PO Box 398 Belmont, MA 02478  |  Phone: 617.484.4696  

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