Hello! My name is Emily.

I’m a high school senior and I’ve been playing the clarinet for almost eight years. I plan on going into composition in college and I was very surprised to find that the auditions for composition majors are just as hard as those for performance majors. I’m afraid I’m a bit unprepared.

The audition for Indiana University requires (1) all major and minor (harmonic and melodic) scales through seven sharps and flats which I think I can handle with enough practice, (2) one slow etude, (3) one fast etude, and (4) two contrasting solos from the standard repertoire.

First of all, what exactly is standard repertoire? I have never had a private instructor (which I realize now that I probably should have) and I’m not familiar with very many soloistic works. A few years ago, I bought Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet, which I’m pretty sure would count, but I think it’s too hard for me. The audition for Western Michigan (another college I’m interested in) asked for Carl Maria von Weber’s Concertino or the first two movements from either of his Concertos. I plan to buy the Concertino soon. So if I were (by some miracle) to have both of those pieces ready (the Stravinsky and the von Weber), would that count as standard repertoire? If I can’t master the Stravinsky, do you have another suggestion?

I have 24 Etudes by C. Rose, which I bought for the purpose of college auditions. Could you give me some advice as to which Etudes would be the best for me to play? I’m currently working on numbers 1 and 18.

Also, when playing a fast piece with continuous sixteenth notes into infinity, how do you get a breath? Or are you supposed to have enough breath support to get through those huge phrases?

Well, Emily, there is work to be done.

Standard repertoire is music written by composers such as Brahms (2 sonatas), Schumann (two sets of pieces), Moazrt (concerto and much chamber music), Weber, Spohr, etc. There are many works within this list that are simpler than the Stravinsky Pieces, always difficult, especially since basic tonal concepts are part of all of these pieces.

The committee will be especially wary of poor playing habits, unformed musculature, and virtually no playing experience, even though you are entering in “Composition”.

The most important aspect of the clarinet is the formation of correct playing habits, and a correct concept of the sound. That is your hardest job at present.

The Weber Concertino is a good selection, not difficult but refelective of correct playing habits and some knowledge of the instrument.

The first “Rose Study” is the slowest and the most difficult of the set. It is the one that all teachers give to their students in order to teach them basic clarinet precepts. Number 18 is probably Allegro, if so, play that as well. They are your “contrasting etudes”.

Do not bother with the Stravinsky, that is for later, and if you are puzzled by breathing spots in passages of velocity, this is not the time for Stravinsky.

All of these schools have their pick of high school clarinetists, or clarinet-players, and therefore the auditions are commensurate with the number of applications, that is to say, the more applicants, the more difficult the audition.

As far as your composition, how much study have you had and what is in your portfolio to send to the audition comittee. You are applying to one of the most sought-after universities, so your works is cut out for you.

One would hope that you have had formal training in composition from a teacher who perhaps can write you a recommendation. After reading your letter, I find you to be literate but apparently naive to a surprising degree concerning just what goes on in the world of the clarinet at that level and music as well.

The important thing in breathing during a passage of velocity is to know the form of the work your are playing. There are always places to breathe, but they need to be “musical” or sensible places. I do not mean to sound in any way harsh, however University of Indiana is not a joke and I would imagine that they are as competitive as any place these days.

I do not mean to deter you or to depress you. You may have talent either for the clarinet or for composition. If you do, that will show and you can be admitted on that talent alone.

Good luck to you in all your endeavors. Get the Concertino today and all the works you will play.


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