Auditions, the moment of truth

Hello Mr. Friedland,

First let me begin by thanking you for this wonderful resource. I come to your site often for new ideas and approaches to playing the clarinet.

I am a mater’s student at Boston University, currently studying with Ethan Sloane. I’ve been putting alot of emphasis on working on the standard orchestral excerpts in preparation for taking auditions, etc. I would like to know what an audition committee is looking for during an audition. Also, how forgiving are they for little mistakes that might occur due to nerves, etc.

My second question is about air…I’ve noticed that when I play a small little stream of air can be heard/felt coming out the sides of my mouth. Its not terribly noticeable to an audience, but is this anything to be alarmed about? I’ve often heard other clarinetists do the same thing.

Thank you for your time!

Hello Peter:
Many thanks for your letter and comments. They are deeply appreciated. It is very gratifying to be able to respond to both young , and more experienced clarinetists, and entering professional, and even more.

In the case of audition committees, I’ll begin with a story of a student of mine who took an audition for the second clarinet position of the Denver Symphony . This was a number of years ago.

He related to me during his preparatory lesson that this audition would consist of requests for certain excerpts. If during the audition you heard a bell ring, that was the end, and you were dismissed, no words, nothing, just the bell.

My student than played a number of the standard orchestral excerpts that are usually asked for at auditions:
Beethoven Pastoral, Third, Eighth, and Fourth, Mendellsohn Italian,Reformation, and Midsummer Nights Dream.

When he played the scherzo, I stopped him telling him that he was not playing in time, which was true.
“Time” is the single most important thing that is listened for, that is to say ones sense of rhythm and their execution.

No, he didn’t get the job. I asked him how far he had gotten and he responded, “to the place you told me they would ring the bell

In his case, it was deserved because he was unusually cocky and didn’t play all that well, and an audition is the “moment of truth” for a clarinetist, the Scherzo from the Mendelssohn being the perfect place .
So, they do not let little things go by, not at all has been my experience, not at all. Or specifically, at an audition the committee is totally unforgiving, nothing is allowed to “go by” as you have asked. There are so many people who go to these audtions that they have to be this way. Which is not meant to be a deterrent. Aim for and achieve perfection.
“Nerves” are not allowed. Everyone is under the same pressure.

As to your second question, you can eliminate the small leakage that occurs at the sides of your mouth. It is a matter of concentration on the specific sound and from where it emanates, then stopping it.
You must and you will. I did, using that concentration, and as I recall it is a habit that has been allowed to go by , and those are the things that must be eliminated. That is not to say that it will keep you from success in the orchestra , but it is all a part of the clarinet, or better, the clarinet business. I perhaps could help if I could see you play, but the best idea is not to allow it.

I hope this has been of some help.

Best of all good luck in all your work at BU and at the auditions. Myself,I am from Boston , went to BU for a while and then NEC, but that was almost 50 years ago. (Oh my god!)

sherman friedland


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