What does your preparation process for an audition look like? What supplemental materials do you use to prepare? Do you tailor this process for individual auditions?
I usually start off the preparation process by putting an excerpt book together and planning out the days I’m going to practice and what stages of practicing happen on each day. I’ll also get scores for the excerpts together and recordings and do some research about the position and the orchestra. I try to get as many recordings of the orchestra I’m auditioning for as possible. Once practice gets started, I’ll split the excerpts into piles and rotate through them every few days. I always start with half tempo and pitch work and slowly build up from there. Next comes recording and listening back to myself while taking notes to work on things to improve. Finally, I’ll play for everyone that I can. Lots of mock auditions for people to get feedback and most of these are for people who don’t play tuba. You won’t have a tuba player on the committee so you have to get the perspective from other musicians!
What are some positive/ negative aspects in your playing or perspective you found in preparing for these auditions?
Positives: planning is huge. It lets you see everything laid out in front of you so you know what to be working on and when rather than just picking up excerpts and playing them. Practicing performing the audition is another thing that works wonders. Practice everything from walking into the room to setting up your instruments to leaving the audition. Be prepared for anything! Negatives: in college when I was preparing for auditions, I got in the habit of really hammering things and starting from scratch on every audition. Remember that your experience is a steady incline and you build off of every audition you take! You might need those heavy, intense sessions early in your audition career but I found that I didn’t need that as much later in my audition career just because I was building off of past auditions and improving from those experiences. Also, TAKE TIME AWAY FROM THE HORN TO ENJOY LIFE! Find balance, if you’re 100% excerpts 100% of the time, life isn’t fun. Go take a walk, hang out with friends, play other music you want to play. I figured that out the hard way!
What would you peg as the greatest misconception about preparing for/ taking auditions?
Time, Pitch, and Rhythm are all you need to advance. This simply is not true. Though those three aspects are incredibly important, don’t forget about musicality and music making! You need to paint a picture for the committee and make them hear the entire piece around the excerpt you’re playing. 10 times out of 10 musicality will win auditions. I’ve been in auditions and on committees where a minor time issue is overlooked because the player made music out of the line. Make music!
How did you cope with “failure” at auditions? How did you stay motivated while you were on the audition trail?
I definitely had ups and downs on the circuit. The first couple days after an audition where you felt like you didn’t play well can be tough. But remember, even if you don’t win the audition, you still win the audition. You put in all the work, got better as a player, and likely learned a ton from the audition experience. I’ve learned more in auditions where I’ve gotten cut off after 2 excerpts than those that I had success in or even the one that I won! Staying motivated can be tough, too. You have to remember that success in audition results isn’t always a straight upward line meaning that one audition you’ll make finals, the next you don’t get out of the first round, the one after that you win. You can’t let the results of an audition get you down and ALWAYS remember: you are not a bad player if you get cut off after a few excerpts or don’t get past a certain round. Each committee is different and every orchestra is different.
How did you determine the “right moment” to begin taking auditions? What are your thoughts on taking auditions for experience?
I don’t know if there’s really a right moment to start taking auditions. You have to start taking them early so you can learn what they’re like and how they run. I started taking professional job auditions in my Junior year of college. For the first several I had no business being there but those were the auditions where I learned the most. The more auditions you take, the more you learn about them and the more success you have sooner. I was fortunate enough to make it to finals twice during my senior year of college only because I was putting myself out there early and learning how auditions work. You should never not take an audition because you think it’s too early or because you’re afraid of getting cut off after a few excerpts. That’s how you learn! Obviously you need to practice and be ready for the audition from a “knowing the excerpts” standpoint and if you don’t you probably shouldn’t go, but that’s a different case. If your resume is accepted and you have the opportunity to take the audition, take advantage of that. The only way you get better at taking auditions is by taking auditions!
Do you have any future goals or dream projects?
I’m always dreaming about getting better at what we do and continuing to improve on the instrument. Someday I’d like to record an album or something like that and continue to teach to pass on what my teachers have passed on to me. I also have lots of goals outside of music involving things like sports and other hobbies that I’m very passionate about. As I said earlier, balance is very important. Not all your goals have to be about auditions or music! Make goals outside of music! Chances are the more balanced and happy you are in life, the better every facet of your life, including music, will be.
Joe LeFevre joined the Kansas City Symphony in 2018. Prior to this appointment, he was principal tuba of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. LeFevre holds a bachelor’s degree in tuba performance with an emphasis in music education from Michigan State University. LeFevre has studied with Phil Sinder, Gene Pokorny, Mike Roylance, Dennis Nulty, Deanna Swoboda, Jacob Cameron and Bill Short. He has performed as soloist with the Kansas City Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Michigan State University Wind Symphony and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. In addition, he has subbed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and Lansing Symphony Orchestra, and he was a Tanglewood Music Center fellow in 2016.
In addition to the Kansas City Symphony, LeFevre is the Adjunct Professor of Tuba at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. LeFevre won the gold medal in the Student Division of the 2014 Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Competition and the bronze medal in the artist division in 2015. In 2013, LeFevre was a member of the Michigan State Spartan Marching Band when they performed at the 100th Rose Bowl Game. LeFevre is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In his spare time, he enjoys training for triathlons, skiing, and spending time with family and friends. He is an avid sports fan and lifelong baseball and football enthusiast. Joe has adopted the Chiefs however despite Kansas City’s best intentions, he remains a devoted Detroit Tigers fan.