Auditioning: What’s YOUR strategy?

Posted In: Young Harpists

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #166692

    Hi Everyone!

    Gosh, I haven’t posted for so long! This thread’s purpose is to get feedback from harpists of all ages and levels (students, professionals, ametuers) about one topic many harpists can relate to: auditioning!

    At some point in (almost) every harpist’s life, he or she must audition in some capacity. Whether it’s for a spot in a world-renowned orchestra or for a chair in a local community ensemble, auditioning can be stressful, so I

    carl-swanson on #166693

    I would suggest to anyone who has to play in front of people, whether for an audition, or solo performance, to go to my company web site,, click on the Articles page, and read my article called The Big Day. It was originally published in The Harp Column several years ago.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #166694

    If you are auditioning for an orchestra position, make sure you know how the orchestra sounds around the harp excerpt. Sometimes there are expressive things that are not marked in your part, even ritardando’s! Also, be aware that some things that look like cadenzas are not. An example is the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Britten. It is conducted. If you played it freely like a cadenza, you would not make it past the first round. Play through your excerpts well in advance for a harpist who has played them all in an orchestra, and they can tell you these little tricks. There are also well-known “trick” fingerings for some standard excerpts. Beatrice Schroeder Rose’s “The Harp in the Orchestra” has some good ones! When you are playing in front of the committee, keep that orchestra in your head as you play your excerpts. That could make the difference if everyone is playing at a high level, but you are the only one who knows the context.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #166695

    Forget about taking time to get into the music. They will probably tell you to get started already. I tried doing that. You have to condense that into about five seconds. If you feel the music, you only need a moment to slip into it. What you need is to be secure enough to forget about yourself and focus on the music alone.

    unknown-user on #166696

    I try to play to musical people beforehand, and make my parents or friends try to make me laugh or get nervous so that i’m used to being put off. Also I’ve found that you have to try and be memorable, I always smile as I go into the audition room and shake the people’s hands before the performance; it also gives you time to control your nerves. Also, i eat about 3 Bananas to stop me shaking and massage the webb-y bits in between my fingers which does the same thing as warming up.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #166697

    I forgot to mention another important thing: make sure your hands are warm before you play. Get to the hall early enough to warm up, but even so, you may not get all the warm-up time that you would like. For at least two minutes before you play, get the fingers moving to get oxygenated blood going to them. I pretend to play chords, surreptitiously, with my hands in my lap. This is also a great strategy for those times when you are sitting in an orchestra for half an hour and then you have to play a cadenza. Also, make sure you are not breathing in short, ragged breaths. Take slow, deep breaths to control the body’s tendency to produce adrenalin. If you still feel full of adrenalin, that’s okay. That’s what the “practice auditions” are for: so that you get used to playing with adrenalin in your system and it becomes much less frightening.

    unknown-user on #166698

    I know this is going to sound completely strange, but to help get rid of those mild shakeyy nerves, eat a banana about 15-20 min before you play. It sounds insane, but i am a horrible performer, and as soon as i started doing this I played so much better
    hope it helps

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