Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Peabody Audition Day Wrap-Up

by JW

Peabody Audition Day 2008 for bassists was this past Monday, Feb. 18. First of all, thanks to all the Peabody bass applicants - everyone played well and we enjoyed meeting you all. Second, I want to apologize for my failure to do two things I had hoped to accomplish on this blog - doing a pre-audition photo or video tour of Peabody Bassland, and doing some liveblogging on Audition Day itself. The first project failed because I forgot my camera before I went on tour had thus had no images for the post; the second failed because Peabody's mighty WiFi did not penetrate our audition room (sigh).

This is my third Audition Day, and I gain some new perspective on the music school application process each time. I think my big revelation this year came from asking applicants about their audition schedule for all their various schools. The competition for slots at top-level schools is often pretty intense in its own right. But even more intense is the competition to not only get in, but to get in with a good enough audition to get substantial financial aid. (This is even relevant to Curtis and Colburn, the two free conservatories in the US, as their lack of tuition makes them two of the most competitive schools). I'm also noticing a more and more "nationalized" audition process, where more and more applicants are willing to travel farther and farther from home to audition. Lots of music schools used to have a more regional base of applicants, because travel was more difficult and people tended to stay closer to home. (It also helped that there were more job opportunities - after all, when one has to compete nationally for work, one feels less committed to staying in a certain area...)

When one combines these factors with the constantly improving level of bass pedagogy all over the country, you end up with school auditions that are feeling more anad more "professional," with a stronger feeling of competitiveness and a heightened sense of frustration and anxiety for many applicants.

I want school auditions to be precisely the opposite - an opportunity for applicants to play in a relaxed atmosphere, to not feel like they have to play better than everyone else, but rather to feel like they can show their development and interest to the schools they are applying to. That said, I don't really know how to do that within the current system of school applications and still maintain any sense of fairness. Music schools and their applicants are unfortunately at the mercy of market forces beyond our control.

So here are my questions for those who read this:

- If you are a music school applicant, do you agree with my assessment? Or am I off base in my opinion?

- What if anything can be done to make music school applications a more positive and relaxed experience?

Drop me a line and let me know what you think!

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