With performance examinations coming up in many music schools across the country, I thought I’d address a question I’ve often heard, which is:

How do I prepare for my performance jury?

Whether you have an audition or a jury coming up for school, we’ll be discussing some best kept secrets for how to prepare!

  1. Know your audience.
    • WHO are you playing for? What are they looking for in your audition?
    • If auditioning at a college, discern what they value musically

Such as… Playing changes, technical fluency, interactive playing, arrangement, etc…

    • Don’t be afraid to do some research!
  1. Choose your repertoire in advance and play the tunes every day!
    • Playing your tunes DAILY will cement them in your memory.
    • If you have them memorized, don’t have to think about the chord changes or the melody. You can just PLAY!
  1. For technically difficult passages, apply focused practice as follows:

Ex: “Play ‘Donna Lee’ in two-hands unison.

    • Reduce the tempo to a comfortable speed (110bpm), play 3-5x.
    • Gradually increase the tempo by 12-24 bpm.
    • Play at full tempo, 10x without mistakes.
  1. Find different ways to practice to gain new perspectives.
    • Investigate multiple versions of the songs you are playing. Don’t be in a vacuum!
    • Practice with:
      • A backing track (Aebersold, iRealB, Bandinabox)
      • Metronome
      • A real band (if you have access)
      • A peer
    • Playing your tunes with other players can bring new perspectives which you did not anticipate, and deepen your understanding of the material from all angles!
  1. Do one or more “dry run” performances of your audition.
    • Jazz is an improvised art form, but that does not mean it can’t be rehearsed effectively!
    • Practice entering the room, introducing yourself and what you’re playing; know exactly what directions you’re going to give the band (if present).
    • “Hi, my name is __________ and today I’ll be playing x,y,z…”
    • “For ‘Body and Soul,’ I’ll play the melody, take a solo for two A sections, then play the bridge melody out for a total of 2 choruses.”
    • The clearer things are in your mind on the day of the performance, the more you can focus on the music and leave out any and all guesswork!!
  1. HAVE FUN!!
    • It may be easier said than done, sure, but if you bring a genuine joy to your performance, it will undoubtedly be felt by your jury AND bandmates!
    • People will notice if you are passionate about what you are doing!


If you have the opportunity, take a lesson or attend a gig with a person from the jury. Establish a connection in advance so they know you, giving you a personal edge as soon as you step in the room!

Audition Day Checklist

  • Eat a full meal over 1 hour in advance.
  • Be early.
    • No one was ever given a hard time for showing up in advance.
    • Plus, it will eliminate the possibility of being stressed or having to rush to the audition room.
  • Be confident and flexible.
  • Be polite, friendly, and don’t forget to SMILE!
    • Anything can happen in an audition; in the event of the unexpected, act calmy and go with the flow!
  • Dress accordingly.
    • If you do not know what dress is appropriate, ask a teacher/friend/fellow applicant for reference.
  • Bring lead sheets!! (for the jury, and for bandmates if necessary)
    • Make sure they are in the correct key(s)
    • Make sure you have enough copies!
    • Check that the chord changes are written how you want them
    • Put them in ORDER
  • Be yourself!
  • Be genuine. Don’t try to be something you’re not, and you will have the freedom to perform with no reservations!        
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Sterling Cozza

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