Preparing Our Students For A College Audition

from the Fall 2010 MMTA Newsletter

What goes into preparing for a college audition?  Beginning this fall, many music students will be preparing for upcoming college auditions with music theory workbooks, scale and arpeggio practice and carefully selected repertoire.  Practice performances will be planned and  essays written and re-written…….As much practicing as it takes, it also takes many other skills and journeys for high school students to realize their aspirations of a degree in music.  There is an amount of emotional turmoil that cannot be overlooked including all the self-doubt or over-confidence they can muster.

What I am interested in my students bringing to the process is mindfulness, awareness, and a state of being present during the experience.  Too often students want to “get it over with.”  If they are not curious about this process they will lose an opportunity for growth.

I am a teacher of The Alexander Technique as well as piano. Contrary to popular belief, this Technique is not about posture and alignment.  The results of its study can lead to better posture, but the essence of this work is to bring conscious awareness to the moments between stimulus and response and to give us tools to choose the best course of action.  What does this have to do with a college audition?  Everything.  While we play a piece, whether it is for an audition or not, we are faced with a myriad of choices in response to things going well and to things going not so well.  How do we respond to a sudden unexpected error?  We know we should go on and not draw attention to this minuscule moment. But often we hold on to the reaction longer than is useful. We play passages that scare us and are confined to a sound and execution that are determined by that fearful response.  Through the study of the Alexander Technique pianists can learn to gain control of themselves and hence their playing.  This year, I needed to come up with a domain name for a website on Alexander Technique and Piano. What I stumbled upon has given me much food for thought:  The Well-Tempered Pianist. Yes. The WELL TEMPERED Pianist.  What does it mean to be “well tempered?”  This state encompasses our complete way of being.  A well tempered pianist is one who is poised, calm and prepared for whatever happens during the course of a performance.  Isn’t this what we want from our students as they consider a career and an audition?  There are certainly scales and arpeggios to be played; there is music theory to conquer.  But the most challenging bit to “conquer” is ourselves.  Well temperament is an empowering experience. I want my students to be “well tempered.”

Debi Adams, NCTM in Piano is also ATI certified in Alexander Technique. She is on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory.