Concertmaster tip: What you wear to audition counts more than how you play

LA Philharmonic associate concertmaster Nathan Cole has some cogent tips for those presenting themselves for audition.

Think about presentation, he advises. Make it easy on the committee. Look good, talk good, play good – in that order.



If you’ve ever suspected that audition winners have a psychological edge or secret weapon, then I’m here to tell you that you’re right. There is an edge. But it doesn’t need to remain a secret.

You already know that auditions are decided by committees. And committees are made up of irrational human beings just like us. Therefore, in order to maximize your chances at an audition, you must understand how committee members think and how to persuade them.

I’ve been on both sides of the screen enough times to know that perfection rarely persuades. What a committee craves is a player who makes their decision easy and enjoyable.

Do you want to be that player? Then study up on how people really make decisions.

Read on right here.

This is essential information.



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  • Considering that this is a U.S. orchestra and therefore these are blind auditions, “what you wear”, “look good”, and “talk good” are metaphorical.

    I just read the whole thing, and here’s the best metaphor that Cole uses:

    “Imagine that you have a great-uncle who’s an automobile fanatic. He owns an entire fleet of amazing vehicles, and he makes you an unbelievable offer: he’ll give you whichever one you want.

    “There are only two conditions: this will be the last car you’ll ever own; and you’ll have to make your decision based solely on three-minute test drives. You won’t be able to do any research beforehand. You won’t even know what car you’re test-driving since all the identifying marks will be covered up.”

  • The teaser headline on this Slippedisc item bespeaks a total misunderstanding of the article it purports to summarize. Although Mr. Cole uses the term “look,” he puts it in quotation marks to make clear that he’s talking about the musical first impression given by the auditioner—since these auditions are conducted behind screens and the panel can’t see the candidate at all. “What you wear” is thus completely irrelevant. And the “look” he refers to *is* “how you play” in the very first moments of the audition, when the committee is forming its first impression, which then colors their perception of everything thereafter.

  • If one actually reads the article, one finds this: “In a screened audition, your “look” equals your playing in the first ten seconds.” There is not a single direction, statement, piece of advice, or anything else, at any point in the article, that refers to what one should wear when taking an audition. Lazy, Mr. Lebrecht.

  • Other people have already covered this, but Slipped Disk’s headline is a grotesque misrepresentation of my friend Nathan Cole’s invaluable advice on his consistently excellent blog. Can you perhaps change the headline, Norman?

      • Which is unfortunate, as it indicates that he had the time to ‘weed’ the comments but apparently no time to come up with a more appropriate headline or introduction.
        Seriously though, I think it’s part of an education project.
        Norman initiates the fact-finding mission with a headline or thread-intro and then it is up to us to independently ascertain accuracy and authenticity of the respective posting, improving our general knowledge and broadening our horizons in the process. Great stuff!

        • I disagree, given how many people are pulled in by fake news sites nowadays. This one dips into that mode at times. Not everyone is paying enough attention to move past the false headline.

          • I agree. With the exception of the first sentence, I recommend keeping sarcasm in mind when viewing my previous post.

  • Egregious, false, clickbait headline ! I wish Mr. Lebrecht had more respect for his readers.

    To the points Nathan Cole makes, while they may be true in many or most cases, this doesn’t make them right. You could take his bullet pointed list and it would apply exactly to all job interviews, not just music auditions. Most people who interview candidates for a position are looking for someone just like them. I’ve worked in enough corporate situations to see people hire clones of themselves, and it’s depressing. Some commenters on this blog always question why diversity sometimes needs to be enforced – well, this is why. Hirers don’t naturally gravitate toward diversity. You need more than white men in hiring positions if you are to get a diverse workforce.

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