First things first – I’m not a musician. I’d like to call myself a “Music Mom” in the way that one might say they are a “Soccer Mom” – but I think most of those women probably played soccer. As much as I love music, I can only squeak out a weak rendition of “Ode to Joy” when no one is watching me.
But… I can share some audition advice from my many years of taking my 4 musically-inclined kids to auditions. This is my Top 10 list I have semi-ingrained in my head when it’s show time:
1. Remember the Alamo.
Ha! Just kidding. Remember the music – and almost always, you need the *original* sheet music for the judges (not a photocopy). This one still gets me to this day – and I’ve been at this for more than a decade now. Sometimes when I’m not completely caught up with what one of my kids has been working on – we’ll be driving on the way to a competition and all of a sudden, I look over and see them holding the dreaded photocopy instead of the book it came from or the individual piece of sheet music they needed. Yikes – don’t be like me. Driving back home to get the right stuff is so annoying. And oh, you might want to keep some tape on you to keep their music together to avoid page turns. Their teacher can explain the best way to do this. Let them keep it in their music bag even.
A few days out, I’d recommend making sure their clothes fit – especially to account for growth spurts. My two oldest boys are teenagers and wow – their necks have even changed sizes. There’s nothing worse than watching one of them trying to button up a shirt that is bursting at the neck. For them, aside from thrift stores, consignment shops and a really fun one called Second Looks (only men’s clothing though) – there are so many cheap options for clothes that work well for kids in a pinch – especially at this time of year where Easter outfits are in abundance at Wal-Mart. With 4 kids, we are all about hand-me-downs and finding affordable and comfortable duds that look cute and handsome. Costco also has a pretty reliable stream of absolutely recital-perfect dresses on sale for little girls (under $20). My favorite tip about Wal-Mart for little boys is almost all of their pants have an elastic waist. Pair it with a vest or blazer and you are good to go. One less thing to hassle with. There are even Velcro dress shoes out there I’ve come across for the little guys. Gotta love whoever started making those. My third son has some serious sensory issues – so my radar is always on for tagless, comfy and simple options that look good too. Getting him to sport a fedora is a *huge* deal.
3. Pick your battles.
There are probably nerves at play on these “out of the normal” days. My youngest son often refuses to wear black socks. After a few years of fighting this, I’ve started to realize it’s just not worth it. And nowadays, fun socks are all the rage. I do let him wear his athletic white sport socks – just making sure his pants are long enough to keep them covered. It’s our little compromise because some things – like wearing dress slacks are non-negotiable. Last year my son was about to refuse wearing a clip-on bow tie – and let’s face it, there’s nothing cuter than a little guy with his feet dangling off the bench wearing one of those. I won that battle by redirecting him as I engaged him in a conversation about what we were going to do after the audition. And now that I shared that, I probably jinxed it for this weekend. Great. But to me, if it takes bribing even – for your kid who is little to wear something like that to top off their outfit – I say go for it. Or make a deal – maybe you can convince them to only wear it once they get to the audition, promise them they will get to change out of their clothes as soon as they finish, etc.
I can’t tell you how many times just having access to some water and a brush has saved us in a pinch. Having hairspray on us has been a total extra bonus. (One tip – do yourself a favor and get a travel-sized aerosol one – sorry Mother Earth… but if the liquid one leaks, it’s no bueno.).
5. Music bag.
I started a “music bag” for myself a while back – almost like a diaper bag… and now that I think of it – it’s pretty funny that there’s absolutely no music in the bag. But anyway, it has helped me tremendously – one example was when we needed to keep our daughter quiet (who was 5 at the time and is still quite the talker) – along with our then 8-year-old son who has difficulty sitting sometimes in one place for a long stretch. We went to the final round of “Sounds Like KPAC” last year, where our oldest son was a finalist – you can check it out here. (What an amazing experience! Tony is the kid proudly holding up all the Whataburger swag.) I packed some notepads, quiet snacks, a small disposable bottle of water (always water – my kids are forever thirsty). Some gum, mints maybe (hey, they can supposedly help your brain think better – just Google it :-), a small piece or two of candy (because who doesn’t love an unexpected gift of chocolate?), etc. And we survived most of the event because of that bag. Knowing when to cut your losses and take the little kids out for a break is a whole other topic though for another day.
Back on track – auditions… Ah yes – can’t hurt to have an extra of whatever accessory your kid might forget or whatever might malfunction (I’m thinking bowtie, hair tie, etc). Also, being able to help another family out by having one of these items feels really good. Because others have helped me out in the past, I think that got me wanting to be able to pay it forward and have items like that – that might help another family.
You might be thinking that I’m suggesting them for your kid. I’m actually not. (And no judgment if you do pack an electronic game thingy in your bag – but my third son can’t handle it because there’s a predisposition to him becoming way too addicted, so we try to stick to games on paper, like hangman, dots and writing notes to friends while we wait.)… But, what I am advocating for is a spare battery to give your phone some juice should it be low on battery. Also, if you are allowed to record their audition, might I suggest looking into buying a tripod or a monopod. Soooo beneficial. And, definitely absolutely do this – record it horizontally with your phone. Should you want to put it on YouTube – it comes out so much better. Also, know where your input is on your phone for sound… On mine, I am careful to not cover up where the audio is coming in as I record. There’s nothing worse than having a video with garbled or muted audio should you be holding the phone. Using a tripod/monopod though helps you avoid this problem.
8. Odds and ends.
For us – that’s having an emergency rock stop, rosin and nail clippers. Sounds weird – I know. For my oldest son (now 17), who is a pianist, cellist and singer – these items can be so useful. He often forgets to trim his nails (which can result in a very clicky sound as he plays piano), so we have an easy fix (nail clippers that live in the glovebox). After having to buy rosin 2 weeks in a row recently, I went ahead and bought some to have on me in case he doesn’t have it. And the emergency rock stop – well, that’s something that also can be crucial to keep his cello’s endpin from sliding around and/or damaging the floor. Such an easy fix to have a spare one on hand – in case he loses his.
9. A direct, non-stop flight to the audition.
No really, no stopping to collect $200, or getting gas or swinging by Starbucks. I’ve had those last two things really screw up us getting there on time – even doing it as a mobile order. All it takes is a little traffic jam too to really mess up your mojo. Do yourself a favor and plan to get there even earlier than you would think is good. You’ll be in a better frame of mind, your kid will have time for a bathroom break if they need it, you can mingle with friends and make new ones. So many reasons to be early.
10. Set the tone.
As I’m driving, I’m all about gobs of encouragement and positive words for them to hear all the way there. What else can you do in life – but to just try, give it your best and let the chips fall where they may. They are kids after all. They are working hard, studying music and to me – my role is to support and clap loudly for them and every other kid I see at a recital.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are entirely my own. They are intended to help other families. I received no compensation or special treatment from any of the businesses I linked to.