This month I sat down with Kyle Wong, a snare player who won a WGI Gold Medal in 2014 with Pulse Percussion, to discuss what it’s like auditioning for an independent percussion ensemble.
Halftime: What’s a typical audition process for an independent percussion ensemble?
Wong: The audition process for an independent percussion ensemble varies between groups, but it will likely include playing and marching evaluations over a number of monthly camp dates. Everyone auditioning will play in both group and individual settings. Marching technique will be assessed through a number of visual routines, such as across-the-floors, a basics block or a dance routine. As the callback group gets smaller through subsequent auditions, the evaluations become more challenging and are tailored to identify the skill sets of each candidate.
Halftime: What are the staff looking for during auditions?
Wong: During auditions, the staff is looking for candidates that demonstrate excellence in musical and visual responsibilities. The potential member should demonstrate the ability to blend and balance his or her sound in an ensemble environment and also be solid when playing alone. The staff evaluates how their technique and approach to the instrument aligns with the playing style of the group. In addition to having technical prowess, candidates need to be a social fit for the group. A good work ethic and a positive attitude can go a long way.
Halftime: How can you best prepare for the audition?
Wong: Prospective members will want to start by memorizing all audition material and feeling comfortable with performing it individually. Perform the audition material for others and ask for feedback, and record yourself with a metronome to identify areas to develop. Watch videos of the group performing to gain a general idea of the group’s image and playing style. If the group offers any workshops or clinics prior to auditions, attend them and get as much information as possible from the staff members. Lastly, don’t overlook the importance of maintaining your health in the weeks prior to auditions. Remember to stay positive throughout the audition process, as there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck!