October is over, the weather is finally cooling off, marching band is beginning to wind down…But just as things are settling down, two words strike terror in the minds of high school musicians all across the state of Texas: Region Auditions! Over the next 2-3 months occurs the arduous journey through Region, Area and State competitions. Take a deep breath, consider my following suggestions and begin to develop a mindset for success. This is a wonderful learning opportunity and I believe every participant grows musically and emotionally during this process. 

Here are some tips and reminders for your upcoming auditions:


Have a plan of action.

Be sure you are warming up adequately before your practice sessions. Often students become impatient and proceed directly to the region etudes. A brief, yet balanced warmup is essential to producing positive results during practice. Fundamentals will help you build a strong embouchure for the task at hand. When you do practice the region etudes, start in different places and play in smaller chunks, rather than playing through the entire piece each time.


Schedule your sessions.

If possible, practice at the same time every day so that you can establish routine and accountability. Choose a quiet room away from interruptions and turn off your devices. All your focus must be on the music and if you are distracted while you work you will not improve as rapidly.


Train your brain. 

This means you need to repeat passages correctly over and over and over and over, slowly and methodically. If a section is written slurred, practice it tongued and vice-versa. Or try playing a chunk of music in a different rhythm. I’ve even had my students play part of an etude backwards, giving new meaning to the phrase, “I know this piece backwards and forwards!”


The Metronome Game.

If there are fast, technical passages in your music, break them apart into smaller sections. Start with the metronome at a playable tempo and perform a section three times accurately. Then increase the bpm, keeping track of your progress. It is so encouraging to look back and actually see how far you have come. But remember: accuracy and tone are always more important than speed and the judges will grade accordingly.


Perform for other people.

Take every opportunity to play for others: your high school band directors, middle school director, parents, grandparents, peers, your dog or cat…

Record yourself often.

Not only does a simple recording done on your phone add an element of pressure (wishing to get a great recording) but it also gives you the chance to listen objectively to your performance.


Invest in the music.

Music is an art. Even though region auditions are competitions, we all have the opportunity to share our feelings and emotions through the music we perform. Playing an instrument is a talent and gift but it comes with responsibility. You must be willing to discover what the composer is wanting to convey and then do your best to tell the “story”.

I hope this article has provided you with some helpful information as you continue preparing for the upcoming auditions. Practice, prepare and have fun!

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