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Marching bands are led by one or more drum majors , who help direct the band rather than playing while marching. There may be separate auditions for students interested in being drum majors, or they may simply be appointed by the director. Any instrumentalist may become a drum major. Directors prefer experienced marchers who have shown enthusiasm, maturity, and musicianship in the band program. In smaller programs, students whose instruments (such as bassoon) are not as much use on the field may also be preferred to those (such as trumpets) whose playing is needed.

Sometimes students play much better or worse on an audition than they normally play, or progress more or less quickly during the year than other students. In some competitive bands, a student who would like to move higher in the section may be allowed or even encouraged to "challenge" another player for a chair, or there may be mid-year "play-offs" to rearrange seating. In other bands, the director may wish to encourage "team spirit" over competitiveness and may strongly discourage (or simply not allow) challenges. Some directors assign students to different chairs for different concerts (or different pieces within a concert), or even ask the students to choose parts and arrange themselves, so that more students have a chance to play the more challenging parts. The director's educational goals for the students play an important a part in such decisions.

Placement into groups

If a school program is very large, with say multiple concert bands, or if a specific ensemble is very competitive, the purpose of the audition may be to choose the students who will be in the group, as well as their chair order.

Many music educators' associations and interscholastic leagues also run auditions for honors groups, so that your child may have the opportunity to audition to play in a regional or state honors band. These usually only meet to rehearse for a single concert.

Besides being an opportunity to play with the outstanding young musicians in the area, participation in honors bands and in solo and ensemble contests is an indication to college admissions officers that your child has been an active, motivated, and high-achieving band student.

Auditions for contests

Some contests (both for individuals and for small or large groups) take anyone who would like to participate. Other contests have a minimum requirement to participate (such as a good showing at another contest, or recommendations from certain professionals). If a contest is so prestigious that it must put a strict limit on entries, there may be an audition simply to get into the contest.

Types of auditions

Informal Audition - The student may simply be asked to play any prepared piece, to establish a general level of ability. Informal auditions are useful when only a few people are auditioning, when someone is joining a group mid-year, or when a group of young or inexperienced players is forming.

Formal Audition - In a formal audition, everyone auditioning on a given instrument is expected to play the same music (see Typical Formal Audition Requirements ). Formal auditions are necessary for clear, objective judgements when large numbers of students are auditioning, or when auditions are very competitive.

    Typical formal audition requirements

  • Prepared Music - At some specific date before the audition, the audition music will be made available. It is up to the student to get a copy of the music as soon as possible and practice it enough so that the audition performance gives an accurate idea of the student's present playing ability. Working on audition music with private teachers is allowed and encouraged. A student who cannot play the music, or cannot play it at the indicated tempo , should not expect to do very well at the audition. This is not a cause for panic, however (see Stage Fright ). An audition for a very large program must focus on distinguishing the top players; there may be plenty of places lower in the program for other players. The student should simply prepare the music as well as is presently possible, which may mean playing more slowly, or leaving out very difficult notes.
  • Scales - Some music auditions require the student to prepare scales. Usually only a few scales are requested during the audition, but the student may not know ahead of time exactly which ones. A list of all the scales that might be requested, as well as the preferred pattern for playing them, should be included with the prepared music.
  • Sight-Reading - Some auditions require the students to play music they have never seen before. This is called sight-reading . The ability to sight-read new music accurately is very useful in any musician, is crucial for section leaders , and is a separate skill that must be learned and practiced like any other musical skill. The best practice for this part of an audition is for the student to sight-read regularly for a teacher, director, or other musician who can give useful commentary.
  • Audition Times - The student will normally be given a specific audition time, and should be ready, warmed-up, and waiting at the appropriate time. Auditions may be running ahead or behind schedule, so the student should arrive with plenty of time to spare and periodically monitor the progress of the audition room while warming up at a reasonable distance away from the audition room. (A specific warm-up area is usually provided.)

Audition Tapes - If the audition covers a large geographic area, the audition may simply be taped and sent to the judges by a certain date. Audition tapes usually involve only prepared music, sometimes chosen by the judges, and sometimes by those auditioning. Care should be taken to send the best possible tape that your child is reasonably capable of producing, and to choose music (if you are choosing the music) that best shows off your child's current capabilities. A child who is involved in serious auditions is almost certainly working with a private teacher, who can be expected to take care of most of the musical aspects of tapes and auditions, but you may need to take care of any recording expenses. Making multiple recordings of a piece so that the best "take" can be sent is expected, but splicing and otherwise editing a performance is not acceptable.

Blind Auditions - are auditions in which the judges do not see those auditioning or have any information about them (such as names, schools, etc.) that might prejudice their judgment of the music. Taped auditions are usually blind auditions, and in-person auditions are sometimes carried out behind screens in order to give the fairest possible audition. Blind auditions are most common in very competitive, high-stakes situations.

Performance preparation

    Performance preparation checklist

  • Practice - Is the music as well-prepared as possible?
  • Equipment - Instrument? Music? Mouthpiece, favorite reeds, extra reeds, drumsticks and beaters, bows and picks, etc.? Items for care and emergency repair of instrument? Mutes and other extras? Music stand?
  • Physical readiness - Had enough food, sleep and rest? Well warmed up for playing, but not tired or stiff from practicing too much the day before?
  • Time and Place - Showing up in the right place with plenty of time get to the performance area with instrument and music ready?
  • Dress - Dressed appropriately?

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Source:  OpenStax, A parent's guide to band. OpenStax CNX. Jun 25, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10428/1.1
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