University auditions

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Barbara Eadie said: Sep 3, 2017
Barbara Eadie
Suzuki Association Member
Flute
Victoria, BC
13 posts

We have a unique problem. My husband and I keep getting phone calls from parents of kids in the fall of grade 12 wanting help with audition preparation. Most of these kids have never taken lessons before and have only played in their school ensembles. They are usually the top player in these ensembles, but they have no idea of the level of competence necessary to get into a B Music program at a university. We do what we can, letting them know that they have a tremendous amount of work to do to be ready in what usually amounts to about 8 months.

My question is twofold. First, how do you gently tell someone they are too far behind to take a university audition? What alternatives would you suggest? Second, any suggestions on how to increase the number of students from public school music programs that enroll in private lessons? Many parents think they kids get all they need from the school instrumental music teacher! Any feed back is welcome!

Joanne Shannon said: Sep 3, 2017
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Los Angeles, CA
49 posts

Are there any videos available of students performing the type of pieces required for the auditions? You might search out youtube. If your ambitious students see the level that is required, they may consider their challenge from another viewpoint. I would caution discouraging them; after all, this is one of those life lessons many of us have been challenged with in our youth when we thought we knew it all. We don’t want to deprive them of the same opportunity. Just show them what they should be aiming for and let them have a go at it. I hate to say this, but I got a scholarship on the string bass and I was really a very below average player. But they needed basses for the University orchestra, granted me money for private lessons, and when I got there, I found out what real practicing was all about! You just never know. (and I’m still not much of a bass player….but a very successful music teacher.)

Barbara Eadie said: Sep 4, 2017
Barbara Eadie
Suzuki Association Member
Flute
Victoria, BC
13 posts

Thanks, Joanne.

I agree, you should never tell a student they can’t, however to let
them take an audition that is over their head is cruel. Unfortunately, this student plays the flute which is as highly competitive as the violin (maybe more so!).

I was also thinking of checking out 2 year programs at smaller colleges with the idea of transferring later. I, also was not a great player when I started this journey. I really did not know how to practice until after my Bachelor’s degree. After that, I progressed very quickly!

The other part of my question is harder to solve. Taking private lessons on band instruments in my city is not in the general culture. Piano and strings, yes, but band instruments not so much! Any ideas on how to change this?

Joanne Shannon said: Sep 4, 2017
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Los Angeles, CA
49 posts

I did take a few private clarinet lessons when I was in band. The teacher actually came to our school. I don’t know how successful he was….I was still a teenager and couldn’t afford the lessons for long on my meager babysitting money. But you might try nosing around a few schools and talking to the band teachers.

Ingrid Popp said: Sep 6, 2017
Ingrid Popp
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Saint Louis, MO
9 posts

I agree that you should never tell a student that they can’t do something. I would probably first let them know that I thought they were capable of eventually achieving admission to the program, but let them know that they are competing with students who have had private lessons for years and that they probably won’t be able to compete with them in the time you have left before auditions. You could suggest the option of Community college for a year or two to get some general education requirements out of the way while they prepare for an audition or taking a year off to practice and prepare (and perhaps work to save money for college and pay for lessons).

For the second part of your question. One, I think this is a common problem for all wind/brass teachers in most places (I even run into this attitude occasionally as a violin/viola teacher, since the schools here do have strong programs and occasionally a talented student will do well without private lessons (very unusual)). You may already do this, but do you have a relationship with (or at least contact with) the band directors in your area? I try to contact the orchestra directors of the students I teach (especially when my student is doing well in their program) and introduce myself, this tends to lead to at least one or two referrals for lessons (and some teachers just have a list of teachers they hand out and put me on the list). I think most of the encouragement for private lessons here comes from the directors, so that is probably the easiest place to start. I would send an e-mail around the beginning of the year, and possibly again close to all-state/district band auditions and/or solo ensemble when students are more likely to be looking for extra help. When you do get students who play in their school bands, I would openly ask them for referrals. When students see another student excelling with lessons the culture will gradually start to change.

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