Take a few deep breaths before playing an excerpt or a piece.

Try to remember that everyone wants you to do well!

Perhaps breathe very slowly before your audition to artificially lower your heart rate. This way, when the adrenaline and nerves kick in, your heart rate shouldn't return to much more than normal and hopefully won't affect your performance too much!

Don't be intimidated! Everyone who arrives at music college is an individual who may have different strengths and weaknesses; ultimately they're looking for your potential.

Remember your audience will be sympathetic! People who play the same instrument as you are the most understanding audience you'll ever have because they know the difficulties involved in playing the instrument.

The day before the audition, maybe you could do something that takes your mind off it completely, such as going to the cinema or taking a walk. All the hard work has been done throughout the previous weeks/months and so sometimes the best thing to do is just relax your mind.

2Be prepared

Be ready before you play. Complete a simple list of things you have to check before playing a piece, such as the right tempo (sing a few bars in your head before you start playing), the character of the piece and the dynamics.

Dress smart but be comfortable. Avoid t-shirts, jeans and sports shoes.

If you’re a percussionist, just bring to the audition the sticks you will need. Avoid a case with 20 pairs of mallets you are not going to use!

Make enough copies of the music you will play and give them to the teachers. You want to impress them not only with your playing, but also with your preparation.

Don't over-rehearse by playing too much with the pianist, save it for when you get into the audition room (this is particularly true for brass players!)

Do your homework! Make sure you know a little about the college and the city you're applying for because you might be asked about it!

Have at least one question ready to ask the panel, even if you know the answer! You want them to see that you’re interested.


Be open minded. Accept all the advice the panel give you about your playing. Be positive and try any suggestions they could propose while you are playing. If they stop you it doesn't mean that you are doing something wrong!

Concentrate but also smile! Don't think about any mistake you make while you are playing.

Remember that you have worked really hard over the past weeks or months. All of us get nervous before and during an audition and all of us make mistakes during this process. Believe in yourself!

4Don’t panic

If you make a mistake, don't-stop and repeat the piece. Keep playing until you are finished.

They don't need someone who plays everything absolutely right, they need students who are able to learn and develop from their mistakes.

5Enjoy it!

If you enjoy playing, they will enjoy listening to you!

Show them your personality. Together with your brilliant playing this will make for a successful audition!

Be yourself! Don't be too shy to talk in your audition; they want to see the real you and sometimes your personality could be the deciding factor on winning your place.



For the performance part of the audition:

  • Use your warm-up time with the audition band to properly arrange your performance of the two pieces.
  • Think about how you start and end the piece, different feels (Latin/swing/straight 8's), and trading 4s/8s with the drummer.

Doing these things will display strong bandleader qualities, which will impress the panel, as well as giving yourself the best chance possible at a successful audition!

For your transcription:

  • Perform something which demonstrates your ability to work out lines on your instrument by ear.
  • Have written transcriptions of the parts available for the panel. They will be particularly impressed if you are able to perform this by memory, with a close sound to the original soloist and good time/feel.
  • Transcribe a solo which appeals to you, as this will make the process much easier.

In general, be prepared (have all your necessary equipment in check, transcription sheets/arrangements, turn up on time!) so that your audition is guaranteed to run smoothly.


Play honestly and with confidence. The band you are playing with will be highly experienced musicians who are there to support you and your performance.

Demonstrate your ability to play in the jazz idiom, but also remember to express your own voice at the same time.

The panel will look for your ability to work well in an ensemble, so be sure to communicate and interact well with the other musicians. Always use your ears, look at your band mates, and be confident in your actions. Be sensitive to the other members of the band by using appropriate space, dynamics etc.

Following your performance, you will have a brief discussion with the panel about your own personal musical interests. This is fairly informal and is an opportunity for the panel to see what you can individually bring to the jazz department. Be truthful in displaying what you are truly passionate about, and always be open to new sounds and ideas.

Be friendly and confident in front of the panel and with the band - you'll sound a lot better in a room with a good vibe!


Try not to let your nerves overwhelm you – try to remain calm beforehand. The staff are very friendly and encouraging. Remember they want you to do well so relax!