Reply To: All State Band Auditions

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Regarding next school year’s auditions, I am fine with what was voted on and passed. If it doesn’t work out, we can change it for the following year.

If it isn’t settled and more input is needed, here are my thoughts.

Having someone next to you playing wrong notes combined with the frustration of the guest conductor having to interrupt rehearsal to fix notes can ruin the honor band experience for everyone involved. With such limited rehearsal, the opportunity cost of being forced into survival mode at any point is huge. I feel like it is our responsibility at the point of the audition (not after the music is distributed) to ensure that the All-State clinician NEVER has to fix notes. With this in mind:

1. Whatever scales are required should be memorized. If they aren’t memorized, the student doesn’t know them, and is very likely unable to apply them in real time when the notes aren’t ordered neatly into a scale pattern.

2. The idea presented so far that I like best is Richard’s idea of all students playing concert G-Db. This would standardize the scale portion of the audition, and almost surely cover every key signature they would see in their All-State music. At a moderate tempo, this will take maybe 2 minutes of audition time. I would be okay with students knowing which scale to play next, so they don’t freeze up trying to remember the order of scales.

3. There is plenty of time. I know that there are many students that play very musically, have characteristic tone quality and good range, and you (or I) might be hopeful that the student will make all state. However, I don’t understand the concern of “great players” being excluded because they don’t know (haven’t spent the time working on) major scales. Every student, especially one that thinks they “deserve” a spot in the All-State Band, has ample time to make it happen.

4. Scales are not difficult. Almost every high school kid has to at least take algebra and pass; many of them, especially advanced music students, take physics and calculus. Are major scales conceptually more difficult that algebra? It is not as if we are asking them to memorize 3rd mode melodic minor in every key. Students have had fingering charts since they started playing their instruments.

5. At every All-State audition site I have ever been to, I have seen students coming out of audition rooms looking defeated and lamenting the fact that although they “absolutely nailed” the etudes, they choked on the scales. For one thing, I don’t believe that; also, that seems very backwards to me – scales demonstrate basic competency and technical skill, and should be the easiest part of the audition. That suggests me that they have the wrong priorities when it comes to practicing. If a student is a good player but not serious enough to learn scales, they are not entitled to an all-state spot – even if that means accepting less students.

6. Students eventually adopt the priorities of their director. If it is a major concern that the most serious band students in our programs are going to be “kept out” of All-State because they can’t play major scales, maybe we should rethink the priorities we are conveying to students in our classes every day. But especially to those students who choose to audition for All-State.