thank!This Saturday I’ll be taking an audition for the Oregon Symphony, my first audition in 17 years. It is the perfect opportunity for the ultimate test:

Is my process of inspired performance possible in a blind audition?

Can I take the principles I’ve been teaching into the crucible of intense competition?

For those of you not initiated into the world of orchestral auditions, the first major difference is that there will be a screen between the audition committee and myself. I will be walking into the room via a carpet (so that the committee can’t hear the difference between men’s and women’s shoes). I will not have an identity. I will be a number.

I will not be able to speak for the entire duration.

There will be awkward silence while I get settled, rather than the hushed anticipation in a concert. Same lack of sound, completely different feeling.

I will play the beginning of the Dvorak Cello Concerto, and they will most likely cut me off  with a “Thank you!” after the first minute or two. Then I will play excerpts from symphonic works by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Strauss. The music was sent to me last month, and each excerpt under 2 minutes.

After that, I will most likely be given a piece to sight read that I’ve never seen before, to see how quickly I can grasp everything on the page. I will have as much time to look it over as I like, but sooner or later I have to put bow to string. They don’t expect perfection, and my first priority will be getting the rhythm as correct as possible. In an orchestra, correct rhythm is paramount, for not even the most perfectly tuned notes will matter if played in the wrong rhythm.

The whole audition will be over in 10 or 15 minutes.

Why might this audition seem more difficult than a 90 minute solo recital?

  1. No audience applause (oh, boo hoo…).
  2. No connection to an audience (hmmm…actually, I could try to connect with the committee…).
  3. I will be judged under a microscope (like THAT’S anything new! Tough crowds are everywhere. Try again…).
  4. The committee will interrupt my playing, be thrifty with their words (“Thank you!”), and will not give me any energy through applause or even blessings of good luck. (sounds like my lessons growing up!)

Hmmm…Maybe an audition and a performance aren’t all that different at their core.

Of course feeling inspiration is easy when everyone in the audience loves you and cheers you on, but when it comes down to it, inspiration doesn’t care about applause. Inspiration cares about sharing itself.

But here is the real difference:

My ego will start comparing myself to others as soon as I enter the building. I will immediately feel the tense vibes of competition. My desire to win will start to constrict my heart. I will hear the other candidates already warming up, and will be tempted to start listening critically. This I must not do, because:

Comparison kills inspiration.

It tightens the heart, stopping the flow of inspiration right from the start. The ego loves to compare—that is its job. But when comparison and my inner critic start to take over, I become more critical of myself, which leads to tension, constricted sound, and lack of genuine inspiration. Knowing that auditions are nothing but comparison,

How do I keep my ego quiet in the midst of competition?

By following these simple rules:

  1. Breathe deeply into my lower lungs. This will send signals to my brain to relax.
  2. Keep my heart wide open. Empathy is fine, but giving away my power is not.
  3. Give no energy to thoughts of comparison.
  4. Calmly accept what is.

Have you ever noticed the irony? It takes heroic courage and energy to get to the seemingly bland state of acceptance. But in that state of acceptance comes enormous inner power and presence. THAT wins auditions.

Even if I don’t win, how will I measure my success?

Was I able to:

  • Enter the Hush as I warmed up, keeping my breathing deep and calm and my heart rate moderate?
  • Relax and open my heart to feel the tangible presence of inspiration?
  • Connect with the committee through the resonance of inspiration?
  • Play courageously with discrimination but not judgement?

This is a grand experiment—wish me luck! I’ve been practicing more than I have in years, and I feel as ready as I can be. It feels good. I’m enjoying the repertoire, and feel like I finally have something to say. I’ll let you know how it went next week!


The real difference between a performance and an audition

7 thoughts on “The real difference between a performance and an audition

  • September 12, 2014 at 7:12 am

    What a grand experiment! I wish you luck. Who are you playing for again?

    • September 12, 2014 at 8:58 am

      The Oregon Symphony. Thanks!

  • September 12, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Thank you David! Best of luck to you tomorrow! Will be sending lots of prayers and AUMs for total acceptance and radiant joy as you play.

  • September 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I loved reading this, and my prayers will be with you.
    I know you will do well with Master by your side.

  • September 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    You have shared your gifts so warmly and lovingly. what a wonderful way to bring your love and light out into the world. Sending Aums and prayers.
    In Masters Love,.

  • September 20, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I enjoyed this article very much, and look forward to hearing how your audition went. Thank you!

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