Handling Disappointment in Auditions

(Origionally posted 1/2/2016)

At some time in our lives, we all experience the feeling of disappointment. It can surface after being dismissed during a round in an audition, when you reach the finals and do not win, when you fall on your face during a recital, or when you are in a rehearsal and let your colleagues down. I have experienced each of these disappointments first hand, but there has been one constant; facing and overcoming disappointments has made me a better musician, and person. This article will address the disappointment caused by auditions. Before you dismiss this article because I have won a job, keep in mind that it took me roughly twenty-two auditions before I was able to win.

When faced with a disappointing audition (one you do not win, or one in which you play poorly), there are two choices of how to react. The first is to make excuses for why you did not win. For example, if you do not advance, you could say, “The panel is being too picky,” or “The list was too hard, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to play it well,” or even, “I played it perfectly, and they should have advanced me – how did person x advance, but not me?” However, this choice of action is completely useless, in that it does not prevent the situation from recurring and will only cause frustration and bitterness. You need to quickly move past the initial emotional response and focus on the facts of the situation. You cannot blame the weather, altitude, time of day, time you spend waiting, or the panel, because everyone deals with the same issues as you, and these factors are out of your control. Instead, focus on the factors that you can control.

This leads to your second choice, which is to ask yourself, “How can I learn from this situation?” Begin by listening to a recording of the audition and objectively writing down every flaw that you hear. If you do not hear any, you are not listening attentively (Even when I listened back to my audition for the Colorado Symphony, I found many improvable parts of my playing). Once you have written down your critique, make a list of the corresponding techniques and address them every day until they become your strengths. Make sure that you work on these techniques from the ground up, meaning that you find the most efficient, musical way to make it consistently perfect. Take the time to work slowly through each technique, ensuring that you can play everything with ease and with a beautiful sound. Eventually, you will have eliminated all your weaknesses, and have control of every technique required to win an audition and successfully play the job.

This was the process that enabled me to win my job, and I still use it to work through my flaws on trumpet. My philosophy was (and is), if I am eliminated from an audition because of a specific technique, I promise myself that I will never be eliminated for the same problem. For example, if double tonguing caused my elimination from an audition, I will work to make it flawless for the next audition. I may be eliminated for something else, but it will not be double tonguing. This actually happened to me in an audition I attended. I did not advance to the finals, but I was afforded comments by two members of the panel. One voted “yes” and the other, “no.” The member who voted “no” told me that he had concerns about my double tonguing and if it had been better, he would have voted “yes.” Since then, I have worked hard to improve my double tonguing and I was even inspired to write many double tonguing exercises, which I have organized into a book…coming soon. I broke down the technique into what I consider to be the four basic types of double tonguing; Clarity, Speed, Fluidity, and Flexibility. By dividing the technique into these sections, I was able to strengthen my double tongue immensely through concentrated practice. These exercises also increased the range of my double tonguing, which improved other techniques - such as my tone, range, control, and overall ease of playing. The next audition that I attended, I won. Double tonguing was the last step for me, but the process is different for everyone.

Throughout my many auditions, I have realized that disappointment can be a useful tool and lead to great improvements. When you eliminate the emotional urges to make excuses, you can objectively focus on improving after each disappointing circumstance. In my career, the most frustrating situations produced perseverance and led to future success.

Philip Hembree