The audition is done! All that hard work went into the best performance possible. Time to celebrate!

A week later, the results are in, but they are not as expected.  Your student did not get into that prestigious college, his score was too low to be considered for All State or All County, she did not get into that prestigious summer camp.  He/she is dejected, maybe even distraught because of the importance of the audition.

Let’s turn the clock back a few months.

Here are 7 pro-active tips:

  1. Sometime in the middle of the school year, give a lesson (to all your students) on critiquing: what it is, its purpose, how it should be done and how to use it to better your performance. Spend a lesson or two on teaching students how to critique, and allow them to practice doing it during small group lessons.  You are also teaching them how to become better listeners in the process.
  2. During the critiquing lessons, have students perform etudes or passages from concert pieces that they can perform relatively well. (Don’t use solos that are for auditions at this point; wait until a few weeks before the performance to allow for critiquing in a safe atmosphere.) Be careful to monitor the critiquing so that it is a positive and safe experience and not mean-spirited. We learn most by teaching a concept; practicing critiquing will allow students to effectively use it for learning purposes instead of beating down their self-esteem.
  3. Observe your students as they react to critiques; look out for students who are very negative to themselves or who already have low self-esteem. Carefully choose which students to pair together for critiquing. Take those students aside afterwards and continually check in on them. Make sure they are not putting too much pressure on themselves when performing. Continually remind your students that performing music is fun!
  4. Demonstrate how to handle negative critique and criticism.  Show how to be objective and not take criticism personally. Explain to your students that criticism that is too personal or too negative is usually misdirected and not accurate. This kind of criticism is better left ignored because the person doing the criticizing usually is just looking for their own attention.
  5. After the students have been exposed to critiquing, have your students critique a portion of a concert, whether it be a live concert, televised or on YouTube. When one understands the purpose of critiquing, it helps them be more objective to their own criticism.
  6. Allow for more performance opportunities outside of the school setting. The best way to prepare for an important performance is to perform.  People in assisted living and nursing homes love to have entertainment, and enjoy seeing young people perform.  Libraries usually allow for performances on weekend afternoons. (Places like shopping malls are also great places to perform, but the audience usually is not so attentive. That’s okay because it is a good lesson in focusing on one’s performance and dealing with distractions.) Encourage your students to look into performing in their own places of worship, community centers, performing for family events, etc.
  7. It’s important to stress to students (before and after the audition) that one performance does not make or break them. If the result isn’t as expected, it just means that something better is coming along. Stories of Olympic athletes or celebrities who have stumbled but picked themselves up, tried again and have had success later are great motivators.

Action Steps:

  1. Be pro-active and expose students to proper forms of criticizing well before the big auditions and Solo Festivals.
  2. Teach your students how to critique performances using constructive criticism to make it a safe environment.
  3. Monitor students’ reactions to criticism and continually “check in” on them.
  4. Demonstrate how to deal with negative criticism and use your own life experiences, or those of athletes and celebrities for positive motivational stories.
  5. Find ways to incorporate more performance outside of the school setting and encourage students to find their own performance opportunities.
  6. If the result wasn’t as expected, remember: Something better is coming along!
  7. If you liked this article, and want free articles on 4 Quick Tips to Knock Out Performance Anxiety and Free Tips to Learning Your Favorite Song, please subscribe to my website at Donna Schwartz Music
  8. Check out my Radio Show at Donna's Channel for special guest interviews on music education topics.

Next time, we’ll look at some ideas for helping your student cope after the audition.