Application season is well and truly underway, and our applicants are looking ahead to the next step in the process—their instrumental audition. We know these auditions can be nerve wracking, so we called in some expert help. Eliza McCracken is AYO’s Artistic Administrator and an AYO alumni! Having gone through a number of AYO programs in the past, Eliza is no stranger to these auditions. We sat down and asked her to share some top tips and tricks to help get you through your audition.

Battling Audition Nerves. AYO alumni Eliza McCracken
AYO Artistic Administrator and alumnus Eliza McCracken

What was your first audition with AYO like? Was it nerve racking? 

My first AYO audition was in 2012, and it was certainly nerve racking! The process of auditioning was still quite new for me at the time—my audition experience up until that point was quite limited so the AYO audition felt like a big learning curve. 

I’d watched my more advanced peers at university (including my older brother) getting into programs the year before, so being accepted was something I begun to really aspire to—it felt quite prestigious! 

The audition itself was a positive experience, the panel were friendly, and I could sense that they wanted to see me do well. 

I ended up being accepted into NMC that year. The more times I auditioned, the more determined I became, and I improved with each audition experience. I ended up advancing through most of AYO’s programs. 

Do you have a specific routine you utilise for auditions? 

Consistency is the key. I try to start early and learn the requirements little by little over a longer length of time. AYO provide a decent window to learn the repertoire, so there’s no excuse to leave it to the last week! 

I like to start with slow, detailed practice to nail the basics and I build on it from there. As I get closer to an audition, I will taper off my practice and focus on the broader picture. It’s useful to run everything through in order without stopping as if you were in the audition. If a friend or family member is available, I recommend playing for them. 

Each time you do an audition you get a better feel for what works for you, and you can continue to refine your routine. 

What do you look for when selecting a piece to audition with? 

I look for something I’m confident performing and enjoy playing that I feel shows me to my best advantage. 

In an audition, the own choice work provides the panel a 5-minute ‘snapshot’ into you as a musician. So, it’s important to consider a work that allows you to display your range of skill so you can put your best foot forward.

I always ensured that I had a discussion with my teacher about this, as they are really in the best position to guide this decision. 

The AYO audition excerpts can be quite challenging. How do you approach audition repertoire, and how do you know if you’re at the right level? 

For me personally, my two best friends are a drone and a metronome! There’s no better place to start than being in tune and in time, and these tools provide a great way to structure your practice. As I work on these basics, I build in the other elements such as articulation, tone, phrasing and so on. 

I listen to recordings and try to understand where my part fits in contextually. It’s ideal if you can hear these other lines in your head as you play and imagine you’re in the ensemble. 

I always found recording myself during the process and listening back was a vital tool as I could recognise things in my playing when I listened back that I might not pick up on in the moment. 

If you’ve given yourself enough time then you’ll know when you feel ready, and the due date won’t sneak up on you. Aim for it to feel bulletproof! 

What are some tips you’d offer our applicants who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed about the auditions? 

Take small steps each day towards your goal and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. 

Each time you do you any audition you’ll improve and gain confidence, so don’t feel like this particular audition is your only shot! Try to focus on what you can learn from the experience, and less about the outcome. If you look at it this way you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. 

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