Walking into the main hall of the Eastman School of Music last Friday, one could sense the anticipation and nervous jitters that current Eastman students know all too well. It was the first of Eastman’s five on-campus audition days and almost 200 musicians invaded the school, vying for a chance at the coveted fat envelope.

This year, approximately 2,000 Eastman hopefuls are expected to audition. With that much unbridled audition anxiety running rampant at Eastman, it is the duty of the Eastman Orientation Committee to keep everything running smoothly.

The on-campus audition days will continue throughout February, following a month of regional auditions at various locations throughout the country. Soon after the freshmen arrive in the fall, the EOC begins the planning to make sure that the audition days run as smoothly as possible.

Additionally, EOC members play a fundamental role in helping freshmen adjust to college when they arrive in the fall. Arriving approximately a week before classes start, they help plan Orientation Week for freshmen, which includes an information fair and tours around downtown Rochester and the Park Avenue area. Finally, each freshman is assigned to a “Big Sib,” who contacts the student during the summer, and guides them through their first few weeks at Eastman.

Most Eastman students are familiar with the EOC, which has been a staple of the Eastman audition day experience for several generations. The group is comprised of freshmen who share the common goals of making perspective students feel welcome and easing the stress that accompanies any audition.

A group of self-described “workaholics,” the EOC is responsible for nearly every aspect of audition days that are not covered by either admissions or the studio professors. Each person wears a custom designed T-shirt with their name and instrument or voice embroidered on it so that they are easily identifiable to auditioners and their parents.

The EOC has an extensive history, possibly dating back to as early as the mid-1940s. Both Dean of the Eastman School of Music James Undercofler and Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett are former chairs of the committee. They look back on their EOC days fondly, as both a rewarding and entertaining experience.

Recalling the antics that Eastman students used to perform on audition days, Burgett said, “[there was] a trash can in the Main Hall, inside which was a student whose head poked through a cardboard top on the can. The student’s head was splattered with ketchup and as people walked by, his eyes rolled up in his head, his tongue hung out and he moaned that this was the result of practicing eight hours a day.”

To auditioners and their parents, the EOC offers candor and a personal touch, in addition to its formal duties such as leading tours and providing hotel and restaurant information. Assistant Dean of Student Life Sigrid Long feels that the EOC has an effect on a student’s decision to choose Eastman.

“Overall, I’d say that seeing the EOC in action on audition days is impressive,” said Long. “Several members of the 2003 EOC are here today because of the welcome and attention they received last year on audition day, and they want to continue that tradition of treating every prospective student as a future member of the Eastman family.”

“It’s a great thing to have so many students involved and it makes quite an impression on the students auditioning to feel that the whole campus is attuned to their presence and glad to have them here,” he said

Long’s sentiments are shared by parents as well as students. “I was impressed by their enthusiasm and openness,” one parent of a prospective student said. “It helped sell me on Eastman because I could see that they were sincere and it wasn’t a cutthroat atmosphere.”

Continuing the audition day tradition, the EOC has designated Cominsky Promenade as a stress-free zone where the auditioners can relax, watch a Disney movie and have a snack. Last year, EOC members sold Krispy Kreme donuts. New this year is a massage therapist.

To make audition days more of a well-rounded experience, the EOC has also added several activities, including a question and answer session where the potential Eastman students can ask the EOC questions about student life. “The [question and answer] session was created so to give students a chance to ask the EOC about aspects of life that aren’t part of the academic day,” EOC president Aaron Sanko said.

Also new are the Collage Recitals, often taking place in Ciminelli Lounge in the Student Living Center, which feature student performers from all different instrument and voice groups so that auditioners are certain to find something that interests them.

“The Collage Recitals were created so that students could see a wide spectrum of performance disciplines,” Sanko said. “There is usually a large ensemble performance timed with the auditions, like the Eastman Philharmonia concert, but that doesn’t necessarily get the classical guitar players excited.”

Long said that the changes “have been well-received by admissions.”The EOC has also made changes from the administration standpoint, focusing this year on improved communications with admissions. Sanko believes that the EOC should be “an extension of the administration, rather than a separate entity.”

In addition, the EOC has gone to great lengths to become more involved with the Eastman Student Association. This year, the EOC president has become a voting member of the SA and the EOC is working so that, in future years, the EOC may receive SA funding.

This year, however, EOC had several fundraisers to support their endeavors. These included a bachelor/bachelorette auction, a bedtime story sale where an EOC member read customers a bedtime story and a Valentine’s Day candy and carnation sale.

On March 4 and 6, the EOC will be sponsoring a Data Match Compatibility Test, where students take a test, and a computer matches them to students with compatible answers. The answers will be distributed at the 1970s-themed disco dance that is jointly sponsored with the SA.

For this year’s EOC, the preparation has been long and, at time, strenuous but the committee members have enjoyed the experience. The participation from the freshman class was exemplary, with approximately half of the class involved.

“The EOC is a network that makes Eastman unique. It’s great to see students giving so much of themselves with no direct benefit,” said Sanko.

EOC secretary Elle Mindoro has found the camaraderie that the EOC has created among the freshman class has been the committee’s biggest reward. “What makes EOC so awesome is that you really get to know people. Everyone has become such good friends,” she said.

Due to the efforts of the EOC, Eastman’s audition days will continue to be a positive experience for potential students, and a fond memory for all those involved — past, present and future.

Ristow can be reached at lristow@campustimes.org.

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