Tips to Prepare for Your Seating Audition

As we’re gearing up for the start of our new season, many students are preparing for the very first event of the year: seating auditions! While these auditions may seem a bit daunting, they’re a vital part in the development of any aspiring orchestral musician. Social Media Team members and Symphony Orchestra musicians Alexander Kim and Shirley Xiong break down the preparation you can do before and on the day of your seating audition.

Collage of video stills of audition videos submitted by CYSO students
Video still from CYSO student audition videos

At Home

Listen, Listen, and Listen!
The first thing you should do when you get your seating audition repertoire is to find a recording of it. The recording can give you a feel for the piece’s performance tempi and melodic phrasing. Use your part for annotation such as bowings, fingerings, etc. It’s also recommended that you listen to different interpretations of your repertoire. With the internet, finding different recordings is easier than ever, so whenever you have some free time or are on a practice break, listen to your repertoire!

Mark the Excerpts
Mark sections that are difficult or tricky—if you’re struggling with something, be sure to note it so that you can go back and practice later. Challenging passages are a lot more likely to show up at your audition than their easier counterparts, but make sure you are able to play through the piece fully, just in case. Marking excerpts early can help you focus on specifics while avoiding spending too much time on something of lesser importance.

Translate Musical Jargon
While this may seem like a mindless or even unpleasant task, it is important to know exactly what the composer intended. Following what is written on your sheet music will elevate your playing and demonstrate a deeper understanding of the music. So, the next time you see ausdrucksvoll, you’ll know to play more expressively!

Practice Slowly with a Metronome and Drone/Tuner
In orchestral music, it’s even more important to practice slowly with a metronome. Be sure to subdivide to make sure your rhythms are accurate, and count rests. Always start at a lower tempo, and build up your speeds with the metronome. On the other side, maintaining accurate intonation is one of the key skills that distinguishes a high-level orchestra. To be sure your intonation is reliable, use a tuner or a drone. It will both help you play in tune and improve your pitch overall.

Get Feedback
Effective and honest feedback on your playing can come from private teachers, peers, or even family members. It’s important that you have multiple audiences listen to you so that you can get a wider variety of feedback and potentially fix something you might’ve missed. Even a seemingly meaningless piece of advice may go a long way.

At the Fine Arts Building

Arrive Early
Time is of the essence and this is especially true for seating auditions, especially if you have a longer commute into the city. Warming up is a necessity–try to arrive at least thirty minutes to an hour early to maximize the time you have to warm up at the Fine Arts Building. Bring a tuner, metronome, your instrument, music, audition attire, water, and anything else you may need to feel comfortable and ace your audition.

Warm-up Slowly
You don’t need to feel pressured by others warming up around you. Have confidence in the work you’ve put in, and make sure you warm up effectively. This means not playing too quickly or extremely loudly. Review your part to make sure you’ve hit all the parts you’ve marked.

Be Courteous and Polite
Around five minutes from your scheduled audition time, begin walking towards the audition room. Bring just your music and instrument. When your audition time arrives, don’t simply barge into the audition room–the judges may be finalizing the previous person’s audition. Remember to be polite! The judges are humans, too, and they have to listen to hours of the same excerpts that whole day. After your audition, remember to say thank you!

There you have it! Good luck on your upcoming audition!


Alex Kim holding a violinAlexander Kim is a violinist in CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra. This is his fifth season with CYSO. He’s currently a junior at William Fremd High School. In his free time, Alex enjoys running, playing tennis, and playing violin (of course)!


Shriley XiongShirley Xiong is a cellist in Symphony Orchestra. Although loving cello, she is (a bit) more of a piano enthusiast. She is currently a senior at New Trier High School. Some of her hobbies include collecting stuffed toys, using Photoshop, and baking.


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