College Talk: I FORGOT ABOUT STRAVINSKY?!

Along with all the amazing things I learned through my 9 college auditions (check out my last post here... I promise it's helpful), I also gained quite a few interesting stories. Here are my favorites:

5. My very first audition got cancelled. There was too much snow for the professors to get to school, and air travel was not likely. No problem, right? Just re-schedule! Wrong. By far the most awkward email I sent all last year was the one that said, "I apologize, but I will not be able to re-schedule my audition because I have auditions every single weekend for the next three months." Thank goodness they let me submit a recorded audition, but that whole experience got my audition season off to an extremely stressful start. There's nothing like practicing your butt off, being super nervous, and then not even getting to perform. 

4. My next story is from one of my most grueling composition interviews. These interviewers all seemed to be very interested in my background, as well as my fundamental metaphysical beliefs about why music exists and why we make it. The first sign of trouble was when they asked me my favorite composers. "Before I studied 20th century music, I really loved Beethoven," I answered, prepared to go on to talk about my favorite 20th century composers among others. But they interrupted me, asking what Beethoven I had studied. As it turns out, some of my most prized possessions are my Beethoven Scores to Symphonies 1-7, but for some reason, I freaked out and blurted some incoherent sentence, which they interpreted as me saying that I had studied Symphonies 8 and 9. They asked me to sing the opening of 8, and surprise! I couldn't do it.

So at this point, I was already super upset with my performance, and it got even worse. Professor: "What music do you listen to?" Me: "Obviously, (insert favorite composers here), but I also listen to a lot of jazz and musical theatre." Professor: "Do you play any jazz?" Me: "Yes, sir, since 8th grade." Professor (here it comes): "Can you go over to that piano and play some for us?" I don't know how many of you have ever heard me play jazz, but my biggest struggle was/is that I have trouble playing chords in my left hand with lines in my right hand. I can do chords in both or a bass line in my left hand and a melody/solo in my right hand, but I'm still working on being coordinated enough to have a solid chordal foundation under a melody. On top of that, I didn't practice jazz at all during audition season because I was so focused on my clarinet auditions. So let's just say my jazz performance was less than stellar.

But the end was in sight. When I stood up from stumbling my way through Joyspring, I glanced at my watch and noticed there were only 3 minutes left in my scheduled interview. I was expecting the usual remarks, "Nice to meet you," "Good luck with your auditions," and "Do you have any questions for us?" but this school had a nice variation to their closing statements: "What is your biggest compositional goal?" Completely thrown off, I told them I wanted to write music that I thought sounded good in the hopes that other people like it too. THEN, we launched into a FIFTEEN MINUTE DISCUSSION about the role of the audience in the creative process and whether or not the publishing industry has changed the kind of music people feel comfortable writing, etc.. Yikes.

3. Some of you may know my Eastman horror story, but for those of you who don't, here goes. This one actually starts during Thanksgiving Break of 2015, when I was at home recording all of my clarinet pre-screenings: Rose 1, Rose 4, first movement of Weber 1, and the third movement of the Poulenc. The first night at home, I double checked the Eastman requirements just to make sure I had it all covered, but instead of "Two contrasting etudes and a solo piece" like all the other schools required, I found that I needed the Mozart Exposition, the Debussy, 2 obscure Rose etudes, and 3 standard excerpts. This would have been no problem if it weren't for the two minor facts that (1) I had only been practicing Rose 1 and 4, the first movement of Weber 1, and the third movement of the Poulenc, and (2) my pre-screening recording was due in 5 days. I came to my parents to cry and tell them that I couldn't audition at Eastman. That's right, I almost didn't audition here. But at dinner, I had a crazy idea. I could audition at Eastman if I learned all that rep in two days.

So I didn't sleep all break, and somehow I did it. I learned all the music I needed to (except that one run in the Debussy... I never nailed that one). I got the best recordings I could, and I went back to school. A few weeks later, I got an email from my wonderful admissions counselor saying something along the lines of, "Hello. You did not pass your clarinet pre-screening. But you've played piano for 10 years, so can you just do that instead? Let me know ASAP." Needless to say, I immediately began work on three contrasting piano pieces: Bach Prelude and Fugue F Minor, Beethoven Sonata Pathetique, and Ginastera Danzas Argentinas (thanks to my Inty cabin-mate for that suggestion!). I had a month and a half to prepare this piano audition, while still trying to keep my clarinet chops good enough for 6 other clarinet auditions. Talk about scary!

Even when I arrived on audition day, I could only really make it through the first movement of the Ginastera, and none of my music was memorized. I was so embarrassed with my lack of preparation, but I was also kind of proud because I had somewhat pulled together a whole audition in a month and a half. Also, *MIRACLE ALERT* I got to choose the order for my piano pieces, and I put the Ginastera last, which consequently meant that we only had time for one movement... Guess which one they asked? First movement, praise Jesus.

Fun Fact: Eastman was actually my worst audition!

Fun Fact: Eastman was actually my worst audition!

2. This next story, which is more embarrassing than scary, comes from a Northern school where I was very starstruck by one teacher in particular. My dad and I were leaving the school building pretty late after my audition, and we had to walk down a rather steep hill to our hotel. On our way out, we noticed that ALL the composition teachers were a few steps behind us. So what did I do? I fell flat on my butt. But not only did I fall, I slid for a good ten seconds because there was so much ice on the sidewalk. All I could think was, "Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he was talking to someone. Maybe he doesn't remember me." But then I stood up and this super cool teacher said, "Oh my gosh, Reagan, are you okay? It's pretty icy." Mortified, all I could say was, "Yes sir. Nice to see again," before I walked away as quickly and carefully as possible.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. I had taken a nap all afternoon because the audition stress and exhaustion was starting to hit me, so Dad and I needed dinner. We picked the best looking restaurant and as soon as we walked in, we saw all the comp faculty members seated to our right with their wives. They must have thought I was some crazy stalker who couldn't even walk down a hill.

1. Here comes my personal favorite. I was sitting in my Eastman interview and talking about my favorite composers. The teachers realized that I was naming a lot of romantic/classical composers and a lot of contemporary composers, so they asked about the missing time period in the middle: "What 20th century composers have you studied?" I named a few, and the started prompting me, clearly looking for someone specific. "What about any Russians?" All I could think was, "Hmm, not Tchaikovsky. Not Prokofiev. What could it be?" I told them I was drawing a blank and they gave me another hint: "Maybe a Russian starting with an S?" Now, I'm thinking, "Welp. That's definitely not Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev." Then, they asked, "Have you heard of... Stravinsky?" I literally forgot about Stravinsky. I had just finished his autobiography, so I guess I just blocked it from my mind because he seemed like a jerk.

All that to say: No matter how terrible you think you're doing, it's probably not that bad. I thought all of these would be fatal moments in my musical career, but fun fact I was still accepted to all of these schools and I still live to tell the tale. Good luck in audition season, and have a wonderful day :)

College TalkReagan Casteel