In the lead-up to opening our online audition portal, we wanted to share some tips and tricks from our experienced AYO musicians. As part of the audition, most musicians need to select a piece of their own choosing to perform to the panel – here are some examples from the AYO community and why their choices worked for them.
Hayasa Tanaka, viola
- Most important! Discuss with your teacher with ample time before the audition about what piece to prepare and present.
- Choose a piece which makes you stand out positively from the crowd, you want the panel to look up from their papers and pay attention to your playing.
- It’s always better to play an easier piece well than a harder piece badly.
- If your piece has a slower beginning, or takes time to “get going”, think about skipping that part and starting where the more exciting stuff happens.
- Enjoy the piece you’ve chosen when you play it, think of it more as a concert than an audition.
- Maybe don’t pick a very obscure piece, you want the panel to listen and concentrate on your playing.
- Make sure there is a good balance of technicality and musicality in your piece.
I picked the first movement of Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata as it has an attention-grabbing beginning. Very extroverted piece – good if your audition is scheduled for 9am on a Monday and you need to wake the panel up! There’s a good balance of technicality and musicality that you can demonstrate, and it shows off both the lower and higher ranges of viola. I personally enjoy this piece.
Josef Hanna, violin
My advice for anyone trying to find the perfect piece for an audition would be to try and find a piece of music that you’re comfortable with technically and are comfortable playing from memory. A piece of music that you’re passionate about and also best conveys your own unique musical style and expression.
If I had to recommend a piece of music, I would probably say Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No.3. A piece not too overwhelming technically but with lots of room to show off your flair and brilliance while also allowing your musicality to shine through.
Alex Allan, oboe
I think the right choice is always something that allows you to feel comfortable, warm into the instrument and allay some nerves. Usually you’ll have ample opportunity to demonstrate you can handle technical passages in the excerpts anyway. Playing something familiar, secure and in current rotation not only gives you a chance to relax, but also to demonstrate the basics of a strong core sound and good control.
I’ve previously chosen the opening of the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto for these reasons.
Eliza Shephard, flute
For your own-choice piece, you’re literally being told “show us what you’ve got!” When brainstorming appropriate pieces, I want to prioritise showcasing:
- mastery over my instrument
I gravitated towards 20th Century works, my reasoning being the excerpts tend to showcase classical and romantic styles.
One piece I performed for an AYO audition was Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Sonata (Appassionata) Op.140 (1917). It has gorgeous luscious passages throughout, segments that required fiery fingers, and a masterful approach to colours and expression.
Alfie Carslake, trumpet
An own choice piece should be something that you know really well, and something that you believe shows your voice as a musician. It doesn’t have to be the hardest piece in the repertoire. Instead the panel will more likely want to hear you playing something you’re comfortable with, that perhaps shows a few different aspects of your playing too.
My choice is the first movement of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat, Hob.Vlle:1.
Hamish Gullick, double bass
When I pick an audition piece I have two main criteria:
- Have I learnt it before?
- Does it demonstrate the best aspects of my playing?
Just like with your excerpts you want to be showing you’ve got great time, intonation and style. Save your blended, measured orchestral palette for later, it’s time to bust out your classiest solo sound! For me a good audition piece would look something like the Koussevitzky Concerto Movement 1. I’ve played it a million times, it’s very standard repertoire and it shows enough technical ability while still being comfortable to play. It’s also has plenty of opportunities to draw the nectar from the best bits of the bass!
One of my favourite recordings online of this particular Concerto is from the late Rinat Ibragimov. This recording is absolutely oozing with character while staying true to the score.
Rory Smith, cello
You need to show off who you are in an own choice piece. Often in the past, I thought by picking a piece in the standard concerto repertory, that I’d have a better chance at getting a good result from an audition. This may be the case for some, but I think it’s important that you pick a piece that shows off who you are and what music you connect with (within reason of course).
The first movement of Prokofiev Cello Sonata.
Frankly I don’t connect with the Haydn C major Concerto but Prokofiev? Absolutely. I’ve felt the most successful – regardless of the result – in an audition playing something that inspires me as a musician.
Clare Fox, clarinet
As it is common to commence with the own choice piece, the ideal choice would be a piece that the player is very familiar with, and loves and enjoys to play. It should be comfortably within the technical capabilities of the player too, which will help to build confidence and assurance from the outset of the audition. It is also likely to create a positive initial impression to the panel, and good preparation for the rest of the audition to settle into the orchestral excerpts. Ideally it should not be straining at the limits of the player’s technical command, but allow for a full musical expression of a favourite piece.
A piece I have chosen in the past for my AYO audition is Hommage á M. de Falla by Béla Kovács. I chose this piece because it is instantly captivating to an audience (in this case, the panel) as well as really fun to play! My favourite recording is performed by Dean Newcomb, Principal Clarinet of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and a tutor of many AYO programs over the years.
Tim Allen-Ankins, french horn
I recommend choosing a piece that highlights your strengths and enables musical maturity. The piece should be within your technical capabilities but not too easy for you – taking risks can often pay off. The panel will like to see your passion and enjoyment in your chosen piece. It’s important to consider how you will manipulate musical elements in order to convey contrasts in tone and character. Also it’s good to be aware of how the piece will sound in your chosen acoustic and which aspects may need to be exaggerated to be heard clearly.
I have performed Strauss’ 1st Horn Concerto for several auditions because it demonstrates important capabilities in flexibility, tone and lyricism, which are so often tested within orchestral repertoire. The first movement is a perfect length for an audition and requires a convincing control of register, dynamics and articulation.
Jarrod Callaghan, trombone
Choosing an own choice for an audition is your chance to show the panel your creative side. Should you pick something standard or should you go in another direction? You do not want to show the panel what you cannot do, rather what you can do, so pick whatever is going to show your strengths. In AYO auditions, the panel want to hear you enjoying music and telling a convincing story, so be sure to pick a piece that you enjoy performing. My two top picks for own choice are the Henri Tomasi Trombone Concerto and the Launy Grøndahl Trombone Concerto.