Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #5: Oregon)

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday. We will again be continuing our Practice Blueprints-All State Auditions series this week with Oregon. Oregon has a special place in my heart as my husband and I were married in Yachats, Oregon 10 years ago and still visit at least once a year. We also briefly owned a beach house along the Oregon Coast where I taught young flute students and participated in the Oregon Music Education Association (OMEA). Oregon has a very unique All-State Symphonic Band and All-State Wind Ensemble format that enables smaller schools to audition for the All-State Symphonic Band program separately using different audition materials than students from larger schools who are required to audition for the All-State Wind Ensemble. Any student from a larger school who does not make it into the Wind Ensemble is eligible for placement in the Symphonic Band after the smaller school participants have been ranked and placed. This model provides more opportunities for students from smaller schools to gain priceless experience at the state level. Auditions for both the All-State Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band opened on September 1st and will continue through October 4th. For those of you still considering submitting an application, or for teachers with students interested in submitting audition recordings, today’s blog will help make the audition and application process a bit less intimidating. Participating in All-State programs was a very valuable part of my own experience. I also came from a smaller school and know first-hand that the very best talent is often found within the quieter, simpler parts of the world, hidden until it is given the sunlight it needs to thrive. If you are one of these young musicians, I say throw caution to the wind and apply! Seize all of the enriching experiences possible as you grow into fantastic young musicians.

General Information (What You Need to Know)

  • Students must work with their music teacher/band director to complete recordings (separate files for each required excerpt).
  • The cost to submit an audition for high school students is $20.
  • Teachers must be current members of NAfME/OMEA to submit nominations and auditions through OpusEvent.com.
  • Teachers and families are notified of audition results by mid-October via the email address entered into OpusEvent.com.
  • Students must complete audition forms and give these to their music teacher/band director. These can be found here: https://www.oregonmusic.org/files/All%20State/2022%20AllState%20and%20Conference/AllStateInfo&AppPacket2022.pdf
  • The student must perform each exercise with the correct pitch, rhythms, quality tone, articulations, and steady tempo (see tempo markings on each exercise).
  • Each audition track should be a separate audio file (mp3, wav, etc.).
  • Teachers and students may not electronically or otherwise enhance any recordings.
  • The OMEA All-State Festival will be held over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Eugene, Oregon. Parents/Guardians must supply or arrange transportation to and from Eugene. Some schools might provide transportation to the event. Please see your band director for further information.
  • The audition period opens on September 1st on OpusEvent.com and runs through October 4th.
  • Registration and participation fees for accepted high school students is $334.00.
  • High School Symphonic Band Info
    • Conductor = Marcellus Brown
    • Rehearsals will take place from Friday, January 14 – Sunday, January 16, 2022 at the Lane Events Center.
    • The performance will take place at the First Baptist Church.
    • Students will be staying at The Graduate Hotel Eugene.
    • Auditions are open to students in schools with an OSAA classification of 1A-4A (please see your band director to determine if your school falls in this category).
    • Students from 5A and 6A high schools may not use Symphonic Band audition materials.
  • High School Wind Ensemble Info
    • Conductor = Dr. Rebecca Phillips
    • Rehearsals will take place from Friday, January 14 – Sunday, January 16, 2022 at the University of Oregon School of Music.
    • The performance will take place at the First Baptist Church.
    • Students will be staying at The Graduate Hotel Eugene.
    • Students from 5A and 6A schools MUST submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra audition material. If smaller school students wish to submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra material, they are welcome to do so; however, students can only submit one band audition.
    • All students that submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra material that are not selected for the Orchestra or Wind Ensemble, will be considered for positions in the Symphonic Band.
  • 5A-6A students will be selected to fill out the band after all of the small school students who met the minimum audition scores are accepted into the Symphonic Band.
  • The approximate size of the Wind Ensemble is 90 players and the Symphonic Band is 150, depending on the pool of applicants and the needs of the literature.
  • Audition screening is “blind” – Judges do not know the students’ name or school information.
  • Screeners will listen to each track and assign a score from 1-100. After all auditions are scored, each student will end up with an overall score and then will be ranked.
  • Screeners are instructed that any student who is unable to perform a track successfully are to be marked “unacceptable.” That means that any wrong notes/pitches, wrong rhythms, poor tone quality and inaccurate or poorly executed articulations will disqualify a student.

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Practice Tips

Oregon All-State Wind Ensemble Audition Repertoire

Excerpt #1 – 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 slowly to quarter note = 72. 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.
  • The goal, if you can swing it, is to play the excerpt in one breath. I know – scary, but it can be done. Memorize your scale and practice! Use it as part of your warm-up routine in band rehearsals or at the beginning of each practice session. Alter your dynamics so that you are using less air but still retaining a center to your sound. A mp-mf should work nicely, staying on the mp-side if at all possible. If playing this in one breath is just not an option, take a quick breath after the third C (C3) on your way back down the scale.
  • 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.
  • To keep your tempo consistent on recording day, program your metronome to quarter note = 72 and keep it on silent while you play. This works best if you have memorized your chromatic scale. And finally..
  • Memorize your scale! Memorizing your chromatic scale will help you well beyond All-State auditions.

Excerpt #1 – Joachim Anderson, 24 Etudes for Flute, Op. 15, No. 24

  • This excerpt opens with a huge register jump from a low D to and third octave F in a fortissimo dynamic with the words “con impeto” (“with force”) below the staff. Whoa! Two notes in and the musical drama is already lit, setting the stage for the entire excerpt! A good way to prepare for this crazy jump is to add harmonics to your daily practice routine. This will train your embrochure to reach for the high F rather than overusing your air. A good place to find harmonic exercises in on page 6 of the Trever Wye Practice Book on Tone. This is a staple in my own practice routine and works wonders to improve the resonance of my lower register as well as the ease of my octave jumps. Try it out!
  • Let’s talk more about that opening low D. It is not easy to start on this note with a fortissimo dynamic. Add a gentle finger slap on your low G key to help this note speak. Also, begin the excerpt with your right shoulder angled closer to your flute. This will help open up your sound in the lower register. Make sure to move your shoulder back for the high F for the best resonance in the high register.
  • Now, let’s talk about that high F. This is an excellent note to practice putting air in your cheek and using your best, most beautifully intense vibrato. You are essentially introducing your listener to your sound with the first two notes. Give them all you’ve got!
  • This excerpt is an exercise in arpeggio somersaults. A great complement to add to your daily scale routine is Taffanel and Gaubert’s Exercise #12 from the 17 Daily Exercises, which covers any and all types of arpeggios throughout the range of the flute. You may also find it helpful to mark the chord name that the arpeggios are highlighting above the staff. For example, in measure 3, we find a D minor arpeggio that moves into a (strange) G# diminished seventh chord, followed in the next measure by an A major chord. If you know your arpeggios well enough, this will save you a lot of time looking at the notes and simply playing the broken chords.
  • There are a number of juxtapositions against opposites in this excerpt. Articulation is a great example. Measure 2 requires very short staccatos followed in measure 3 by sweeping slurred lines that make their way back to short staccatos in measure 4. Understanding this concept is half the battle! Make sure to keep your staccatos short yet “bouncy.” Using a “tut” syllable here will help you have a clean, clear attack on each note while preparing the tongue for the next note. On the slurs, keep your notes smooth and connected while using “snappy” fingers to move from each fingering to the next.
  • The rests in this excerpt are here to help you! Take nice, long, deliberate breaths on the rests to help you get through the longer lines. You may also take short “catch” breaths in measures 13-14 to help you power through until the end of the excerpt (Rampal was infamous for using small “catch” breaths in his Mozart concerti).
  • Another juxtaposition of opposites can be found in the dynamics. Although the excerpt begins in fortissimo (with another fortissimo reiterated in measure 5), a piano (p) dynamic makes its way into the texture in measure 9. Make sure you clearly show the difference in both sound and character here. Remember to transition back to a forte in measure 13, which should not be as boisterous as the opening dynamic but still fairly loud. Make a clear diminuendo in the final two measures to an easy, breezy, clear and calm mezzo-forte.
  • Measures 10 and 12 may be a bit tricky as an F# in the previous measure morphs back into an F natural. Make sure to mark this in your part so you do not forget.

Excerpt #3 – Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonata in Eb BWV 1031 (Siciliano)

  • The good thing about this excerpt is that it has been recorded and performed by flutists young and old on both modern and period instruments. The very best thing you can do before even practicing this piece is to listen to a bunch of different versions of the work by a range of artists. Many of these recordings can be found on YouTube. Find a few samples featuring performances on both modern flutes and baroque flutes. One of my favorite videos is by Jasmine Choi https://youtu.be/kM39vMjIULM, who finds a unique beauty and sound for each note.
  • To better understand the character of this excerpt, it is important to know exactly what a Siciliano is (no, it is not just a fancy tempo word that the Italians made up or a type of pizza). A Siciliano, according to Merriam-Webster, is a “graceful Sicilian rustic dance in which the partners are joined with handkerchiefs.” There is a graceful connectivity to this piece. Nothing jumps to high or too low (not possible if you and connected to your dance partner via handkerchief). Keep this idea as you are performing this excerpt: graceful connectivity.
  • Remember to aim your air toward the higher note on the limited jumps that appear in this excerpt (measures 3 and 5 are good examples). Think of your air as a type of gas pedal when making your way from a lower to a higher note. A great exercise to add to your practice routine to work on this concept is from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone, “The Middle Register – II” on page 17. These lines feature a jump that will require the same “gas pedal” of air to reach the higher note. Try it out!
  • You may notice that there is something very strange missing from this passage: dynamics. That doesn’t necessarily mean you may play one dynamic. Mr. Bach left a lot of performance elements open to interpretation by performers, including articulations, ornamentation, and dynamics. A rule of thumb when it comes to baroque dynamics is to use contrasting dynamics whenever possible on repeating lines. A good time to experiment with this appears in measures 17-18 and again in 19-20. Play the first repetition of the repeating motive with a forte dynamic and the second with a piano dynamic and again for the next set of repetitions. This keeps the melody a bit more mysterious and multidimensional.
  • Although the tempo is marked in 8th notes, perform this excerpt with a larger dotted quarter note emphasis. It is a dance, after all. The steps will occur not on the eighth notes but on the dotted quarter. I like to watch period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility from the BBC to really capture the idea of this dance as there are often dance sequences that feature baroque tunes.

Piccolo Excerpt – Percy Grainger, Molly on the Shore

  • Do not be deceived by the easy-seeming tempo marking at the beginning – This excerpt flies by pretty quickly! Start working on this slowly to make sure your technique is consistently rockin’ and rollin’ before speeding up.
  • This excerpt takes courage! The high register playing is not for the faint of heart. My best piece of advice is to belt.it.out. Give your band director a set of earplugs while you are recording and pretend that you are the Slash of the flute. Slash plays his guitar as if he doesn’t care who hears him – Play your piccolo as if you don’t care who hears you. Rock it!
  • The triplet figures in this excerpt are more akin to ornaments in the melody than true triplets. You will still want to make sure these are supported by your air and the sound rings out but keep these as ornamental to the primary melody.
  • The style in the first two lines is very much contrasting to the rest of the excerpt. Be sure to bring out this character difference by starting the excerpt in a calm mezzo-forte with sweetly sounding vibrato. Turn up the intensity in measure 6 with short, yet lightly articulated notes.
  • You may get tired from all of the articulation. Remember to use a light “tut” syllable to keep attacks clean and your tongue poised for the next note. A great way to practice this excerpt is in chirps (or tiny puffs of air). This will help train your air to do some of the heavy lifting, giving your “tut” a much-needed break.
  • There are accents! Make sure to circle these with a red-colored pencil in your part so you do not forget to bring them out of the texture. These accents are important as they correspond to what is happening in the rest of the ensemble.
  • The last 3 lines feature a series of crescendos and decrescendos. Makes sure you are bringing these out of the texture. Start these passages off slightly softer than they are marked to make more of a difference in the line. Most of these follow the natural dynamic tendencies of the line.

Symphonic Band Audition Repertoire

If you are in a smaller school, you may be eligible to audition for the All-State Symphonic Band. This will be less competitive and guarantees more opportunities for musicians from smaller school to participate in All-State programs. As a young flutist from a smaller school, I would have loved having more opportunities like this! You will perform with fellow musicians from around the state in programs similar to your own, make new friends, and create priceless new memorizes. The repertoire for this group is a bit easier than that of the Wind Ensemble, but you may instead audition with the Wind Ensemble repertoire if you so choose. Up to you!

Exercise #1 – Chromatic Scale

  • Many of the tips below are similar to those for the Wind Ensemble audition. My two best pieces of advice are to stick to the written tempo of quarter note = 60 and to try to play this excerpt in one breath with good sound.
  • 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.
  • Alter your dynamics so that you are using less air but still retaining a center to your sound. A mp-mf should work nicely, staying on the mp-side if at all possible.
  • To keep your tempo consistent on recording day, program your metronome to quarter note = 60 and keep it on silent while you play. This works best if you have memorized your chromatic scale. And finally..
  • Memorize your scale! Memorizing your chromatic scale will help you well beyond All-State auditions.

Exercise #2 – Etude Espressivo

  • This is a great excerpt to practice varying the speed of your vibrato to match the character of the melody and dynamics. The excerpt begins quietly, requiring a sweet, almost dolce tone. Build up to a mezzo-forte at the end of the first line and speed up your vibrato ever so slightly. At the climax in line 2, play out on the forte and speed up your vibrato again so that the line is boisterous and intense. Play out here!
  • The unique thing about this excerpt is that it features a number of different types of articulations. For example, just looking at the 2nd and 3rd measures, there are slurs, staccatos, accents, and tenuto markings within the span of 2 measures. Make sure to bring out the difference in all of these types of articulations.
  • The name of the game is to be as expressive as possible in this short selection. Something that really helps me, as well as my students, is to create a story behind the music. Listen to yourself playing the entire excerpt. What comes to mind? Does the music make you think of different types of colors? Does it make you think of people? Animals? Is there a story behind the notes or a dialogue being sung between the voices? Write it down! Imagine your story every time you play this excerpt.

Exercise #3 – Etude Technical

  • Practice with your metronome set to quarter note = 120 and then practice with your metronome again, and again until the tempo is ingrained in your head. If this tempo is too fast, go ahead and dial it back while you are learning the notes, speeding up gradually every day until you can play at quarter note = 120. Record yourself playing without the metronome. How close is your internal tempo to the written tempo? Remember not to rush on the day of the recording. It is a good idea to bring your metronome with you and remind yourself of the tempo before your band director hits the “record” button.
  • This entire excerpt is articulated and most of it is staccato. A great way to practice your staccatos is by using a “tut” syllable on the single-tongued notes, and a tut-kut combination on your double-tongued passages. Another good idea is to practice in chirps (or small puffs of un-articulated air). This will help train your air to do the heavy lifting, freeing up your tongue to lighten your articulation.
  • Remember to place some vibrato on the quarter notes marked with tenuto lines. You’ll want to remind your committee of your awesome sound!
  • There are a number of dynamic changes in this excerpt starting in the second line and continuing until the end of the excerpt. Remember to clearly show the difference between all of these dynamic changes. Sometimes it helps to think of dynamics as different colors. If this works for you, you might add a spectrum with these colors above your music as a visual reminder to change your sound in these sections.
  • There is only one accent in the entire excerpt! This falls on the 3rd beat of the second to last measure. Circle this with a red colored pencil so you do not forget to make this note different from all of the notes that comes before it. This is the false ending. Your listener may think the excerpt is over, but lo and behold, there are still a few notes! Gotcha.

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

  • 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 final recording, 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.

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Are you auditioning for the Oregon All-State Wind Ensemble or Symphonic Band? What are your best preparation strategies? What do you find the most challenging about the audition repertoire? What questions do you have about the audition or the All-State performance experience? Please comment below and share these tips with your Oregon flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

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