As I write these words to my eager, excited, and potentially stressed-out prospective fellow students, I am sitting in front of a computer with a smile on my face. This smile is not there because I finally played my Bach to my teachers’ liking, or even because I just listened to an amazing concert. This smile is here because I know that dreams really can become reality. It feels like it was just yesterday when I shared a dream similar to so many of yours: to find myself in a place where I could develop into the best musician and person I could be. During my college search, I had a strong feeling that the Eastman School of Music was the place for me: a place where hard work pays off, where you can walk down the halls singing your favorite Mozart piece without getting funny looks. (I know…sounds nice doesn’t it?) It’s a place I now call home. I would love to take you through the day where it all began.
My name is Nick German and I am a sophomore pianist here at Eastman. As you read this, I can imagine how you might be feeling: anxious, nervous, and stressed. It’s OK! You are no different from me or any of my classmates when we auditioned. Sometimes you may even think “What am I doing!?” or “There is no way I can get into this school!”. I’m going to let you in on a little secret….professors here at Eastman are not looking for perfection. What they look for is a large amount of talent, confidence, and potential.
Here is a little glimpse into what my audition day at Eastman was like…
It all started when I got out of my car and glanced at the words “Eastman School of Music” on the exterior of the building. As my heart raced, I grabbed the door handle and entered. I’m not going to lie…I was a little nervous (to say the least). Here I was, a senior in high school who came from a tiny school: a big fish in a little pond. I was suddenly thrown into this huge ocean filled with fish from all over the world. I couldn’t get over how many other students were there: musicians from China, Canada, Russia, Germany, South America, France, and of course all over the U.S.
At first, I was expecting to see serious and not-so-friendly faces among students and faculty. To my delight, I found the complete opposite! I saw smiles on the faces of every student and faculty member I encountered at Eastman. It wasn’t until August that I found out why (although that’s a completely different story!). At this point, my fear and anxiety was starting to fade. It was now time to take my theory exam. When I walked in the classroom, I felt a bit intimidated seeing all those other prospective students in the room. Don’t be worried! Just keep in mind that others are feeling the same way. After my test, I realized that I was worried for nothing.
Now, it was almost time for the audition I’d been working toward for so many years. As I pianist, I had the difficult challenge of finding the “piano basement”. Luckily, I was approached by two current students who were part of the Eastman Orientation Committee, also known as the E.O.C. (The students on the Eastman Orientation Committee were there for any questions I had, and they will be for you too!) One of the students kindly led me down to the basement, and my ears were greeted with a cascade of notes coming from the bottom of the stairs. As I reached the door, I opened it and was slapped in the face with the overwhelming sound of pianists playing Chopin, Debussy, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven (among so many others). Once again, my heart raced. I opened the door to an empty room and started to warm up. Some advice for all prospective students: don’t feel like you need to impress the musician next to you by playing your fastest and loudest piece. They are not the ones you need to impress – just focus on you and your music.
I looked at the clock, and saw that it was time to make my way upstairs to my audition. It seemed like the longest walk I have ever taken. In the audition room, I found myself face-to-face with eighty-eight keys and several professors. I took a few deep breaths and began. Our professors have a knack for helping you feel right at home and allowing you to play your best. I finished my last note with a smile of relief and joy. The professors smiled too, and even asked me how I was enjoying my audition (just to be sure I wasn’t overwhelmed.) I walked out with a deep breath and finished up the day by meeting a few other nice prospective students. Eventually I was back in my car and headed home.
I won’t lie to you and say that the whole day was stress-free. It wasn’t. However, I will say that my audition here was made as relaxed as it could be. To those of you who will be coming here to audition, I offer a few last words of advice….
- Get some sleep the night before and try to eat a good breakfast.
- Relax and breathe! We all know what you are going through and we’re here to help you with anything you need.
- Try your best and have no regrets (easier said than done, I know).
- Be yourself and play from your heart.
- Have fun and enjoy your experience here!
As I close, I want to wish you all the best of luck. Wear a smile and remember why you are here. No matter what the outcome is, remember: dream big and be proud of yourself! In the words of J.S. Bach: “There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”
I wish you all the best of luck on your auditions, and I’m looking forward to seeing those big smiles!