A Nobody from Nowhere : The Adventure Begins
When I started applying for college, my piano teacher (bless her heart) connected me with her colleagues teaching at various universities. This was very nice of her. However, I wanted more! I wanted to be a performer and concert pianist. This was my dream and my goal. I believed the best way to be one was to apply to a conservatory and not a university music program.
My teacher said, “Go ahead and email other music professors then. See if they’ll reply to a nobody from nowhere!”
Now, my teacher was not being mean. She was concerned. She knew that I did not have much musical “achievements.” I had not won any local or international competitions. My repertoire was limited to a few Bach preludes and fugues, three Mozart sonatas, one Schubert sonata, an easy Chopin etude. I hadn’t even learned a concerto or a Beethoven sonata! Whatever piano repertoire I had, I learned in the two years I studied with her. She worried that I would be crushed and demoralized by the possible rejection I could get from the higher tier music schools. Even if I did get accepted, I could be left in the dust by the professors who would rather work with more advanced students possessing better technique, since my lack of skill might try their patience. For her, I was in a lose-lose situation.
Against her better judgment, I emailed professors at nine different schools. Guess what?
Seven replied, to the surprise of my teacher and to my delight. People do reply to nobodies from nowhere!
One particular professor sent me an intriguing reply:
“If you pass the pre-screening (and it is not my decision, the Chairman of our Piano Department, Professor … will decide), then I will certainly look forward to your audition, and if you are admitted, I would indeed consider taking you into my studio if I have room…”
SPOILER: This teacher eventually became my college piano professor!
The college professor gave me a number of helpful audition tips. He advised that the audio and video resolution of my audition pre-screening “tapes” should be as high quality as possible. Despite my best efforts, the pre-screening videos recorded at home were not good enough. I used an HD video camera to record while playing on a well-tuned grand piano in a quiet room. In the sample video file I sent the professor, the air conditioner was making dripping sounds in the background and the sound was very distracting.
To heed the professor’s instructions and to remedy the situation, I decided to book a recording studio with a grand piano to do my pre-screening videos. I used my own video camera to record because there would be additional charges for taking an audio recording using the studio’s equipment. Plus, I would also have to hire their sound technician. The booking date and time would depend on the availability of the sound technician. I needed to record as soon as possible and decided to do without the technician.
Because of the college professor’s advice about submitting high quality videos, I qualified to do live auditions in seven out of the nine schools I applied to, with the option to submit recorded videos. (The other two schools did not consider my application because of questions they raised regarding my academic documents and credentials.)
Upon my piano teacher’s advice I decided to submit videos for a fully recorded audition. I chose to audition in person at two conservatories because I considered them to be my dream schools.
On hindsight, I should not have done it this way. If you HAVE the resources, I highly recommend that you consider doing your auditions in person and visit the school campus. This shows the faculty that you have initiative, and that you seriously want to go and study there. Visiting prospective schools will also give you a feel for the campus, if you like it, if you will fit in, and if you will thrive there. Schedule trial lessons with the teachers you plan to study with at each school. Ask the teacher(s) how they would help you grow as a musician. See if their responses align with your personal goals. Remember, you will be investing at least 4 years of your life as well as money in whichever school you choose. So try to make the best choice.