Meri’s Musical Musings

A possible timeline to get ready for university/college/conservatory music auditions

Posted on: November 1, 2016


1 1/2 to 2 years before

  • Find out requirements for each school you are applying to and individual programs
  • Get a good private teacher for your instrument if you don’t have one already
  • Get a copy of the syllabus for your instrument
  • Work on correcting fundamentals in your playing with your teacher
  • Work on mastering scales and arpeggios
  • Begin working on music theory skills
  • Go through lower level method books designed for private instruction and studies

1 year before

  • Consider registering for an exam that is closest to your ability and repertoire you will be playing for the audition, both theory and practical
  • Master music theory skills, get to a level that is at LEAST the equivalent of Advanced Rudiments,a few schools require or recommend basic harmony
  • Begin or improve piano skills if piano is not your main instrument or you did not reach at least a late intermediate level on it
  • Find recordings of repertoire you are considering performing, ideally professional recordings such as those on the Naxos music library (available for free at some public library systems, otherwise about $25 US a year)

9 months before

  • Register for an exam through a major examining board if possible
  • Finish mastering technical skills for exams and auditions
  • Begin ear training, sight reading, sight singing, rhythmic training skills
  • Find a quality, experienced accompanist who has played the rep before, preferably not a parent, sibling, or friend, as many accompaniments are too difficult for most piano students to learn in a reasonable, and often short, time.

6 months before

  • Practice recording on audio and video an exam that has similar requirements and repertoire for your audition
  • Prepare and submit paperwork for music school applications, including having backups for reference letters if necessary, at least two backups if one or two do not complete them or submit them

3 months before

  • If you haven’t already, pick the best accompanist you can afford, preferably one that knows the repertoire and has played it before; if your private teacher has a highly regarded one, consider using theirs
  • Arrange at least 4 rehearsals with the pianist, 6 if possible, especially if it is your first time working with a pianist
  • Agree to a written fee and when it is to be paid, signed by both the pianist and the soloist
  • Some accompanists will give additional assistance with theory, sight reading, piano skills, ear training and sight singing; be prepared to pay extra if you are still having difficulty
  • Purchase or order your music by this time, especially for schools that require original copies of music.

2 months before

  • If travelling to places outside of where you live for auditions, carefully arrange audition schedule and rides, particularly if your parents or other family cannot or will not get you to your audition location.
  • Try to arrange an early audition date, as more scholarships are available to those that take an early one, and then you can breathe easy if all of them are relatively early in the audition period. If you are well prepared with an early audition date, it looks good that you will plan deadlines carefully.
  • If you get to pick audition dates, bear in mind not only your absences, but that of your accompanist, as they may have certain dates or times they are not available, such as one who is a church musician/music director on Sundays or whatever.
  • Try to arrange for a page turner, perhaps your private teacher can help, either via another student or their colleagues who know people skilled in it.

1 month before

  • Make sure your instrument is in good working order; take it to a good instrument repair person in your area, which are rarely associated with large music shops.
  • Be sure that you have the endurance to last through the audition, home practice sessions and rehearsals with the pianist should be 2-3 times the expected length of the audition, playing through your pieces all the way through without stopping for mistakes and breaks between pieces only about long enough to change to a new piece.
  • Rehearse your answers to likely interview questions, both before you’ve played and after you’ve played, particularly if you are a wind player

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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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