I had an audition Sunday for placement into an adult chamber music program at SUNY Stony Brook. This is the first audition that I have had since I started playing again. It’s a really good thing that this was only for placement – i.e. which ensemble I should be put in – rather than acceptance into the program itself.

Sunday morning I warmed up really carefully and then played thru my audition piece, Strauss’ Nocturno. My chops weren’t in the best shape but they were okay considering that I started on a new mouthpiece the week before. The audition was at 3 pm and I was able to warm up again for about 15 minutes before I had to play. I played really, really well during this warm up so I went in to the audition with a marginal amount of confidence.

Well, I couldn’t have played worse if I tried. It was absolutely awful. The funny thing was I didn’t feel very nervous but clearly I was. I played really badly. I’m going to have to find opportunities to play in front of people. Not only was this my first audition, it was the first time I played in front of anyone other than my horn teachers. I’m not counting playing in band or in the horn choirs I played in at IHS and the Barry Tuckwell Institute. I have no problem playing in band rehearsals or concerts even when I have an exposed part. I think being mostly invisible helps.

At the audition it didn’t help that the lady listening to me told me, before I started the audition, that my playing was ‘stunning.’ That is a term that I would save for the horn masters of the world. I guess she must have heard me out in the hall when I was warming up and was thinking ‘this is an adult amateur who is playing very well’. I know she’s heard hornists who play a thousand times better than I do because she was in an ensemble with Lynn, my horn teacher, last year. Anyway, if I was nervous before I walked into the room, this put me off the charts.

Every now and then, and only when I am alone, I actually play like I used to and I’m capable of putting together a musical phrase without any clams and with really nice tone. Definitely not stunning but decent. It doesn’t happen often but it’s what keeps me going. I know that if I can play really beautifully once eventually I will be able to do it more often.  And hopefully I will be able to do it in front of other people. I still can’t play well when I’m recording myself so I have a long way to go dealing with nerves. I guess the only remotely good thing about this audition is that I will probably be placed in a group that will be somewhat easy for me which will help with the nerves when we perform in January. The downside is that it will be less challenging.

Horn decision –>

4 thoughts on “Audition

  1. I returned to the horn this summer after a ten-year hiatus, and I’ve enjoyed reading your story thus far. In all the auditions I played in high school, I only ever aced one. I did decently in others and completely choked in many. Personally, I admire your willingness to audition … I am way too intimidated now, and possibly permanently.


  2. Have you looked into Jeff Nelsen’s Fearless Auditioning? He has a website at and also runs a one-week camp in August. The website has various articles by Jeff explaining his philosophy of auditioning fearlessly. Our daughter attended his camp this past August at Indiana University and we ended up auditing the first day because our car broke down! I was very impressed with the camp and his ideas. The participants play mock auditions every day and also play in front of the groups at other times, but it’s a very supportive atmosphere. He teaches mental “tricks” to prepare yourself, many of which you can read about on the website.
    Though this sounds like a plus, I have no vested interest in this! Our daughter had already been accepted to IU and into Jeff’s studio when she went, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what kind of teacher he was going to be for her. After watching him for a day, I was completely sold. I would love to attend the camp myself. I think it would be very beneficial for both auditioning and performing. There was quite an age range at the camp this year, from about 18 to 50-something.


    • Hi Becky,
      I’ve been meaning to get back to you. Sorry for the delay. I went to Jeff’s lecture on fearless auditioning when I was at the International Horn Symposium. It was really excellent. I play worse whenever there are people around even if they are in another room. I even play poorly during my lessons compared to how I play the same thing when I’m practicing. I think most of this is due to a lack of confidence and bad thinking – “I mess this up every time I play it; I’m going to mess this up again; therefore I mess it up.” Another thing I need is experience playing in front of people.

      Do you have any information on Jeff’s camp? It sounds like something I would like to go to.



      • Hi Tina,
        Jeff is terrific. He is very good at addressing the negative self-talk and he creates a supportive environment where it is easier to play for each other. When I went to college, there was no cooperation or collaboration among the horn players, and open hostility between the horn teachers, but Jeff works hard to have a friendly atmosphere among his students and it has worked.

        I emailed him to ask if he knows when the camp will be this year, but I haven’t heard back yet. It’s at IU in Bloomington and reasonably priced (I thought). I’d like to go, but we’ll have to see.


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