Tips from Juilliard: Audition Prep Is Not Just About Practicing

Tips from Juilliard: Audition Prep Is Not Just About Practicing

This is a monthly column from Juilliard about the nuts and bolts of admissions. Search the archives for previous posts.

Preparing for an audition means hours, days, and weeks of practice. Yet all the practice in the world can be for naught if you do not also pay attention to two other parts of audition preparation. These two parts relate to your physical state and logistics.

To give you advice on these parts of the audition, I have enlisted the help of Annie Bosler, DMA. Dr. Bosler is a horn teacher, free-lance musician, writer, and mom. She has presented workshops on college preparation for musicians and has developed the website Together with Don Greene, PhD, and myself, Dr. Bosler co-authored the book, College Prep for Musicians.

Physical Preparation for Auditions

Professional musicians take auditions throughout their careers. But when it comes to college auditions, there is one big difference: College auditions tend to all take place around the same time of year. As an applicant, you are thus faced with a concentrated stretch of time when you have to sustain a high level of performance through multiple auditions. Add to that the challenge of traveling to the auditions and you have a situation where self-care becomes a critical component of your preparation. Here are some of Dr. Bosler’s suggestions for physical preparation:

  • Food: In the days leading up to an audition, keep your food simple and healthy. Avoid salt and processed foods (which can cause swelling), high-acidic foods, and caffeine (that is, stick with your normal caffeine intake). For potassium, which helps to slow down the adrenalin in your system, eat bananas, cantaloupe, lima beans, and potatoes. Prior to the actual audition, stick to simple foods that balance proteins and carbs.
  • Water: Drinking water throughout the day is a habit that we all should develop. When the body is being stressed—by travel, by auditions—staying hydrated is even more important. About 72 hours before an audition, start increasing your water intake; taper off about two hours before the audition. 
  • Sleep: It is important to get more sleep in the days before the audition, not less. While life does go on with homework and chores and other commitments, at this point you should consider sleep to be a priority, with the most important night for good sleep being two nights prior to the audition. Even if you don’t think you can fall asleep, lay quietly in the dark and use imaging or another tool to relax the body and quiet the mind.

Logistical Preparation for Auditions

Remember that the goal of an audition is to show off your best artistic self. It is very difficult to do that if you are feeling unhealthy and stressed. You have probably heard a lot of advice (including the above) about staying healthy. But auditions often require travel and being in new places. You can take steps to minimize the stress that comes with audition logistics by being organized and planning ahead. Here are some of Dr. Bosler’s suggestions for logistical preparation:

  • Create a calendar. This can be a calendar only for audition dates and travel, or it can be part of a larger calendar or spreadsheet showing all deadlines and events. Schools often have auditions on multiple dates, but some do not have options. So begin filling in the calendar with the audition dates that do not have options, and choose dates for other auditions based on the immovable dates. You also will want to add travel information to this calendar. For example, if your goal is to arrive one day prior to the audition, make sure you put that on the calendar; include travel departure and arrival times. 
  • Make a packing list. If you are traveling to locations with different types of weather, be prepared. Do you need gloves? A scarf? An umbrella? Will you be at a higher altitude or in a drier climate than your usual environment? Always carry your music with you, as well as making sure you can access (electronically or on paper) directions to the audition site and contact information for the admissions office.
  • Check and double-check your audition schedule. This will usually contain information about the time of your audition, access (or not) to a warm-up space, the locations of the audition room and the warm-up spaces, and times for any other audition-related activities. These might include an information session, a campus tour, an interview, testing, etc. Some activities may be optional, but others are not. Rehearse in your head the layout of the rest of the day, and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your first scheduled required activity. When possible, scope out the campus and building the day before the audition, so that you know where you are going on the audition day. And don’t forget to check in so that the admissions staff know that you have arrived. They can give you updates (such as whether the auditions are running on time) and answer any of your questions about the process.

Taking care of yourself and planning ahead logistically will support your goal of showing off your best artistic self at each audition. If unexpected complications arise—weather- or health-related—use the contact information for the admissions office. Stay calm, reach out, and together you will find a solution. Visualize yourself shaking off the complication and walking into the audition room, ready to do your best.

Kathleen Tesar

Kathleen Tesar, BM, MM, EdD, is the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School. A former professional violinist, she was previously the Associate Dean at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and Director of Admissions at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. She presents frequently on topics related to performing arts admission, and is co-author of College Prep for Musicians (Bosler, Greene, Tesar).