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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Lance LaDuke Discusses How He Prepared for his Successful US Air Force Band Audition

Andrew Hitz

A few years ago Boston Brass came to where I teach, George Mason, to rehearse for a few days before our season started. After a performance for the school. my former Boston Brass colleague Lance LaDuke took the time to come to the lesson of one of my graduate euphonium players.

My student began questioning Lance about how he went about winning a job with the United States Air Force Band in Washington DC. Within a few minutes I realized that the content was gold and started recording.

Lance goes into great detail about his successful audition preparations. Talk about a guy with a plan that he executed over and over again over time.

This is a master class on sight reading, goal setting, time management, practice technique, and many, many more things.

This is a must listen for anyone preparing for any professional audition on any instrument.  After listening to his preparation process, it is easy to see why he won.

Below are the quotes that stood out to me for one reason or another, although there are far too many to include all of the good ones.

  • "I personally don't like playing out of the Barbara Payne book because I like to see the band parts. I assume that when I show up they're going to make me play off of a regular part."
  • "There were going to be things that were out of my control. Everything that was in my control I was going to prepare for."
  • "Every day, 7 days a week, my job from 9 pm to 3 am was getting ready."
  • "I was intense from 9 until 3 but it wasn't all horn on the face time. So whenever my face would get tired I would do score study."
  • "If you're not in tune and in time, you're not going to win."
  • "It's way harder to get a gig than to keep a gig."
  • "You've got to be fearless."
  • "On one hand, you have to play like your life depends on getting the gig. And on the other hand, you have to play like you don't care if you get the gig."
  • "You have a bigger advantage because you're (in DC.) You can drive over and listen to these bands."
  • "I always pushed sight reading to last. When I was completely shot and tired and wanted to go to bed, that's when I did sight reading."
  • "The rules for me for sight reading were I wasn't allowed to stop and when in doubt play the rhythms."
  • "If I knew the key and knew the roadmap, all I'd focus on were the rhythms and following the shape of the line."
  • "If you are sight reading and do the stutter thing, I'm faced with a question: Is this guy doing this because he's uncomfortable with the piece or because his time sucks?"
  • "I was strong as an ox. I could play all day."
  • "Make sure you can play swing style. Make sure you can play funk and make sure you can play rock."
  • "If you can't play popular styles it's nice that you can play marches, but it isn't just about the marches. You have to be able to sound credible on all that stuff."
  • "Basically I just learned how my body reacts under pressure, how my mind reacts under pressure, and how do I prepare for that."
  • "I had 18 different ways to chill myself out if I got stressed."
  • "I did 50 successful auditions (in my mind) before the actual audition."
  • "My favorite book at the time on performance anxiety was 'Notes from the Green Room'."
  • "What are your triggers and how does your body react?"
  • "Who in the industry do I know that I can go talk to?"
  • "Make sure you're at every minute of the Army Band Tuba Conference because it's free."
  • "Tell them 'I'm a broke college student. Are you giving any master classes in the area?'"
  • "The warm-up to me is part mental and part physical."
  • "Maybe they won't notice? They're gonna notice. If you noticed it's got to be fixed."
  • "Even if it sounds better but I use force, that's not a solution."
  • "How loudly can I play with control? How softly can I play with control? And you don't know at which point a note spreads until you spread the note."
  • "My teacher at Akron had a picture of a hand grenade up on his door and a sign that said 'Just because it's loud doesn't mean anybody wants to hear it.'"
  • "They are going to put sight reading in front of you until you fail."
  • "How I play in Boston Brass is different than how I play in a brass band which is different than how I play in a large concert band."
  • "If I was playing with the clarinets I would try to play with the clarinets."
  • "I played like I like to play and if they liked that that's good for me. And if they didn't like that that's good information for me."
  • "There was nothing that surprised me (on audition day.) There was not a single thing I wasn't prepared to deal with."

These are all great quotes but the real reason Lance won was his quote at 43:13 which you just have to listen to for yourself.  It sums the whole thing up.

Thank you, Lance!