One of the key components of the Berklee College of Music application is the audition. This is an essential part of the process for evaluating your musicianship and technical aptitude, and serves as a decision of whether you are eligible for a merit-based scholarship. However, when I was originally planning to travel to Singapore for my February audition back in November, I didn't know that my plans were all going to change.
With Covid-19 spreading at astonishing rates as the new year began, we were unsure whether we could travel for the audition at all. A few days before my scheduled audition, I changed my plans to register for an online one instead.
My online audition took place in April, at a time when a lot of countries have announced quarantine, everything has went online, and everyone has started working from home.
Because Berklee already offered online auditions, the process for the institution was not new. Before the interview, I got a set of instructions — how to log in, what to expect, how the online system works. It was planned with so much detail that they even had a virtual "Audition and Interview Lobby", where the applicants were supposed to wait until they were invited to one of the audition "rooms". While waiting, everyone had the chance to warm up on their instrument and prepare.
To my surprise, I was asked to attend my interview first. I was a little nervous, and joined the call. The assistant director I had the interview with was very welcoming, and pronounced my first and last name correctly, which happens very rarely. Although the conversation went smoothly, I felt a sudden wave of very different emotions at the same time — I was excited and overwhelmed. The interview usually takes about 15 minutes, and during one of the questions I forgot what I wanted to say, forcing myself to quickly scramble my thoughts into an answer which was the closest to what I've imagined it to be.
After my interview, I returned to the virtual lobby. I didn't even notice how fast the time went before I found myself in one of the audition rooms. I was greeted by two smiling faculty members, and asked to introduce myself. I didn't know when I should start, and whether I should announce what pieces I am playing in between my original and prepared pieces, which lead to me asking a lot of, perhaps unnecessary, questions.
Another essential component of the audition was the improvisation, and I had trouble playing along with the audio track as I didn't know where it was coming from and how to make it louder. When I finally figured it out, the track was three seconds away from the end, so I was given the chance to re-do it, although I am unsure whether this made my improvisation any better. While I had a very strong internet connection, the audio was bouncing back and forth during the audition. This poised quite a dilemma when I was asked to repeat the rhythms one of the faculty clapped, as the "audio bouncing" kept leading me astray.
In order to connect my computer to an ethernet cable for optimal internet performance, I spent a lot of time aligning and putting wires, tables and chairs together to make that happen — a brilliant construction I didn't know would serve as an impediment to the sight-reading portion of the audition. I had to twist and turn at different angles in order to read what I have to play, and actually play it. I also found that I wasn't able to read some of the chord notations that you can typically meet in jazz compositions.
Overall, the process of an online audition and interview from a technological perspective went better than I initially expected, although I would still prefer to do it in-person if I had the choice.
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