Honest auditions?

February 5, 2007

We have just finished auditioning potential students for our undergraduate composition program at UCLA. Traditionally, at the end of the interview, we have not told the students our assessment of their audition. They simply found out later that they were either accepted or not. This year, I decided to give students who were way off the mark, exactly what they need to work on in order to get into music departments.

You need to know more Classical repertoire.
You need to be able to identify chord qualities and their inversions.
You need to be able to hear intervals.
You need to be able to sight-sing.
You need to work on your sense of rhythm.

The alternative is to say nothing, and then the student only imagines what was insufficient in his or her audition. The force of one of these criticisms can be devastating to the applicant. It hurts hearing this news. Dreams of being a musician can sometimes evaporate with “You need to be able to hear intervals.” We, the auditioners, are only holding up a mirror that the student needs to see. But this is delicate business: auditioners, if they choose to hold up this mirror, must be sensitive, compassionate, and firm.

I had a teacher once who advised a student s/he had no business going into music. The next day, the student committed suicide. The university, known for good lawyers and liberal attitudes, scolded him, but he kept his job.

I’m not paid enough to tell ANYONE that they have no business going into music. Academic freedom affords me the option of smiling to an auditioner, saying “thanks for coming in,” or being honest and saying “You need to work on your sight-singing.”

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February 8, 2007 at 12:01 pm

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