Many say that the road to a successful orchestral audition is paved with obtaining many skills not necessarily needed for the job of sitting in the chair after it. Preparing for an audition takes complete knowledge of the repertoire and many varying recordings of each piece of music, complete and total mastery of each excerpt, and simply sounding better than everyone else who’s auditioning. This is a massive feat, considering the staggering number of people in the world who can perform said skills, coupled with the sheer number of “chairs” out there. There simply are not enough jobs, which has resulted in the amount of precision demanded by audition committees.

 

SUMMARY:

6 Weeks to Finals: The Complete System for Audition Success is a wonderfully thoughout book meant to aid in preparation for orchestral audition process. Author, Sharon Sparrow, Assistant Principal Flute of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, draws from her own experience, along with countless others (including a few personnel managers) to bring the reader a tried and true process for being successful in an audition, regardless the “stakes.” This highly-detailed, 6 week plan of preparation for audition success includes mental and physical conditioning, a daily, intentional regiment of practicing excerpts, listening to music playlists, performing mock auditions in a variety of circumstances, audition day itself, and tailoring specific warm-up routines for each musical excerpt. For $20, this 63-page book may seem like an overpriced bunch of notes, but in the right hands, this book can help provide an edge over other competitors; being more prepared in every imaginable way, than anyone else.

 

PROS:

This book is written really well, in the fact that it feels like something coming from a friend, or someone who really cares about helping other musicians. Another really great thing is how systematic and approachable the concepts are, as it really gives you an encouraging outlook over the whole process. Being only 63 pages, it can be a super easy read, taking maybe a few hours. It also has visuals and chapter summaries to stay on track.

 

CONS:

The only con, in my opinion, is the lack of detail in the previous 2 weeks to the 6-week program: the Conditioning phase. It would be really helpful to see examples of what types of exercises she uses to “get into shape” during this phase of preparation.

 

OVERALL:

Her words regarding the outcome of the process,

“Once I devised this 6-week system and began using it, I felt two really amazing things that I had never felt before an audition. The first was the belief, real belief in my heart, that no one, not one person at that audition, could have out-prepared or worked any harder than I did. The second came after I played, that no matter what the committee said, I already felt like a winner for the immense progress I had made and for the invaluable tools I had accumulated on this journey to audition day. Nothing could ever take that away from me. My level had been raised, my game forever upped.”

 

This book is a MUST HAVE for audition preparation! I’m looking forward to using this process for a few upcoming competitions and auditions. Now we see who can be the most prepared!

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I ask myself a lot, “why am I doing this?” In fact, I ask myself a lot of questions daily, all stemming out of why. The long list of these questions asking why is way too long for a blog post, even too long for a rant. But a few tend to be, “Why do I play tuba? Why do I need to practice 4+ hours a day? Why do I need to write music? Why have a website? Why write a blog?” and most importantly, “Why would I do all these things, and somehow think I have something valuable to offer other people?” That is the most puzzling question I ask myself daily that, quite honestly, tends to yield the most simple answer; because it’s what we do.

Now when I say we, I’m talking about musicians in specific. But really, it is true for all people, all over the world, no matter our background, cultures, etc. This everlasting cycle of learning and sharing, that begins with us as we’re born and follows us to the day we die. We as humans long to learn and share, to absorb and emit, and to study and teach. From our first breath, we are already studying and absorbing everything we can about our new environment so we can simply survive. Every action we make is an imitation of our parents and others that make up our world (teachers). We slowly start to master certain skills such as walking, talking, moving etc. until we finally become the ones others learn from. We become teachers, whether we know it or not. When speakers come to schools, talking with students about what they want to be, only a few will say they want to be teachers. The simple fact is, we ALL are teachers, especially when one starts a family. Teaching is inevitable, even when we may not consider ourselves masters of a certain skill. The young must be taught by the old(er). Anyone older or more experienced than the young learner, becomes a teacher (found in a tremendous amount of variability in skill levels).

I would imagine at this point that many of you are starting to understand my point. Even though the world is filled with individuals that far surpass our own capabilities, we all are responsible for sharing what we have learned through our own experiences, because ultimately, we all have a unique experience worth sharing.

So the purpose of this blog is not to show the world how much I know, but rather what I have learned through my experiences and current vantage point, that could be of use to someone else. In addition to this, I (the teacher) consider myself to be a life-long learner, and hope this whole process will help me make sense of my own wonderings and questions. We are all in this together, like it or not.

*Now you can dry your eyes from the weight of that inspirational bomb.

Defining success has always been a hot topic among driven professionals. With libraries filled with books on success by every year’s most successful CEO, Business President, Musician, etc, the topic has been approached in many ways, but mostly centered on the idea of working harder than everyone else, sacrificing more of  ___(fill in the blank)___  than anyone else is willing to.

 

SUMMARY:

In Mindset, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, Ph.D., targets the motivation behind successful people and those who are not yet successful, finding that it all came down to a person’s (you guessed it) mindset. Through her extensive research, Dweck has found that a person’s mindset can be described as fitting into one of two categories; a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Throughout the book, Dweck uses many experiments and case studies as examples to define both mindsets, from studies of children in learning environments to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and even several examples in the world of competitive athletics.

 

PROS:

The prose of the book is written with the average person in mind, leaving out technical jargon and other meaningless information, while focusing on the real meat of the issue. In addition, the material is presented in a thorough and systematic way, providing the reader with plenty of examples of both the fixed and growth mindsets, allowing the concepts to be understood. At the end of every chapter, there is also a summary of the topics discussed, as well as a “Grow Your Mindset” section where you can mull over some of the questions, asked by the author to, as the title suggests, turn your mindset into a growth-centered one.

Quite honestly, if you would describe yourself as a life-long learner, having a growth centered mindset, you can get a lot out of this book. On the contrary, if you feel this book may be overly-critical, useless and “another self-help book,” you may be what Carol Dweck describes as a person with a fixed mindset.

 

CONS:

Unfortunately, because of it’s widespread influence on culture and everyday life, as well as it’s simplistic idea, the majority of the book can feel extremely repetitive, going through a long list of case studies and examples with similar (and predictable) results.

 

OVERALL:

This book really should be on your shelf if you are looking to become a teacher, athlete, musician, inventor, business executive, or even just a well-rounded, growing individual. The many examples in this book give the reader ample material to study their own life habits and situations, ultimately aiding in long-term improvement.

As I sit here on an early Sunday morning in January, my mind tosses and turns, thinking about the many other things I could be doing. My mind would tell me to substitute could for should, reminding me that someone else out there might be “hitting the gym” early, sharpening their skills at becoming the next great somebody. But as I meditate on that humbling fact, I’m also drawn to the definition of success. I am sure that most of us have heard, from an early age that “the early bird gets the worm” or “the price of success is hard work” or “no sacrifice, no victory” etc. (I don’t mean to quote an endless world of quotes about hard work).

By poking fun at this mindset, in no way am I suggesting the road to success is the opposite; a healthy dose of natural ease with a dash of endless indulgence. What I hope to do, is examine what success really means. Is success, simply, the reward for working hard, eventually leading to an easy life? Or is success something different?

Before we get too far into the rabbit hole of “defining success,” a topic, upon which, volumes upon volumes have already been written, I’d urge us all to mull over that question for a while. What does success really mean? And especially, what does success mean to me and what I want to do?