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Welcome

Greetings, dear Violists and Viola-Enthusiasts!

We are excited to welcome you into our Eastman Viola Community via the 2014-15 AVS Studio Blog!

It promises to be an exciting school year, and we look forward to giving you a taste of the viola life at Eastman as well as sharing our thoughts with you on myriad viola-related topics. You will be treated to posts by faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, Eastman alumni, and various friends of our Eastman Viola Community.

We hope you enjoy and we look forward to spending the virtual school year with you!

Warmest wishes,

Carol Rodland, George Taylor, and Phillip Ying

Revelations based on Historical Performance

by Kyle Miller (2010)

Hello, everyone! I graduated from the Eastman School in 2010 as a student of Carol Rodland, and I’m delighted to revisit Eastman (virtually) to share a couple of my postgraduate experiences. After I finished at Eastman, I shipped out to NYC to continue my studies, and in the Big Apple I began to get serious about something that rests upon a relatively unbeaten path: the Baroque viola. I’ve had some eye-opening experiences in the realm of historical performance over the past four years, and I’ve been mulling over what might be of greatest interest for this blog. In the end, I’ve settled on two related experiences that I would like to share with you. The first is more of a cerebral experience, an enlightening discussion that I overheard and have since pondered and will now recount. The second, which took place more recently, involved me personally as a performer. While different in nature, both experiences have helped to steer my musical thinking in a single direction. Check it out:

Tale the First: Of Slurs and Other Trifles

Last January, the students of Juilliard’s historical performance program (of which I was still a member) were invited to attend a master class given by members of the London Haydn Quartet (LHQ), a string quartet that specializes in period instrument performance. I decided to attend, and boy was I glad that I did: It was there that I had Experience the First.

One could say that the setting for the class was austere. It took place in a classroom, with a handful of students and a couple of faculty members looking on from classroom desks (the kind whose desk table flaps from a hinge so that one isn’t forced to slide into the chair from the side). Two members of the LHQ were present, also seated in desks: first violinist Catherine Manson and violist James Boyd. The master class ended with a Q & A pow-wow, and that’s when things got crazy interesting.

A couple of my fellow students grilled the two LHQers on how their quartet prepares for a performance, and the matter of performance editions arose, in particular for Haydn’s string quartets. (Given their name, it should come as no surprise that the London Haydn Quartet specializes in Haydn.) The question of the day was this: When the LHQ performs a Haydn quartet, do they use parts reprinted from an early edition (e.g.: late 18th- and early 19th-century printings such as those by Artaria of Vienna), or do they use a respected modern edition (e.g.: Henle)?

I was immediately stimulated by this question because the previous year I had performed a Haydn quartet — Op. 20, No. 4 with the Diderot String Quartet, of which I’m a member — using an early edition (that of J. J. Hummel (not to be confused with the pianist-composer J. N. Hummel)). While we (the DSQ) were preparing the quartet, it was my understanding that our use of the Hummel edition was mostly one of convenience: none of us owned a set of Henle parts, and we would have been unable to check out a set of parts from a library for more than two weeks at a time. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of performing from an early edition of Haydn’s quartets, here is a representative scan, taken from the Hummel edition, of the viola and cello parts in mm. 25-30 of the first movement of Op. 20, No. 4:

Miller Ex. 1

Hummel Edition

The parts are in alto and bass clefs, respectively. If you squint, you’ll notice that the articulation markings in the third measure are not aligned between the two parts. This phenomenon runs rampant in all four parts throughout the entire piece. Tisk, tisk, Hummel! How did all of that refuse slip past quality testing? Now, here’s the same passage as presented in the Henle edition score:

Henle Edition

Henle Edition

(The parts are still in alto and bass clefs, respectively.) Much tidier, right? One might think that performing from the Hummel edition would accomplish nothing beyond necessitating additional rehearsal time, as the players would have to align their bowings for practically every measure (and also need to squint to make out the notes). Arguments would break out over whose bowings are the best, chairs would be thrown and stands knocked over, mouths would foam with impatience, and the group would permanently dissolve in a cloud of baboon-like rage. How could Hummel allow this to happen?

Are these printing discrepancies genuine mistakes, or did he (and whoever helped him) simply not think that aligning every articulation marking was something of great value? When I worked on this piece with the Diderot Quartet, we did indeed spend quite a bit of time coordinating our bowings and even dynamic markings, which sometimes were drastically different. (I should note, though, that we still had a grand ol’ time and that no baboon-like states were reached.) Given this experience, my evaluation, at the time, of what the Henle and Hummel editions respectively brought to the table was something like this:

HENLE

– Graced by a cleaner, more spacious layout (everything large and well-spaced, with more room between staves to make pencil markings)

– Edited by respected scholars so that the work is rehearsal-ready (articulations and dynamic markings reconciled between the parts, with editorial alterations tidily marked between brackets)

– Based upon Haydn’s own autograph score

– Blessed by the miracle of measure numbers

HUMMEL

– Nothing

So, back to the master class: Why would the London Haydn Quartet, composed of seemingly well-balanced and logical individuals, choose to perform from the baboon parts? As Catherine and James began to explain their choice, it quickly became clear that their analysis of the editions’ features was roughly the same as mine but that they valued wildly different things. I suspect that their list of table-bringing would look something like:

HUMMEL

– Graced by a more distinctive and varied layout (not everything is of uniform shape and size, so it’s more fun to look at)

– NOT edited by respected scholars (a number of performance decisions have not been made beforehand, allowing the performer more freedom to decide for herself)

HENLE

– Printed on much nicer paper (probably)

It turns out that Catherine and James did not consider unified bowings to be a necessary thing. In fact, they claimed — and continued to claim, in the face of extreme hypothetical situations tossed at them by myself and others — that their quartet spends exactly 0% of their rehearsal time discussing bowings. When it comes to bowings, all four players are left to their own devices. Each person, for any given musical gesture, may play the bowings in his own part, use a different bowing that he witnesses another player use, or simply invent a new bowing entirely. The members of the LHQ exercise these rights in their rehearsals, and they do the same in live concert. It’s possible that any homophonic or imitative passage will receive four different bowing treatments. Catherine compared the effect of the alternative — four people playing the same bowing, with the same gestural inflection, at the same time — to the effect of four people suddenly saying the same thing, with the same inflection, at the same time, during a conversation. To her and to James, the painstaking care that’s poured into the homogenization of articulation markings in a modern edition produces something unnatural.

With their alleged liberation from premeditated bowings, it was clear that the members of the LHQ valued spontaneity very highly. Imagine choosing a new bowing, live in concert, just because you feel like it, guilt-free, even if the person sitting next to you is playing the same musical figure. It’s pretty liberating. I had the great pleasure of watching the LHQ’s concert in NYC the night after the master class, and they did indeed practice what they so passionately preached: bowings didn’t always line up.

I took special note that the four players changed their bowings on the repeats of sections. The result? Everything felt wild and free and fresh, and the differences in articulation were not distracting — as, I confess, I’d expected them to be — but engaging. There were four distinct personalities onstage, and I was delighted whenever when they did slightly different things.

Perhaps the Hummel edition’s greatest value, when compared to the Henle, is that its pages present more musical possibilities for the player’s consideration. If, say, the viola plays an identical passage more than once within a movement — say, the theme of a rondo — then that passage (in the Hummel, or in pretty much any printed edition from around the same time) is almost guaranteed to have different articulation markings each time it appears. I find that this happens much less often in modern editions, where slurs and dots — albeit in editorial brackets to announce their intrusion — are added so that the articulation markings are consistent for a recurring gesture. The same treatment is given to a motive that’s passed around between different instruments. If the LHQ’s mission is to be spontaneous when it comes to articulation, then it simply wouldn’t make sense for them to use modern editions. By using an edited modern edition, the quartet would be paying money to support scholars whose painstaking work they would largely end up ignoring in the heat of the moment.

I should make it clear that I am neither denouncing modern editions of old works nor criticizing performances to which those editions give rise! I am simply sharing, for your delectation, an interesting concept that was presented to me. Indeed, the LHQ could play exactly as they do even if they were to read from Henle parts. They probably just find it easier to feel a sense of freedom when looking at the less homogenized typesetting and less toiled-over markings in an 18th- or early 19th-century edition, and that’s a personal choice. Given that there are so many articulation discrepancies in early editions, one could imagine that musicians of the time took similar pleasure in approaching articulations with a certain amount of freedom.

With their alleged liberation from premeditated bowings, it was clear that the members of the LHQ valued spontaneity very highly. Imagine choosing a new bowing, live in concert, just because you feel like it, guilt-free, even if the person sitting next to you is playing the same musical figure. It’s pretty liberating. I had the great pleasure of watching the LHQ’s concert in NYC the night after the master class, and they did indeed practice what they so passionately preached: bowings didn’t always line up.

I took special note that the four players changed their bowings on the repeats of sections. The result? Everything felt wild and free and fresh, and the differences in articulation were not distracting — as, I confess, I’d expected them to be — but engaging. There were four distinct personalities onstage, and I was delighted whenever when they did slightly different things. Perhaps the Hummel edition’s greatest value, when compared to the Henle, is that its pages present more musical possibilities for the player’s consideration. If, say, the viola plays an identical passage more than once within a movement — say, the theme of a rondo — then that passage (in the Hummel, or in pretty much any printed edition from around the same time) is almost guaranteed to have different articulation markings each time it appears. I find that this happens much less often in modern editions, where slurs and dots — albeit in editorial brackets to announce their intrusion — are added so that the articulation markings are consistent for a recurring gesture. The same treatment is given to a motive that’s passed around between different instruments. If the LHQ’s mission is to be spontaneous when it comes to articulation, then it simply wouldn’t make sense for them to use modern editions. By using an edited modern edition, the quartet would be paying money to support scholars whose painstaking work they would largely end up ignoring in the heat of the moment.

I should make it clear that I am neither denouncing modern editions of old works nor criticizing performances to which those editions give rise! I am simply sharing, for your delectation, an interesting concept that was presented to me. Indeed, the LHQ could play exactly as they do even if they were to read from Henle parts. They probably just find it easier to feel a sense of freedom when looking at the less homogenized typesetting and less toiled-over markings in an 18th- or early 19th-century edition, and that’s a personal choice. Given that there are so many articulation discrepancies in early editions, one could imagine that musicians of the time took similar pleasure in approaching articulations with a certain amount of freedom.

Tale the Second: Of Adventures in Bass Clef

This August, I — along with a few of my colleagues who also are recent alumni of Juilliard’s historical performance program — had the pleasure of spending a couple of weeks in Thiré, a small town near the western coast of France. The eight of us were there to rehearse and to perform at a festival with members of Les Arts Florissants, a Baroque musical ensemble that specializes in early opera. The group is directed by its founder, William Christie, in whose massive and elaborate private gardens (seriously, the stuff of royalty) many of the rehearsals and performances took place. The entire trip was We starry-eyed New Yorkers stayed our nights in the nearby town of Sainte-Hermine, and we slept in a sprawling 17th-century château. There were huge, dusty tapestries, original oil paintings, massive spiral staircases, and trophy boars’ heads mounted above a grand fireplace. From reading a description of the mansion in a brochure, we discovered that our temporary home was quite definitely haunted (or so we convinced ourselves, since the notion made us giddy). At some point in the mansion’s history, a woman had murdered her husband and subsequently been sequestered at the top of a tower for seven years.

For the two weeks we were present, the eight of us were the only inhabitants of the mansion. During the day, our experience was one of non-stop rehearsing and performing, mostly outdoors and largely of operas. In the second week of the festival, the major project was Actéon, a late-17th-century opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. (If you haven’t yet heard the music of Charpentier, you might want to check it out. It’s beautiful.) The opera’s libretto is based upon a tragic story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which a hunter (Actéon) accidentally lays his eyes upon the goddess Diana while she bathes in a woods. As punishment, Diana transforms Actéon into a stag; and his own hunting dogs chase after him, eventually tearing him apart. Sad, no?

Here’s where the theme of improvisation weaves into this tale. I was playing viola in the opera, alongside two of the violists from Les Arts Florissants: Galina Zinchenko and Simon Heyerick. Our role in the opera was an unusual one. Why? Because Actéon has no viola parts. Instead of playing parts that had been written out for us beforehand, we rehearsed and performed from a slightly modified basso continuo part. There were a few passages in C-clefs in which we played along with the vocal alto and tenor parts during choruses, but most of the time we had only the following in front of us: a bassline (which was already being covered by some combination of cellos, bassoon, string bass, theorbo, and harpsichord) and figured bass symbols (again, the chords already being played by theorbo and harpsichord). Almost everything was notated in bass clef.

What I had to do that week was completely ordinary for someone who plays basso continuo lines for a living, but the experience was eye-opening for me and has made me think differently about the role of the viola as an ensemble instrument (and how its role might be fulfilled by a performer). Galina, Simon, and I spent some of our time playing the written bassline an octave (or two octaves) higher than notated, with a gentle tone that blended into the sounds of the other continuo instruments. This practice likely has precedent throughout the Baroque. The three of us also spent some of our time harmonizing above the bass, aided by the figured bass symbols. Since I’m not a seasoned thorough bass reader, I tried my hand at harmonization with great caution. That week, I had more than one nightmare in which I played a bogus note during a tender, highly exposed part of the opera, eliciting the frothy contempt of all present. I managed to avoid that fate in waking reality, but I still hope to sharpen my skills over the years so that I can accomplish more sensational feats of harmonization. There’s nothing cooler than hearing a continuo team confidently lay down thick swaths of chords in groovy rhythmic patterns.

Postlude

As someone who is beginning to specialize in early viola performance, I’ve come to enjoy being given very little information on a page of sheet music. I now view such a lack of ink as an opportunity to spice a piece of music with my own flavor as I see fit. In a pre-19th-century world where viola parts to ensemble works are sometimes written out by the composer’s students or underlings — a simple counterpoint exercise, true “filler” — a violist can’t always take the part he’s playing from too seriously. A d could have been an f, a quarter-note could have been two eighth-notes, et cetera. Almost nothing is too sacred to alter. In our own way, we violists are as liberated as the basso continuo section, free to improvise as we wish, as long as what we conjure up makes some amount of harmonic sense. The fun that I had with my basso continuo part in Actéon is in the same spirit as the liberties that the London Haydn Quartet members take with their bowings. The common thread is a sensation of musical freedom, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today. I look forward to a lifetime of evermore daring ornamentation and deviation from the ink, and I hope that you’ll join me.

Scelsi – Manto

About 10 years ago, I learned a piece by Giacinto Scelsi called Manto. The performance note for the third movement is “for singing violist (necessarily female).” Having taken voice lessons throughout high school and college in addition to my viola studies, I was convinced the piece had been written for ME! Well, not really. But it did seem pretty perfect.

After performing all three movements a few times, I started programming the third movement of Manto on its own. Audiences were really into the piece, I loved it, and I really connected with this idea of singing and playing simultaneously. I wondered how many of my composer friends and colleagues would be interested in the challenge of writing for a “one-woman duo.” Not being the most coordinated person in the world (at my best, I can stand up somewhat straight without falling over; at my worst, I tumble off 10-foot stages and shatter various bones), I am still not sure that this idea was my most brilliant one as far as something that’s naturally easy for me, but I have ended up with some amazing pieces. More are on the way!

Because this technique of singing and playing simultaneously was not nearly as simple as I’d hoped it would be, I had to train my body to do it. Taking my cue from an old Cleveland Quartet method of playing scales together in thirds (ending up with stacked seventh chords, which result sounds AWESOME), I practiced scales with myself in thirds, fourths, fifths, octaves, quarter tones, etc. In the privacy of my own home. Alone. I’m sorry to my cat.

But guess what? The heinous-sounding scales got better! And easier! You’re welcome, Cat! And I realized that this technique was not only helping my singing violist intonation – it was helping my violist violist intonation! What a great side effect, right? I started practicing Bach the same way: after doing basic harmonic analysis, I’d sing the root of a chord throughout a measure while I played the written notes slowly and tuned to my voice. It was so much better than using a tuner, because the pitch was a physical part of me rather than an external machine. (I feel the same way about metronomes, though I use my metronome a lot – I need to make sure I’m feeling the pulse instead of just hearing it and using it as a crutch.)

Try it for a couple weeks. Don’t worry about the quality of your voice, as long as you feel confident that you can sing in tune. I usually do two octave scales between C and F because my range ain’t what it used to be, but even an octave in any comfortable key will help. You can also displace octaves, of course, which is an added mental exercise. Let me know what you think!

wmrichman@ua.edu

Intonation

Music students are under the impression that there are two kinds of intonation: 1) in tune, or 2) shameful evidence that you should have picked a different field of study. This kind of black and white approach robs the music student of an important concept: intonation as a means of expression. We do not play in tune; we play within tune.

We learn in music history classes that there are many kinds of intonation but that those systems are largely irrelevant now that we have the all-inclusive and modally magical equal temperament. Equal temperament was a fantastic invention and we should be ecstatic that we can change modes left and right and up and down and all over, but we lose something very important when we think intonation has become equal or wrong. Especially as string players, the world is our oyster when it comes to the harmonic series. We have the power to manipulate overtones, project beats and oscillations at will, and essentially function as king Triton over the waves of harmony. This seems terrifying when we can hardly hit a note in what we already consider the “center”, but is it possible that pitch is a spectrum rather than target practice? Perhaps if we open our ears to the expressive possibilities of intonation we will have the freedom to hear beyond right and wrong?

The harmonic series is powerful. It is the basis for how our ears and brains perceive sound patterns and how musical tradition has developed. This law of physics could be our ticket to expressive freedom in the concert hall and personal freedom in the practice room. Our options are not even limited to historical systems; we are not tuning a brand new instrument, we are shaping a phrase and speaking a truth. Use the tuner, but find out what happens when you bend this way or that; chances are that with intention and long-term commitment you will end up with a pitch very close to that of equal temperament, but with more character and personality in the intonation simply because you allowed yourself to explore other options of pitch.

The Tonal Energy tuning app is a great resource for hearing historical tuning systems. Start there to open your ears and your mind, but after that open up your heart by looking in your repertoire. What if that dissonant seventh is supposed to be painful and gritty, requiring the thumping, natural oscillations our instruments can produce? Or what if that third should not be equally raised to create a shimmering white noise hovering above but should ring justly, pure and true? These things become complex and messy when we play with our equally limited friends like pianists and orchestras, but it is a beautiful disaster and one we can work within. It is not worth shutting off our minds to it. We must listen harder than we play. Our fingers will never remember where the pitches are (as much as we try to convince ourselves that they will) because they are only extensions of the real pitch center that lies within us. As violists, we are blessed to feel the vibrations of our instrument deeper than our violinist friends whose frequencies barely rattle their jawbones, or our cellist and bassist friends who hold those precious resonances away from their faces and chests. Let’s capitalize on that and revel in the dirty seconds and those open fifths; allow yourself to feel like salt of the earth instead of a pristine perfectionist. Something even more basic and primitive than soil is at work in our hands; intonation is a gift.

Go and be human.

A Violist on Her Head

Asymmetrical Reflections from a Scoliotic Life

Gravity and I have a complicated relationship. My right shoulder is higher than my left, my legs are different lengths, my ribcage is rotated, and my waist is uneven. Gravity is unkind to these asymmetries.

As an eight year old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a fairly common condition where the spinal column curves and rotates laterally. Even after four years of wearing a back brace, my curves continued to worsen. By the time I was 15, my spine had progressed to a severe right thoracic-left lumbar scoliotic curve, also known as an “S” curve, typified by a major curve in the thoracic spine with an equal counter curve in the left lower lumbar region. My spine eventually stabilized after I finished growing, and although my doctor recommended surgical intervention to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, I was not convinced such an invasive procedure was my only option. It was time to come to terms with gravity. Upside down. Head over heels. On a yoga mat.

During my sophomore year of college, I began studying Iyengar yoga with an incredibly knowledgeable teacher. At my first class, Iwas initially shocked that flexibility was not even on the agenda. Rather, I learned that finding stability and balance in asymmetrical positions was my priority. What good is flexibility if there is no stability? Uniting these two concepts that I once believed to be mutually exclusive was liberating. I had found my answer: uniting balance and asymmetry was the key to withstanding the force of gravity, both as a violist and a scoliosis patient. I can still hear my teacher: Angela, your collar bones do not have scoliosis! Make them even. She taught me that it was possible to retrain my muscles that are distorted—overstretched or understretched—by my curvature. Even though I am intrinsically asymmetrical, I can use my discomfort as a guide, mapping a path to balance.
This guiding principle from the yoga mat is also applicable in the practice room. You may not have to deal with structural imbalances resulting from scoliosis, but playing viola certainly presents a number of functional imbalances that can be problematic. As you work toward a healthy physical relationship with your viola, here is some advice I have learned from living life a little crooked:
1. Challenge Imbalances. Every time you pick up your instrument, you have a choice. You can either let gravity happen to you or you can resist its downward pull. Since our bodies are best equipped to deal with gravity when they are properly aligned, finding balance begins with posture. In rehearsals, I usually notice an alarming number of violinists and violists who are letting gravity win, a defeat evidenced by sunken left shoulders and raised right shoulders. It is important to remember that gravity is an attraction between two objects, not just a downward force. Consequently, instead of caving under the weight of the instrument, meet your viola with a shoulder energized and supported by the entire back, countering the weight of gravity.
2. Dynamic Extension. Whether you are playing viola, doing yoga, or sitting in a music theory class, always strive to extend from your core. As Iyengar suggested, “Extension and expansion always stay firmly rooted in one’s center…When most people stretch, they simply stretch to the point that they are trying to reach, but they forget to extend and expand from where they are.” Essentially, dynamic extension is when your body stretches in multiple directions, expanding from the core. For instance, in a forward bend, as you reach toward the floor, it is of equal importance that you also stretch the opposite direction with your hips. This provides traction and allows the spine to fully lengthen. In viola playing, this translates into grounding through the floor while energizing and lengthening the spine upward. Dynamic extension is another effective strategy for resisting gravity.
3. Relaxation is not always passive. We all know that tension is harmful. The alternative? Just relax! But it is important to point out that too much of a good thing, even relaxation, is detrimental. Your skeletal system needs support! If you melt into a pool of pudding, how do you expect to move? Even savasana (corpse pose), arguably the most relaxed yoga posture, is still a highly informed pose. I encourage you all to cultivate active relaxation, a state of being where your muscles are engaged without excess effort and every motion is intentionally executed. I leave you with this thought: “Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement. What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action” (Light on Yoga 48).

Embrace gravity. Act well.

Entrance Audition Tips

Audition season is rapidly approaching! You have been practicing diligently for months, you have selected the schools to which you want to apply, your plane tickets have been purchased, and your accommodations have been booked. Now all you have to do is play!

As you zero in on the big day (days!), I wanted to offer you a few tips from the audition panel’s perspective, which I hope you will find helpful. Please know, first of all, that we all want you to do your best and we are rooting for you. We are not harsh judges waiting for you to make a mistake; rather, we are open-minded (open-eared?!) listeners, hoping to meet joyful, thoughtful, talented, well-prepared musicians, who are eager to share their expressive gifts with us and who might fit in well to our musical communities. So, as you continue to prepare for this experience, please try to remember this and to access your love for the music in every note that you play. We will get it and be thrilled if you let yourself do it!

You have prepared a large amount of repertoire, but at most schools, you will only have 15 minutes to show your stuff. Because time is of the essence, you want to be certain to be as organized and efficient as possible during the audition, so that you can maximize your presentation. This means having your music organized in such a way that you can access the pieces requested very quickly. Most panels will ask you to choose your first selection, and then they will choose the subsequent repertoire from your list, so do be ready with the piece that feels best for you as an opener and then be ready to play anything else from your list in any order. I suggest to my students that they do mock auditions prior to their audition trips, opening with the piece of their choice, and then asking their listeners to choose selections from their repertoire lists in random order thereafter. It can feel unnatural to have to switch gears quickly, so just knowing your pieces well will not necessarily make you feel comfortable; you need to have practiced jumping between sections and stopping and starting, as this will most likely happen at the audition, given the time constraints.

Please do be fully prepared with entire works, if indeed this is required on the official web site of the school you are visiting. The panel might ask for anything you say you have prepared, and of course it makes a better impression if you really do have it all ready to go!

If possible, be tuned and warmed up before entering the audition room. We all appreciate it if you greet us when you enter the room, but you do not want to waste any of your precious playing time by chattering unnecessarily. Be polite and open, answer any questions the panel might have for you, but get down to business as quickly and as calmly and confidently as possible. This includes avoiding the diffident apology if you make a mistake while you play; it is not necessary as of course the panel knows the repertoire and its pitfalls. There is no need to highlight such things, and it can seriously interrupt your momentum!

If your repertoire includes any non-traditional works, please do bring multiple copies to the audition, so that the panel can follow along. If you are unsure what falls under that category, err on the side of caution and bring extra copies.

Bring extra strings, just in case.

If you are visiting a school in a very different climate from where you live, you want to be sure your instrument and you have enough time to acclimate to the new environment, so again, arrive early to the audition site if at all possible. If you are coming from a moist warm climate and are going to a cold climate where heat is blasting, having a humidification system in your case or having a dampit in your viola until right before you play can be very helpful in keeping your instrument happy.

While you do not need to don formal concert attire for an audition, you do want to present yourself professionally, so your choice of clothing is important. You want to look professional, and you also want to be comfortable, able to move freely and to play without discomfort from your wardrobe. For women, it is a good idea to avoid wearing excessively high heels to an audition. High heels have a detrimental effect on your balance and prevent you from feeling well-grounded.

And finally, while it is always important to take good care of yourself, auditions and the travel associated with them can be very stressful, so it is especially important to up your self-care game as you go through this process. This means doing your best to eat well (bring snacks and water with you to the audition in case you are kept waiting), sleep well, stretch, and exercise gently in addition to practicing.

Wishing you all the best as you begin this very exciting process to determine the venue for the next stage in your education!