Archive for the ‘Personal Preparation’ Category

Audition Daily Blog, The Return – part 1

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra has announced openings for two section double bass positions.

So here we go again 🙂

In spite what might sound like a cynical tone to those opening lines, I’m looking forward to this audition. I worked hard and made good progress in getting ready for the Grant Park audition and the Lyric Opera Orchestra before that. I feel–not exactly optimism or confidence, but resolve I guess, to do well this time around.

The last time I auditioned for Elgin was, well, a long time ago. Jason Heath and I made the final. I had returned just three days earlier from a several-weeks-long trip to France and hadn’t touched my instrument that entire time. Jason won the audition and has played in Elgin all this time. Since he has recently moved to San Francisco, one of these spots is his the one that should have been mine all along.

I downloaded the repertoire list a few days ago. It’s much shorter than those that I’ve been preparing. “Easy.” I said to myself and set it on my music stand, while I attended to finishing up some recording (hire me for your project on

This morning I woke up and realized, hazily, that I had made a mistake. I have no right to call any of that audition material “easy.” I have never yet demonstrated mastery of that music. It is familiar, not easy.

So back to work. The audition is scheduled for September 6, 2016.

I’ll blog from time to time…posting frequency will increase with a) encouragement from readers and b) decreasing distance to the audition date. Leave a comment! Tell a friend to follow along or to subscribe to the blog!

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – Final Entry

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Just got back to my apartment from the audition. “Did not advance.”

So, bummer. But I do not find myself maudlin, sentimental, weepy, morose, dejected, defeated. It’s a fact, it is what it is, it doesn’t negate the hard work I put in. I get the keep the improved abilities that I developed as a result of preparing for the audition and use them other places. So that’s just fine.

I spent a lot of time preparing, it’s true. I won’t get back those evenings or weekends. But that’s okay. I didn’t miss something huge like my child walking for the first time or something like that. (She’s quite past that stage!!) It’s not at all certain that I would have done something unquestionably better with my time. So the cost of time is fine with me.

For the record, the required pieces at the first round, in order:

  • Bach ‘cello suite, one movement (I played the gigue from the first suite).
  • Mozart Symphony #40, Fourth movement, mm. 115 to 138 (with pickup, natch!).
  • Mozart Symphony #40, Fourth movement, 22 before A to A (you know the spot – the hard bit near the beginning.)
  • Beethoven Symphony #5, Third movement opening to meas. 74. Yes, 74 – kind of abrupt ending point.
  • Beethoven Symphony #5, Third movement, trio, no repeat, to that 8 measure rest after B. (This is as far as I got in the audition)
  • Brahms, Symphony #2, Fourth movement, mm. 244 to 279.
  • Mahler, Symphony #1, Third movement bass solo.
  • Strauss, Ein Heldenleben, reh. 40 to reh 41.


On to other things. And cleaning my desk.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 12

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Tuesday, March 8

Tomorrow’s the day. Around 11:00 am central time.

Practicing tonight? I think I peaked on Sunday, darn it all. But went through everything once, with a little bit of “fix this fix that.” In the morning I’m going to get up about my usual time and just warm up and go through everything slowly and then fast and then hope for visualize the best.

As always, my best wishes to my colleagues who are also taking (or have taken — three days of auditions, Wednesday is the last of the preliminaries) this audition. But please don’t play better than me. 😉

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 11

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Sunday, March 6

Haha, did I have you worried after yesterday’s post? Yeah, me too!

But today, although it got off to a slow start–I didn’t really start practicing until 3 pm, gulp!–turned out to be something of an epic day.

  • Having recorded all the excerpts during yesterday’s practice session, I worked on specific bits that I noted when listening to that recording.
  • Then I set up a mock audition for myself – chose about 10 excerpts, plus the Bottesini solo, took everything down to my unfinished basement and played through each, without going back, without stopping. The sound is different down there, and it’s cold, and the process of moving my music stand etc. resembled a bit what happens in the audition – you get all ready in one room, then you have to pack up all your stuff and move to the audition room. It really breaks your momentum.
  • Back upstairs, I worked some more on particular spots. This time, wearing earplugs to once again change the sound.
  • Finally, I played through everything again, in about 40 minutes. No stopping, no repeating anything. Recorded it, and will listen to that recording early tomorrow morning (and use my notes from that listening for Monday’s practice).

That all felt quite good. To cap off the day, I cleaned out a slow drain in our bathroom sink. That went like it was charmed.

So all in all, a successful day.

The audition is on Wednesday, March 9. I play during the 11:00 am hour (central time). Your good thoughts are always appreciated.

If you’re joining this string of blog posts mid-stream, you can jump to the first post in this series.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 10

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Saturday, March 5

Ugh, this is bad.

  • Stayed up too late last night. Now I’m out of my rhythm.
  • Wife is sleeping in this morning, so I can’t practice yet.
  • Just noticed that I have been telling people the wrong time of my audition (at least I noticed that today, and not Wednesday morning. (For the record, I play sometime between 11:00 am and noon, on March 9.)
  • Was re-reading an email about where to park for the audition and started to get butterflies in my stomach. THAT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN WHEN YOU SIMPLY READ ABOUT THE AUDITION!!

I’m going to get underway in a few minutes here – practicing, I mean. I will get settled down, it will be okay. It will be okay. It will be okay. I’ve been making really good progress. This is just because I’m over-tired. It will be okay. I’ll practice a little, do the things I need to do, take a nap later, practice some more . . . it will be okay.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 09

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Tuesday, March 1

I fully expected to be exhausted and frustrated after practicing tonight. Luckily, I was wrong. I decided to just run through a bunch of the excerpts–no draining and debilitating grind-it-in rehearsing of every other note. It was a pretty refreshing approach. Without actually counting, I think I might have gotten through more than half of the excerpts. And you know, some of it sounded just fine!

Wednesday, March 2

Second day of comfortable-feeling practice. Finished running through the excerpts that I didn’t get to last night. Played the concerto and solo Bach. Not perfect, but feeling comfortable and good. Wow. Wasn’t expecting that.

Unrelated Question

What on earth causes this site to get 25 views today … and approximately every two weeks?? Normal traffic is maybe 4 or 5 views. And they’re not all views of the latest post. Curious.

Thursday “Is It Thursday Already,” March 3

Third day of positive vibes after practicing. Played through 12 of the 24 excerpts and solo pieces.

Second day in a row of >20 page views on the site. Discovered  a site that tests the responsive capability of one’s site which has visited the site today. It generates 8 views at a time doing so. Perhaps that’s a culprit.

Other News

Butler University’s “BassCamp2016” will be held June 12-17. Indianapolis, IN.


Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 08

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Tuesday, February 23

Well, almost. There are 24 excerpts and solos required for the Grant Park audition. In three days, from February 20 to today, I have managed to play through, with some rehearsing, examining, practicing, all of them save the last half of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

(I can only dimly imagine that they would ask for ALL of the fourth movement, even in a final round, but that is how it appears on the list: “fourth movement.”)

Hopefully I can now start getting through all of the excerpts in two days, and working on some of the different techniques that I have mentioned elsewhere in the blog–stuff I’ve learned from the Bulletproof Musician.

Thursday, February 24

Sometimes these evening practice sessions are less like practicing and more like just discovering what I should be practicing, if I only had more time.

Saturday, February 27

But who's counting, right? Right.

But who’s counting, right? Right.

A pox upon thee, accursed old fingerings! How can I have ever believed that thee were correct? Thy presence is a scourge upon my parts and a blot upon the earth.

And by the way, that optimistic sentiment from February 23 “[get] through all of the excerpts in two days” — Hah!

Today’s score: played through, with some work on, 15 of the 24 excerpts and solo pieces. That’s not terrible, but not what I had hoped. Moreover, the last five or six I was just hacking my way through, not really doing good focussed work. This is even after I took a good break mid-day to have a walk with my family (which was nice).

Mood: sad panda. Maybe even grumpy panda.

And a note, in case you’re paying attention – I am not making an entry every day. So don’t worry that I have cheated myself by not practicing on February 25 and 26. I did what I could on those days. I just didn’t write about it.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 07

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Wednesday, February 17 – evening

Yes, after a post Wednesday morning, some more thoughts written Wednesday evening (but not published until whatever is going to come after these few paragraphs).

Worked on some of the centering and preparation exercises from the Bulletproof Musician (see link in previous post). They’re good. But it will take time to fully develop the skills. I’m feeling crunched for time (about four weeks to go), so every moment is precious. I hope I’m making a good decision to add these elements to my practice routine. When I recommend this course, I think I will stress that one should commit to it as part of overall practice, not try to cram it for an audition — like I’m more or less doing.

IMG_6273Anyway, got through some Mozart using the 21s practice technique. It takes a lot of time, but I did see some improvement between physical playings, caused only by the 7 mental practice repetitions in between each physical play-through. That’s cool.
Much of the rest of my practice time had the feel of trying to just. get. through. the excerpts. I am confident that I should take more time to work on small sections of these excerpts rather than just barreling through. But that confidence battles against the feel of crunch time. At least I’m taking some notes on what’s working and what isn’t (see image)

Thursday, February 18 – evening

Much is made in the Bulletproof Musician course and in my lessons with David Murray about having an aural vision of what you will sound like when you plan this-or-that excerpt or solo piece. Wow. That’s a skill I really need to develop. Thankfully there are some exercises to improve this ability. I don’t know if I’ll see enough progress to help me in time for the Grant Park audition, but whatever skill I develop will help me beyond just that audition.

Sunday, February 21 – evening

This evening’s practice, if summed up in one word, would be “salvage.” And that’s meant in the best possible way: not salvage like scrap you find at a wrecking yard, but like rising from the depths of self-pitying despair to a place of reasonable satisfaction.

Saturday had been a bummer. Tried hard to get my rehearsal space in order, hardly succeeded, and late in the day settled down to practice, but couldn’t really get into it. In something like 90 to 120 minutes of practice, I only got through one-third of the excerpts for Grant Park–that is, seven of them. I felt miserable.

Today I got some renewed energy into tidying up, and as a result, practicing went much better. Nearly three hours’ practice, I think, and although I only worked and played through ten (10) of the excerpts, I enjoyed myself. I recorded some of what I did, double- and triple-tracked the recordings, i.e., playing along with myself, and that gave me some energy and pleasure. (In particular the bass solo from Pulcinella, since I had both the solo part and the tutti section part to play/record.)

This morning I had been moaning about not possibly being ready for the audition. Tonight, well, I’m not ready for the audition, but I’m not moaning.

To reward myself, I am having a wee dram of Iwai “Tradition,” the only Japanese single malt that I have enjoyed. (Thanks to Rogers Park Fine Wine and Spirits (review on Yelp) for the tip.) If you know the appropriate words in Japanese to say “wee dram,” leave a comment below!

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 06

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Last night as I practiced, I was just railing at the ridiculous fingerings that I had in my parts from so long ago. What was I thinking?? And what were my teachers thinking for letting me attempt those fingerings? I honestly wish I had learned from a technique tyrant, at least for some period of time. As much as I like the idea of “finding a fingering that works for you,” the student who has not been challenged to try more difficult–but ultimately more efficient–fingerings is ultimately at a disadvantage.

Preparation is going “okay.” I haven’t got enough time to satisfactorily work on everything as deeply as I’d like. I could say that I haven’t made practice a high enough priority, and that would be true (insert statements about how we all have the same amount of time, it’s how we choose to use it, etc.) but some of the other things that take priority are pretty damned important, too. I envy the young. Do you hear me, high-schoolers and undergrads? Take advantage of the time you have! Being an “adult” does not necessarily grant you the autonomy to do whatever you’d like to the level/depth you’d like to.

The Bulletproof Musician materials are very interesting and I think useful. I’m (no surprise here) short of time to actually do some of the non-playing exercises that are recommended, but I’m learning a lot by listening to the lectures. I’ve tried out some of the practice techniques. They’re very challenging. They also take a lot of time–for instance the “21s” technique, involving 7 repetitions of a passage mentally for each 1 physical performance of it. I probably wouldn’t go through a passage that many times physically before deciding it’s time to move on to something else. And with so many excerpts to work on, it’s hard to know that I’m making better progress than I otherwise would.

Mentally rehearsing the audition–what it feels like to go into the room, focusing, envisioning the outcome, controlling the nervous system and more–are some other techniques. Those I can somewhat practice while commuting on the train, making better use of that time than playing “Angry Birds.” Haha.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 05

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Ugh, so tired. Good advice is to find what time(s) of day you have good, positive energy, and practice during those times. Well, I know that 8:00 to 9:15 pm in the evening is not that time. But this is what you have to do to balance your employed working life with practice time. At least mostly, for me.

It doesn’t help that I’ve again gotten sick and tired of some of these excerpts. Probably some of that “sick and tired” is frustration at not playing them as well as I would like, masquerading as not liking them. If I played them smoothly and accurately all the time, I’d probably be just pleased as punch to play them. So there’s a goal to work for, and a dose of “get over yourself!”

A good long lesson with David Murray in Indianapolis on Saturday. And long drives on each end, haha. But the drives give me time to reflect on the commitment I have made to work on this music, and take this audition, and the next and the next . . .

Right now, better to get a good night’s sleep that to keep wallowing in my frustrated fatigue.