Renowned Marine Band clarinetist and University of Northern Colorado instructor Lauren Jacobson presented an exciting master class on a topic of interest to virtually every clarinetists: audition preparation and specifically, preparation for an audition with the “President’s Own” Marine Band, an ensemble in which she played with from 2006 to 2010. To begin the master class, Jacobson discussed the audition process from walking in the door to signing the contract. She explained that each round of the audition is screened and that before the final round candidates are interviewed and asked a series of routine questions to verify their eligibility for enlistment in the United States military. She encourages candidates to avoid playing like “robots” and that if the performance is not compelling, success is highly unlikely. She elaborated that many candidates would benefit from listening to the score in pursuit of a better understanding of their part within the ensemble. She said that there is no ideal tone quality or desired sound required from any member of the section but that clarinetists should play with their own, best sound. Clarinetists in this ensemble perform on many different models of mouthpieces and clarinets without a single set-up favored more than any other. While every clarinetist’s audition routine varies, she encourages arriving early and relaxing into the space. While she generally chooses to sign up for the third spot, this is simply a matter of personal preference.
For candidates anticipating a long wait, she advises taking a walk, having a cup of tea and relaxing until it is time to warm up. While warming up in the large group room with many other candidates, she advises that one play scales quietly and avoid playing the excerpts. Instead, one should play scales easily and do their best to avoid any unnecessary overstimulation. She explained that it is a common error to think of an audition with any military ensemble as a different experience from that of an orchestral audition. Throughout the master class she strongly emphasized that the character of the music is critical to success at the audition. Each of the master class participants played very well and she presented some fantastic pedagogical approaches to common problems. The first, and most challenging idea she presented is to practice technical passages with the metronome beeping on the off-beat instead of the customary on-beat. This approach quickly fixes uneven sixteenth notes. Each student struggled with this problem initially but quickly saw vast improvements in evenness of their passages. Jacobson also advocated singing through one’s part as an opera singer might both with the metronome and with a recording. This master class presented a unique perspective and some solid advice for taking auditions. Very well done, Ms. Jacobson!
–Notes by Dr. Joshua Meitz
Dr. Joshua R. Mietz teaches clarinet at both Fort Lewis and San Juan Colleges and serves as Co-Director of Choirs at the First United Methodist Church in Durango, Colorado.