Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #4: Florida)

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

We will continue the Practice Blueprints – All-State Audition Series this week with Florida. Auditions across the state will start today (September 11th) and continue through September 25th. Although most of the prep work may already be done for students auditioning into these groups, the below will serve as a few last-minute ideas for those still in preparation mode. Florida has a wonderful model that breaks down All-State groups into Concert Band (9th and 10th graders) and Symphonic Band (11th and 12th graders). The younger musicians can build experience in Concert Band before excelling into Symphonic Band while performing with musicians closer to their age groups (freshmen do not compete with seniors under this model). This makes competition for All-State groups a bit less intimidating, even in a state as populous as Florida. Although the preliminary auditions are recorded, they are done so in one take by the student’s band director, making these essentially live auditions for the student (one take, one chance to shine). Remember, as I said in last week’s blog: No matter what happens, approach these auditions from a learning perspective. It’s okay to not be perfect in a live audition – Your goal is to put your very best playing out there no matter how nervous you are, or how unpredictable the environment may be on the day of your audition. Just play and let the Universe work out the rest.

General Information (What You Need to Know):

Any questions about All-State auditions should be asked to your Band Director. 

  • Any student participating in an FMEA/FBA All-State band must be enrolled/registered at a public school, private school, public charter school, home education music cooperative, or virtual school. In addition, the student must be a regularly participating member in the appropriate middle school or high school band from that school and sponsored by the Active FMEA/FBA member teacher from that school.  Home education students must meet the requirements and complete the additional paperwork on the FMEA All-State Eligibility Page.
  • Audition Results: Directors will be able to see the audition results for their own students in MPA Online sometime during the first week of November.  The full lists will be released during the second or third week of November.
  • Directors of accepted all-state students are required to register for and attend the FMEA Conference on January 12-15, 2022. See the FMEA Conference Policies for details. 
  • The decision of the selection committee is final.
  • Only instruments listed on the All-State Application or in the 2022 All-State Symphonic Band Requirements printed in the handbook may audition.
  • The student must be a member of the band program at their school and have their name submitted on the proper All-State Application form. The Application form must be typed and signed by the band director and principal. The Application form must be submitted by the proper deadline date as set by the District.
  • The band director must be a member of FBA/FMEA by September 1, 2021.
  • Students selected for any of the All-State groups must bring their own music stand, instrument, band uniform, etc.

Required Repertoire:

  • Concert Band (Grades 9 and 10)https://fba.flmusiced.org/media/2013/all-state-requirements-2022-concert-band-woodwind.pdf
    • a) The specific prepared exercises for their instrument(s) as listed in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements. Note the suggested tempi.
      • Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 55, #17; dotted quarter note = 60
      • Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 54, #12; quarter note = 120
      • Piccolo – Piccolo Excerpt – Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 51, #6; m. 1-32, quarter note = 116
        • All Piccolo students MUST also audition on Flute. Their Flute audition will determine membership in the band and the Piccolo double will be determined by the Piccolo audition. The Piccolo audition will contain the chromatic scale and the above exercise – no other scales and no sight-reading.
    • b) A chromatic scale covering the range for their instrument (as given in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements.) The scale will be performed in even sixteenth notes at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 100. The scale will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scale is to be memorized.
    • c) Twelve major scales, (in 2:30 minutes or less) from memory, complete with arpeggios, at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. Scales are to be performed a minimum of 2 octaves where possible. Students who wish to play a 3rd octave may do so. All scales must be performed within the allotted time frame. Scales must be performed in complete octaves. (Please see audition guidelines for scale and arpeggio rhythms.) The scales will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scales will be performed in the “circle of fourths”, starting with the concert key of: C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, B, E, A, D, G.
    • d) A short sight-reading exercise(s) to demonstrate the student’s reading ability. The student will have thirty seconds to study the piece before playing it.
  • Symphonic Band (Grades 11 and 12)https://fba.flmusiced.org/media/2016/all-state-requirements-2022-symphonic-band-woodwind.pdf
    • a) The specific prepared exercises for their instrument(s) as listed in the All-State Symphonic Band Audition Requirements. Students will determine tempi.
      • Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 42, #10; m. 1-16
      • Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 7, #7; m. 1-40 + 1 note
      • Piccolo – Piccolo Excerpt – Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984), pg. 23, #5; beginning – m. 38 + 1 note
        • All Piccolo students MUST also audition on Flute. Their Flute audition will determine membership in the band and the Piccolo double will be determined by the Piccolo audition. The Piccolo audition will contain the chromatic scale and the above exercise – no other scales and no sight-reading.
    • b) A chromatic scale covering the range for their instrument (as given in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements.) The scale will be performed in even sixteenth notes at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. The scale will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scale is to be memorized.
    • c) Twelve major scales, (in 2:30 minutes or less) from memory, complete with arpeggios, at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. Scales are to be performed a minimum of 2 octaves where possible. Students who wish to play a 3rd octave may do so. All scales must be performed within the allotted time frame. Scales must be performed in complete octaves. (Please see audition guidelines for scale and arpeggio rhythms). The scales will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scales will be performed in the “circle of fourths”, starting with the concert key of: C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, B, E, A, D, G.
    • d) A short sight-reading exercise(s) to demonstrate the student’s reading ability. The student will have thirty seconds to study the piece before playing it.

Where can I find the Required Repertoire?

  • Chromatic Scale Example:

Practice Guidelines

Chromatic Scale

  • Start practicing your scale slowly to make sure your fingerings are correct and your 16th notes are even. Start with a tempo of quarter note = 60 (or below) and work your way up to the tempos marked on the audition guidelines. Try not to exceed this tempo in the practice room. You will likely be a bit nervous on recording day, making it very easy to rush the tempo. Your brain may decide that day that it prefers the faster tempo! Sorry brain, you are wrong today.
  • The high register turnaround point to the high C requires fingering gymnastics. Keep your finger transitions from note to note “snappy.” I sometimes refer to this as “robot fingers” with my students. Of course, do not actually play like a robot! Just keep your finger movements quick and deliberate from one note to the next.
  • Don’t forget about that gizmo key on the high C! The gizmo is your friend.
  • If I haven’t driven this home yet, keeping the tempo steady is very important. Another great way to accomplish this is by placing small breath kicks on the first 16th note of each beat. A breath kick may take the form of a very small accent or a small bit of vibrato on the downbeat.

Scales (Circle of 4ths)

  • Make sure you play the rhythms as indicated on the audition guidelines and do not forget about the arpeggios at the end of each scale.
  • A great way to work on memorizing these scales is to turn it into a game. Write the note names of each scale on small bits of paper and draw each one out of a hat (or bag, or sock, whatever works!). Although you will be playing them in the circle of fourths sequence on the day of the audition, this will help avoid learning simply by muscle memory (which may fail you in a high stress audition setting).
  • Set the metronome to the tempos indicated on the audition sheet. When you feel comfortable with this tempo, turn the metronome off and your phone camera on. Record yourself playing your scales and check the time stamp. Make sure you are fitting your scales in the 2:30 indicated. If not, speed up the tempo slightly until you can fit all scales in the required 2:30 while retaining an even tempo.
  • Review your recording. What can you improve on your scales? Are they even? Are the accidentals all correct? How is your sound? Could you project a bit more? Take notes and try again until you are super confident with your scales!

Sight Reading

  • I wrote a separate blog on sight-reading a few years ago: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2016/08/22/love-at-first-sight/ Check this out! Here I address a number of very valuable sight-reading tips such as paying close attention to tempos and time signatures, remembering the rests, searching for repetitive phrases or common patterns, and keeping your eyes moving forward.
  • It is not easy to prepare for sight reading! One of my best pieces of advice is to practice becoming comfortable with the unknown. Ask your band director or flute teacher to give you random excerpts to play once or twice a week. Sight reading is scary because you never know what to expect. Desensitize yourself and go with the flow.
  • Another good idea is to end each practice session by selecting another etude from the Cavally book and playing through 20 measures while you record yourself on your phone. The recording device serves as a cue to keep going (no matter what)! If you are brave, share your daily sight-reading adventures on your Instagram Live, Tic Tok, or YouTube pages.

Concert Band Auditions (9th and 10th Grade All-State Band)

Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 55, #17; dotted quarter note = 60

  • Since this a lyrical excerpt, keep your notes legato and connected.
  • The guidelines for this excerpt are very specific regarding tempo. Make sure to practice with a metronome set to this tempo. Avoid becoming too reliant on the metronome by recording yourself and comparing your playing without a metronome to the marked tempo.
  • Take the breath marks as indicated in the score. The committee will be looking at how efficiently you are using air. Try not to lose the beat when taking a breath. The breath should still fit within marked rhythm.
  • Circle all accidentals with a red colored pencil as a visual cue to yourself to bring these out of the texture. Since this is a lyrical etude, make sure accents are gracefully rounded (like the sound of a bell rather than a car horn).
  • Make the most out of the crescendo from piano (p) to forte (f) in the 2nd line. Start softly and gradually get louder. Is it possible to make a distinct tone color change here?
  • The last measure of the 2nd line and the 2nd measure of the 3rd line may throw you off with the presence of a dotted rhythm. Try not to linger too long on the dotted eighth. The show must go on!
  • Remember to diminuendo gradually in the 2nd-3rd measure of line 3. This is the transition between the two character voices in this excerpt. We are essentially making a return to the opening melody.
  • The final diminuendo may be a bit challenging with the octave jump at the end. Try not to get so soft on this line that you lose tonal support for the last two notes. This jump should still be graceful (like the triangle at the end of an orchestral work)..

Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 54, #12; quarter note = 120

  • This excerpt is all about articulation! Keep your articulated notes short and light. A good way to practice this excerpt is to use the syllable “tut.” This keeps the notes short and the tongue poised for the next note. Another great way to practice lightening your articulation in this excerpt is to practice in “chirps” (or unarticulated puffs of air). This helps alleviate the work of your tongue to produce the sound of each articulated note.
  • There are a few sneaky F# in the score. Make sure to mark these clearly in your music. If seeing “E#” freaks you out (understandable!), simply write “F” above these notes.
  • Keep a strict quarter note = 120 tempo and practice with a metronome. The guidelines are very specific regarding tempo for this excerpt.
  • The good news is that the dynamic remains in forte (f) for the entire excerpt. Keep the sound resonant and project in all registers. The volume and quality of sound must be the same at the bottom of the register as it is at the top.

Piccolo Excerpt – Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 51, #6; m. 1-32, quarter note = 116

  • There is a strict quarter note = 116 tempo indicated in the audition guidelines. Make sure to practice this excerpt with a metronome. Record yourself to make sure that your internal tempo is consistent with your metronome.
  • The first measure is a bit tricky as you are required to move quite quicky from a forte (f) on a high G to a piano (p) in the next measure. Playing softly in the high register is challenging on the piccolo! This type of writing occurs in several place in this excerpt. Try tightening your embrochure rather than using more air to control the sound. A good way to prepare for playing softly in this register is to practice 3rd octave scales softly as a warm-up (use your circle of fourths exercise for this!).
  • There are accents in the low register. Circle these in a red colored pencil to bring them to your attention. Make sure to bring these notes out of the texture.
  • This excerpt turns the natural dynamic tendencies of the line (and the instrument) around, bringing out the opposite of “normal.” Understand this concept and half the battle is already won!
  • Practice your Eb major and C# minor scales as a warm-up to become comfortable playing in these keys for this excerpt.
  • Bring out the crescendo/decrescendo pairs at the end of the excerpt. The notes and dynamics move faster than the previous lines in the final 2 measures.
  • Keep dotted articulations short and light. Try practicing with a “tut” syllable in these passages to keep the notes short while preparing the tongue properly for each subsequent note.

***

Symphonic Band Auditions (11th and 12th grade All-State Band)

Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 42, #10; m. 1-16

  • Although this excerpt is written in 9, be sure to select a tempo that is not too slow but still Adagio. Keep the melody flowing.
  • Think of this excerpt like a dance (it is a waltz after all). Retain a graceful and elegant tone even in the high register. The accents are almost like changes of steps, with slurs representing longer turns or spins on the dance floor.
  • On that note, do what you can to bring out the accents. These should be rounded and graceful, like the sound of a bell. Circle these in with a red colored pencil as a visual reminder to bring them out of the texture.
  • Although this excerpt begins with a piano (p) dolce dynamic, it contains a number of dynamic changes (including several crescendo/decrescendo pairs) that ultimately build to the forte in the final 2 measures. This is a great opportunity to experiment with tone color changes! I wrote an article last year for The Flute View entitled “Rainbow Score” that describes a system of assigning certain colors to certain sounds and coloring your music in to represent your tone plan (check out this article here: https://thefluteview.com/2020/09/9681/). The sound may change from color to color based on volume, resonance, and vibrato speed depending on how you, as an individual performer, interpret it. Try inventing your own color plan and adding a simple spectrum above each line.
  • Think of your accidentals as leading to the next note, particularly in the ascending lines (ex. 3rd line, first 2 measures).
  • Take the breath marks as indicated. If you are having trouble fitting in all of the notes between breaths, speed the tempo up ever so slightly.

Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 7, #7; m. 1-40 + 1 note

  • Keep your beat steady throughout the spinning 16th notes by adding a few breath kicks (or very small accents or small bits of vibrato) on notes falling on the downbeats.
  • Keep your finger transitions from note to note “snappy.” I sometimes refer to this as “robot fingers” with my students. Of course, do not actually play like a robot! Just keep your finger movements quick and deliberate from one note to the next.
  • Keep the tempo swift but still manageable (at least quarter note = 120). You want to impress your committee with your virtuosity but also show them that you understand where the beat is.
  • Make a clear distinction between the marked piano (p) and mezzo-forte (mf) dynamics. This is another great opportunity to experiment with tone color changes between the 2 character’s voices.
  • Many of the mezzo-forte passages fall within the lower register, which is not the easiest register to play loudly. Try bringing your right shoulder closer to your flute. This will help open your sound up in the lower register.
  • The 6th line switches characters completely. The marked “grandioso” says it all! Longer, more boisterous lines are introduced by articulated ascending lines. Change tone colors in this section and use a bit more vibrato to sing out the melody.
  • Keep the staccatos in the 6th and 7th lines short, but not too short. Make sure there is still a center to your sound and keep attacks light.

Piccolo Excerpt – Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984), pg. 23, #5; beginning – m. 38 + 1 note

  • This is essentially a march (piccolos playing marches – groundbreaking..). A great way to practice keeping a clear march tempo is to literally march in place while playing this excerpt.
  • There is a character change at the beginning of the 3rd line, introduced by a “dolce” beneath the staff. Experiment with tone colors here. How can you change your tone, dynamics, or sound to create a new, sweeter voice?
  • The accents in the 3rd line are unusual as they fall on the 2nd note of a syncopated 2-note grouping. Bring these out of the texture without slowing down the beat.
  • Speaking of accents, make sure you circle these in your music with a red colored pencil as a reminder to bring these out of the texture.
  • Remember that there are crescendi and decrescendi starting at the end of line 3. Circle these and bring them out as they follow the natural direction of the line.
  • There are a number of octave jumps in this excerpt (particularly at the end of lines 4 through line 6). A good way to train your embrochure for these leaps is to add the Flexibility Exercise #1 from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone to your daily warm-up routine. Focus on keeping the tone stable while training your lips to gracefully move between each register.

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

(These are going to be very similar to my last blog and can apply to most audition scenarios.)

  • Record yourself playing all of the excerpts. Review your recordings and mark down anything that could be improved. Avoid being a perfectionist! Mark it down, work on it, and trust in your ability.
  • Hydrate! This is one of the first things we forget when we are nervous. On the day of the audition, make sure to bring a bottle of water.
  • Avoid comparing your playing to other flutists. I know – easier said than done, especially when you are stressed. Do not become intimidated by a senior with more experience. Instead, ask them for advice. Collaborate more than compete and you will create allies.
  • Have fun! Auditioning should be a fun, challenging experiment. You never know what exactly the judges are looking for or if they will find it in your playing. Play your best, put it out there, and wait patiently for the next steps.

***

Are you auditioning for the Florida All-State Band program? Which one of the above tips works best for you? What are your own practice tips? What are you struggling with? What questions do you have about the audition or All-State performance experience? Please comment below and share these tips with your Florida flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

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