- REHEARSE FOR AUDITIONS? IT’S ALL IN THE MIND
- IMPROVE CONCENTRATION, ACE AUDITIONS
- IT’S ALL IN THE MIND
- BROKEN VALVE? CRACKED BRIDGE? NO EXCUSE!
- ON THE COUNT OF THREE…FOCUS!
REHEARSE FOR AUDITIONS? IT’S ALL IN THE MIND
When it comes to preparing for an audition, mental rehearsal can help more than actual practice
JULY 9, 2007—A week before his final audition with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, trombonist Stephen Lange made a career-changing decision: He didn’t practice the excerpt on which he’d be judged. At least, he didn’t practice on his trombone.
“I was having a really hard time playing a high D, and there was one in this excerpt of Strauss,” he recalls. “I was cracking it every time, so I decided not to play it all—except in my head. For the entire week leading up to the audition, I mentally rehearsed that piece, slowing it down until I could nail that high D.”
And at the audition, Lange produced the note he’d heard perfectly in his head—not the cracking sound he’d played in practice. “Nailing that note is one of the reasons why I’m in the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra today,” he says. “It was a truly amazing thing.”
Mental rehearsal is one of ten audition-winning strategies Lange learned from Don Greene, Ph.D., a performance coach whose techniques have helped instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, and actors. Greene makes his program available to performing artists through his website, www.dongreene.com. Performing artists who take Greene’s signature profiling tool, the Performance Skills Inventory, receive the strategies that will help them address such key performance issues as improving self-confidence, building courage, focusing past distraction, recovering from mistakes, and becoming mentally tough.
“As soon as I started applying these strategies, things started happening,” Lange says. “I felt like I unlocked the secret to winning auditions.”
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IMPROVE CONCENTRATION, ACE AUDITIONS
Sports psychologist Don Greene teaches performing artists how to focus past distraction
JULY 18, 2007—For bass player Joel Reist, it was the audition from hell. The warm-up room was as hot as a blast furnace. The auditorium was as cold as a meat locker. When he lifted his bow to play, a volley of flash photographs went off in his face. His music blew off the stand. And then somebody dropped what sounded like an armload of two-by-fours right behind him.
I leapt off my chair, shouting expletives,” Reist recalls of his mock audition, laughing. “But it was just what I needed, because when the real audition took place a week later in Nashville, nothing could rattle me.”
Reist, who now plays principal bass for The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, had been having trouble focusing when he most needed to—trying to land a job with a major orchestra, that is. Excitable and easily distracted, he knew he needed some kind of strategy other than “I’ll learn as best I can and then go play.” So he participated in a unique course taught by Don Greene, Ph.D.
Dr. Greene, a former Green Beret and Army Ranger, subjected Reist to “adversity training” that culminated in a mock audition where everything went spectacularly wrong. Reist learned a series of techniques that helped give him control of his nerves and his concentration, no matter what was going on around him.
Upon completing his training, Reist won the audition for a section job in the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and then went on to win the principal bass position. “I went in there telling myself, ‘You know, nobody’s going to drop those boards behind me!’” he says. “I felt positive about what I could expect, because no matter what happened, it couldn’t be worse than what I’d already been through.”
Dr. Greene continues to administer adversity training to his students at both The Juilliard School in Manhattan and the New World Symphony in Miami, but his techniques and strategies are also available on the web at www.dongreene.com. Performing artists interested in hearing Dr. Greene conduct adversity training with his Juilliard students should go to www.dongreene.com
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Winning Auditions Depends on Mental Preparedness
After two years of taking auditions and not advancing, flutist Christine Saari realized she needed a different kind of training.
“I thought it was all about practicing,” says Saari, who just won Principal Chair for the Santa Fe Symphony. “And you do have to put in four to five hours a day, there’s no getting around that. But at a certain point, it isn’t about more finger exercises, more repetition. Mental preparation is the key to winning.”
Prior to the Santa Fe audition, Saari suffered from a fairly common phenomenon among performing artists. In competition, she would tear herself down before she’d even warmed up. At a Kansas City audition, for instance, she played well enough to survive the first round. But then, sitting in the room with all the others who’d made it, she started to hear the voice of doom. They’re all more talented than you, she told herself. You may as well give up now. By the time she’d warmed up for Round Two, Saari felt too exhausted, and too intimidated, to give it her best. Sure enough, she didn’t advance.
Now, however, she has a strategy—one she had learned while a student at Northwestern University in Illinois but only recently rediscovered online at www.dongreene.com. Saari relies on a technique called visualization to reprogram her “self talk.” The technique, taught by sports psychologist and Juilliard professor Don Greene, Ph.D., helps silence the overly critical voice that sabotages otherwise well prepared musicians during performances.
“I take the time to sit there and visualize what the warm-up, which is where I always struggle, will be like,” Saari explains. “And then I consciously change my reaction from, ‘That person could beat me!’ to ‘I am going to win because I have a product worth hiring for.’
It’s working. Since adopting her new mental prep strategy, Saari, who also plays Assistant Principal flute for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, has made it to the finals or semi-finals in every audition she’s taken.
Still, having completed the self-diagnostic Performance Skills Inventory at www.dongreene.com, Saari is aware that, to advance her career, she has to practice her mental approach as earnestly as she practices her flute.
“Winning auditions requires an immense amount of preparation, no question about it,” she says. “But if I subject myself to the process it’s because it’s exciting to get out there and perform. That’s what drew us all to this profession in the first place.”
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Audition-winners Learn to Tune Out Adversity
August 6, 2007—For most musicians, having to play an audition with someone else’s instrument would be reason enough to withdraw. But when Julie Pilant’s French horn sprung a leak days prior to auditioning for The Philadelphia Orchestra, she didn’t give up her slot. And she didn’t lose her confidence.
“All things considered, it went really well,” says Pilant, who made it to the semi-finals despite grappling with a colleague’s instrument whose idiosyncrasies resulted in some unstable notes. “My head was in great shape, and I knew those excerpts like the back of my hand. If my own horn had not been ‘disabled,’ I think I’d have gone even farther.”
How’d she do it?
Pilant, who plays principal horn for the Syracuse Symphony, has had some specialized training. While a student at Juilliard, she worked with Don Greene, Ph.D., an Olympic sports psychologist, West Point graduate, and former Green Beret. He teaches performing artists how, essentially, to handle challenging circumstances. A variety of techniques, some of them derived from Eastern philosophies and the martial arts, prepare musicians like Pilant to stay in the moment, focus on the task at hand, and tune out the inner voices of doubt and doom.
Today, Dr. Greene’s Master Classes in performance skills are still available to students at The Juilliard School in Manhattan and The New World Symphony in Miami Beach. But musicians, vocalists, actors, and dancers all over the world now have access to the strategies that Dr. Greene teaches, including those on how to audition successfully, through his website: http://www.dongreene.com.
Pilant continues to rely on Centering, the core technique she learned from Dr. Greene. Three years ago, she was invited to send an audition CD for the principal horn position in Seiji Ozawa’s Tokyo Opera Nomori. The requested repertoire was musical excerpts from Richard Strauss, a composer notorious for challenging horn parts. ”It was a big risk on my part,” she concedes. But the risk was rewarded with an invitation to return each year as principal, plus additional opportunities to play for Ozawa in his Saito Kinen Festival in Japan.
“When I think where I used to be, I just can’t believe where I am,” she says. “I was a deer in headlights, back as student. I couldn’t shut out the doubts, the negative chatter. Now I just click over into that place where I’m lost in the music and nothing can unnerve me.”
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Centering Gives Musicians the Quiet Mind They Need to Concentrate
That’s all it takes, now, for horn player Thomas Jöstlein to get his energy under control and his mind totally on the music.
“It’s like a sigh, a blowing things down, which sets the stage completely for the music as I want to hear it,” he says. “I use it for every excerpt, for every audition.”
After graduating from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Jöstlein, who now plays for the New York Philharmonic, struggled with a pitfall common to musicians: He couldn’t recover quickly enough from making a mistake. “You make one, you think you’ve shot the whole audition,” he says. “I needed some kind of system, some kind of technique to quiet my mind and regain control.”
He found it in Centering, a technique derived from martial arts that transforms stress into concentration. Working with Juilliard professor and sports psychologist Don Greene, Ph.D., Jöstlein perfected the technique into a three-breath reflex. “My mind no longer races or wanders between excerpts,” he says, “and that’s pretty critical because the French horn is one of the most difficult instruments to control. If you start thinking about lunch, you’ll miss the note.”
Jöstlein also relies on visualization and mental rehearsal, two other techniques he learned from Greene. Whenever he has a solo, he mentally practices it until he hears in his head the sound he wants. He assigns it a cue word, too, one that summons the feeling he wants to produce. And he visualizes his own ideal performance.
“It’s like going to the movies,” he explains. “I show myself a mental movie where I’m playing the way I want to play. In a sense, I order that product. Because if you play it enough times your mind, you start to believe it.”
Professional musicians eager to acquire Jöstlein’s mental edge can learn Centering, visualization, and mental rehearsal at www.dongreene.com, a website Greene launched in August 2007 for performing artists. The site offers a self-assessment tool for musicians to diagnose both their strengths and weaknesses as performers. Applicants then receive strategies specifically targeted to address their weakest areas.
Jöstlein credits Greene’s strategies for much of his recent success. “You’ve got to achieve that Zen state of mind, where you’re not looking ahead or back,” he says. “The quieting of the mind is really the answer.”
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