Reply To: All State Band Auditions

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While I agree that it is our job to teach scales, the All-State audition is one of the biggest tools I use to encourage those kids that want to truly be the best players they can be. My students who choose to audition, even if they don’t make it, spend a huge amount of time working and perfecting them for the audition and become much better players for it. Right or wrong, I don’t demand that level of preparation on scales from every kid in my band program, and I am certain if I did, I would have some kids drop my program completely. Balancing “this will make them better” with “this will turn them off” is a precarious edge for me, and I have certainly made errors throughout my career on both sides of that line. I also know that even my own daughter, who is a freshman All-Stater, would not have put in the time and effort to learn all of her scales without the tangible effect of the All-State audition, no matter how much I encourage her as both her teacher and her dad. I am absolutely in favor of scales as part of the audition. As stated earlier, I’m OK with lowering the number, but I would definitely prefer to not enable procrastination and cramming in the last week-I don’t think that’s a way to be able to use the audition to ensure mastery of scales. That is why what I favor is Db-G. Memorized or not doesn’t matter to me, but I also like the 2-octave scales.

That being said, I agree with making the auditions equitable, particularly in the instruments that have some scales that are 1 octave and some that are 2. Again, the Db-G option would make it so everyone is doing the same thing on the same instrument, and I think that is extremely important.

From the side of a screener (clarinets), the scales are certainly quite telling, in both the range and preparation aspects. The “That’s definitely an All-State kid” pool is going to be fine no matter what we decide. The “maybe” pool is harder, and will be massively impacted by this decision, and for an instrument like the clarinet, that “maybe” pool is pretty large. While I only gave rankings by a rubric score and didn’t make the final decisions, I saw 2 definite sub-groups of the “maybe.” One group did well (or at least OK) with the preparation of the scales but wasn’t a good sightreader. The other was poor on the scales and good with sightreading. My opinion is I would rather take the preparation over the sightreading because very rarely in the All-State experience do the kids have to sightread. Reducing the scales to 2 the week before will favor the sightreader subgroup.

To make a long story short, I’m in favor of making the audition more equitable, but I’m not sure that this is the way I would like it to be, and I haven’t decided yet which way I’m going to formally vote-I think there is a strong argument both ways. I am sorry that my family emergency prevented me from giving my input at the conference, but also, even in the emails and stuff, I don’t recall the major topic of discussion to be revealed as changes to the All-State auditions. I think if that was made clear, there would have been much greater attendance.

Richard Zigweid
Torrington HS