For most Eastman students, audition days bring back memories of excitement, confusion and anxiety. We know all too well what it’s like to walk into Eastman’s main building and feel like our destiny will be determined largely by how well we remember to inhale and exhale.

However, for many non-music students, this whole process seems foreign and mysterious. How does the audition process at Eastman work?

At most traditional schools, you send in the application, cross your fingers and wait religiously by the mailbox for several months.

Unfortunately, for those of us who aspire to be superstars in the music biz, this is only the beginning.

Like all schools, Eastman hopefuls are required to send in a standard application form. For some of the more competitive programs, applicants must undergo a screening process ? sending in a tape and/or other supplementary materials ? before they’re invited for an audition or interview.

At this point, Eastman sends out letters informing applicants on which of the five audition days they should arrive. There are also several regional auditions held for those budding musicians who can’t make the trip to Rochester.

This past Friday was one such “audition day.” The Eastman School of Music was flooded with talented students from around the country ? and world ? clutching their instruments and sweating more than normal beneath their I-may-look-sharp-but-I-won’t-play-sharp outfits.

The day started out with a general convocation in which various Eastman administrators welcomed all of the applicants and their parents and talked to them a little bit about the school.

After this, everyone went their separate ways and followed their personal schedules, which included a theory test for undergrads, a question and answer session for parents, tours of the facilities, meetings and/or interviews with faculty and ? drum roll please ? the audition.

For many of Eastman’s prospective students, the Audition (note the capital “A”) is the most important part of the process. The Audition is the 15 minutes that will decide whether you spend your adult life saying, “Sure, I’ll sign your copy of my latest CD” or “Sure, you can have fries with that.” At least, this is how it might feel.

Micky Ireland, a clarinetist from Ithaca who recently auditioned for the masters program, said that the ambiance in the audition room varies from teacher to teacher. “Some will sit silently the whole time and just nod when you’re done, while some will talk with you and give you suggestions in the actual audition,” Ireland said.

“The hardest part is keeping down the nerves,” said Christopher Myles-Jackson, a bassoonist from Atlanta, Ga., who auditioned this past Friday.

Brian Hoffman, a cellist from Greensboro, N. C., agreed. He said that it helped to have the Eastman Orientation Committee around.

“It made [the audition process] more personalized,” he said.

EOC is a crew of this year’s freshmen who act as hosts to our auditioning guests.

Sporting bright orange soccer shirts, so as to be easily spotted, their job is to make everything run smoothly for those who are stressing about their looming audition and/or interview. EOC is comprised of about 40 students ? almost a third of the freshman class ? who know what it’s like to be on the other side because they were just there.

Jeff Willy, freshman percussionist, said that the presence of the EOC on the day he auditioned contributed to his decision to come here.

“It said a lot about the atmosphere and I wanted to be a part of that,” Willy said.

Every year, 1,900 to 2,000 people audition or interview at the Eastman School to fill a total of approximately 300 spots, both undergraduate and graduate combined.

While these odds may look daunting, Kathleen Tesar, Eastman’s Director of Admissions, still encourages all to apply. “If you don’t try, you don’t have a chance,” she said.

It can be a grueling process, and everyone who has the strength to go through with it deserves to be commended. Good luck to this year’s batch of applicants.

Grabowski can be reached at

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