Hawaii Youth Symphony

All About Auditions

All About Auditions!

Like many youth orchestras, some of our ensembles are audition-only, but don’t be intimidated! While auditions can be nerve-wracking, they’re a great way for young musicians to step outside of their comfort zone and grow, both musically and personally.

Why participate in an audition?

In a collaborative environment like an orchestra, the talent level of your peers pushes you to play at a higher level. Auditions help us match students with the ensemble that is best suited to their skill level, encouraging them to continue to progress.

Playing in an orchestra with a repertoire that is too easy or too hard can lead to students becoming bored or frustrated and quitting their instrument, and that’s what we hate to see! Music is such a wonderful thing to be a part of, so it’s crucial for us to make sure each student is set up for success. Auditions ensure that each of our young musicians has the appropriate foundational training to succeed in our programming!

Auditioning builds life skills that benefit kids and teens for years to come, whether they continue to pursue music or not!

Learn to overcome performance anxiety

Performance anxiety is a battle that musicians and nonmusicians continue to deal with throughout their lives. Becoming comfortable with the audition process at an early age is a super power! Whether it’s performing solo on a huge stage, competing in a sporting event, testifying in court, or giving a toast at your sister’s wedding, learning to regulate your emotions and perform confidently in front of others is an invaluable skill.

During auditions, students play alone for a panel of judges. They must learn to confront their fears, harness their adrenaline, and keep a positive attitude in the face of a challenge. Luckily, our conductors and staff are super friendly and supportive, and we even offer audition workshops to help first-time auditioners feel comfortable with the process.

As students continue to audition every season, the auditions become less and less scary. The repetitive nature of auditions allows young musicians to experiment with different approaches to managing their nerves, identifying what works best for them individually. These strategies not only prepare them for the immediate task at hand but also lay a foundation for handling stress and anxiety in future performances and all situations. 

When students successfully complete an audition, no matter the outcome, they learn how to navigate a high pressure situation and build self-confidence.

Building work ethic and resilience

As musicians dedicate themselves to preparing for an upcoming audition, they cultivate a work ethic that applies to all areas of life. Auditions give them something to work towards, and shows them how their hard work can pay off. Students learn the importance of setting goals, breaking them down into manageable tasks, and evaluating progress. This methodical approach to preparation not only enhances their performance during auditions but also instills a sense of discipline that benefits them in various aspects of their lives.

Of course, we may not always get the results we are hoping for from an audition. That’s where resilience comes in! Through the audition process, students also learn how to manage disappointment and rejection, which will serve them well later in life. Just like an instrument, the ability to bounce back with an even stronger resolve must also be practiced.

By challenging themselves to participate in an audition, young musicians can better prepare themselves for the inevitable ups and downs of life. They learn the value of perseverance, commitment, patience, and resilience, and how their attitude can make a difference.

Auditioning at Hawaii Youth Symphony

What programs require an audition, and how do they work? Students can begin auditioning for Hawaii Youth Symphony programs as early as 3rd grade. Our Academy String Program has four orchestras of increasing level. The two most advanced orchestras, String Orchestra Ensemble (SOE) and Concert String Orchestra (CSO) require an audition. Academy String auditions are held in early August for the upcoming school year. Information for the Academy Program auditions come out in early June with the audition music and registration beginning in early July.

The other program that requires an audition is our Symphony Program, which has three orchestras of increasing level. Symphony Program auditions are open to students grades 5-12 and are held in May for the upcoming school year. Audition registration, information, and music for the 2024-2025 season is now available on the Symphony Audition Page!

If you’re looking to audition, students/parents must first complete the Audition Registration form by the deadline. After registering, you will receive your audition time about a week before the audition date. 

Auditions are held in person in Honolulu, but Symphony Program auditions are also open to neighbor island students. We may send a team to do in-person auditions on your island, or provide you with details on how you can audition. Neighbor island students should fill out the registration form and answer the questions for neighbor island students.

What about seat assignments?

After the initial auditions, students who are accepted into an ensemble may also participate in a seating audition. Chairs are an opportunity for students to continue to progress within the same ensemble, and take a bigger leadership role. Last season, students were assigned seats based on an audition for our fall semester and, in the spring, our Director of Orchestras rotated students through different seats, giving each student the opportunity to lead their section.

Last season’s YSI concertmaster Belise Smartwood explained in an HPR interview that “Mr. Stepec emphasizes how every seat is important. And it’s a different experience to play in a different seat being how you have to look up more, or pay more attention to who’s in front of you, or play out more.” 

Don’t stress too much about your seating assignment! While the music we play can be challenging, HYS is about fun and making music, not about competition. 

Preparing for your audition

We recommend preparing for your audition the same way you would prepare for an upcoming concert! You’ll feel most confident and comfortable on audition day and get the most out of your experience if you put the time into practicing. But, these auditions shouldn’t take over your life. Make sure to prioritize your mental and physical health, enjoy your free time, and get plenty of sleep. Here are a few tips for a successful audition prep! 

  1. Start early. Cramming for an audition can be frustrating and stressful. Instead, start working on the audition music early and give yourself plenty of time to get more comfortable with it.
  2. Work out the tough spots. Play tricky parts of the music repetitively to build muscle memory and confidence. Start slow, ensuring you are playing the correct notes, rhythms, articulations, and dynamics. Then, as you become more comfortable, slowly increase the tempo.
  3. As you get closer to the audition date, practice playing through mistakes so you can play through the music without stopping if you make a mistake. We don’t expect perfection, and you can work on that part later!
  4. Use tools like a metronome to help you ensure you are playing rhythms accurately and a tuner to check intonation. Record yourself! Recording yourself is a great tool and will show you areas you need to focus on and where you are improving. 
  5. Play for friends and family. Perform your audition music in front of a supportive audience, and ask them to create a mock audition setting for you to familiarize yourself with the conditions.
  6. Be prepared on audition day. Carefully read through all the audition information, and reduce audition day stress by arriving at your audition a little early. You can further reduce stress by planning what you will wear, eat for breakfast, and bring to your audition the night before.
  7. Focus on your preparation, not on the results. If you do your best and play with passion, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be. It’s about the journey, not the destination!

Remember, music is a right!

At HYS we want students to be able to participate in our programs regardless of their financial situation. HYS offers need-based financial aid for up to 50% off tuition costs as well as aid for private lessons. Families can apply for financial aid when they register. We also have instruments available to loan to students in our programs who need one to participate at no cost to families!

Students from all islands are encouraged to audition and apply. In addition to Financial Aid and Scholarships, HYS has funds to assist with neighbor island students with travel expenses (airfare and ground transportation) for rehearsals and concerts. Because we understand that coming every weekend to Oahu would be impossible, we will work with neighbor island students on a case-by-case basis to create reasonable attendance policies that minimize hardship, while maximizing learning, participation, and artistic excellence.

We hope to inspire kids to make music, whether it’s in an audition-based program or not. If auditioning for one of our orchestral programs isn’t for you, we offer other opportunities to make music, like our HYS Jazz groups and Music in the Clubhouse programs! 

Post a Comment