6 Unheard of Ways to Lose an Audition, (the last one will BLOW your mind)

If you think this post is a going to be a cleverly disguised list of things you should actually be considering for your audition preparations-think again! I don’t use cheap writing tactics and clickbait headlines just to get your attention. If that’s all you think this is, stop reading already.

Aha! Still here, I see. Apparently you like ignoring advice. You are already proving to be the right kind of person to learn how to lose an audition.

It’s not that I wish you to fail spectacularly and be laughed out of your next audition-chances are you’re already doing lots of hard work, practicing long hours, and reading other posts on this site. You’re not going to fail miserably or fall on your face.

Winning an audition is perhaps like trying to lose weight: There’s lots of great information we tend to focus on in the “Do this!” category (run around, lift heavy things, jump up and down a lot- I don’t know). But if you ignore just one thing in the “Don’t do this” category, (like eat Taco Bell every day) it will completely undo your positive progress.

For that reason, these are some of my best kept secrets for how to play well, but not advance. After all, this is something I know a lot about. Statistically I have lost so many more auditions than I have won, but that stuff doesn’t look so great on a resume, so I don’t mention it very often. These tips are something I have never revealed…until now.

#1) Get busy

Losing an audition takes months of preparation-you can’t just lose these things by accident. You’ve got to start filling up your calendar with concerts, recitals with different repertoire, major holiday visits with family you haven’t seen all year (auditions in early January are the best for this). You need to start feeling like you’re stretched too thin to do anything well. Good? Feeling it? Keep going!

#2) Trust only yourself

You can do this on your own. Totally! You are an island! Everybody else is just like you-way too busy to help you out, even if you paid them.

You know your excerpts don’t sound good-you can hear that yourself. Recording yourself, or playing them for a friend or a teacher isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t know.

You’ve got to just keep chugging along. Think about that famous quote:

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do the same thing that’s not working over and over and over and over and over and over and over” -Unknown

#3 Leave yourself an escape plan

At some point in your audition preparation, the voice of resistance  will show up. It will tell you all sorts of ridiculous things like “you’re not really good enough to win this,” or “All this work is not going to be worth it-you should just watch more Netflix.” And if you want my advice on how to lose the audition, (after all, you’re still reading this) you should listen to what that voice is saying.

Buying your plane ticket to the audition, or planning a post audition party would squash those distractions-why would you want to do that? When the going gets tough, you need to consider cancelling the audition- its the only way to 100% guarantee failure.

#4 Go for “the experience”

If you’re not going to physically back out, you need to start backing out mentally. The next best thing is to start thinking about how you don’t really stand a chance at winning. There’s so many great ways to do this, but the easiest (and most Inception-esque) place to start is thinking “I probably won’t win, but it will be a good experience.” Spin that top and lock it up ‘cause that’s a keeper!

There are some great variations on this theme that you can experiment with also like, “I’m an imposter/I didn’t go to the right school/I didn’t study with the right teacher. ” Any of those can work-it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is not counter-acting these negative thoughts with positive messages like Post-It notes on your stand or on your mirror. Don’t visualize a perfect performance, or develop a centering routine or all that other mumbo-jumbo, snake oil stuff. Just let off the gas now, and when you don’t advance, you can at least celebrate the experience. That’s really just as good as winning.

#5) Pay attention to the competition

If you decide to keep going and show up at the audition, there are still some great last-minute tips if you still want to lose this thing.

First of all – just ignore everything the audition proctors are telling you as you check in. They’re usually volunteers, and couldn’t possibly know anything about which excerpts the panel is hearing for each round, or how many hours they’re behind. Just smile and keep scanning the room to check out your competition.

All those other musicians warming up actually are soooo much better than you, after all. You might learn a lot by listening to how fast/loud/aggressive they play Don Juan. Even if you don’t decide to throw out your months of artistic preparations to try to imitate someone else, you should assume that they won’t get nervous-only you struggle with that thing you call “performance anxiety.” Thinking about their flawless performance is exactly the mindset you need before your big moment.

OK, so if you’re still reading this, you must be waiting for the big finale. You may be thinking, “Michael, all this advice is good enough to lose me some auditions, but certainly not ALL auditions.” Well, buckle up, Buttercup!

#6 Not advancing means you are a failure, and you should accept defeat

Yes, it’s true that even following my tried and true tactics listed above may still result in winning an audition, but I really want to focus for a minute on what happens after not advancing.

This is such a special time in your life, that failing to grasp its importance could have serious long-lasting effects. After all, you’ve been playing your instrument for decades, spent a small fortune on lessons and instruments, and have had countless affirming experiences that led you to believe that playing music was a worthy pursuit.

But in this moment, none of that matters.

Five complete strangers behind a screen just told you that they didn’t want you, and it only took them three minutes to discover this! This audition has taken all the intricacies of your musical life and boiled them down to a single black or white answer. Yes or No. Pass or Fail. And Fail, you most certainly did.

Not only did the oracles behind the screen tell you that you were not good enough for their ensemble, they are telling you that you are not good enough for ANY ensemble.

This is where my advice gets real: It’s incredibly important to connect your self-worth and the direction you see for your life to the outcome of every audition. To really lose every audition, you have to believe that you will never get better at auditioning, and that teaching snotty little children who won’t appreciate your talent or your efforts is your only option for the future.

Please don’t look for the bigger picture or try to grow from this experience. Don’t ask those benevolent overlords behind the screen why they didn’t like you. And don’t start preparing for another audition.

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this lasting proverb by William Edward Hickson:

“If at first you don’t succeed,

give up, give up, give up again.”

(at least that’s how I think it goes)

Well, I hope this list of tactics serves you well on your quest to lose your next audition.

Until then,

Don’t be well, and don’t practice well.

P.S. I do hope that reading this article has brought to light some of the absurdities that we think, but never would say out loud. Sometimes just getting them out of your head helps you see how silly they sound. So in the comments below, please feel free to share your favorite thoughts (real, or hypothetical) on how to lose an audition.


Michael O’Gieblyn is a violinist with the Miami City Ballet and Palm Beach Symphony. He is the creator of www.OrchestraExcerpts.com, a resource for helping musicians study excerpts, and host of the Per Service Podcast.

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