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How to Handle Failing an Audition

If you are, were, are going to be, or even considered being a music major in college, then you know the fear of Not Getting In. (Heck, in broader terms this applies to college in general, too.) It’s the fear of finishing the application, of doing the audition,  of getting through everything, and then being told, “I’m sorry, but we had many wonderful applicants this year and you were unfortunately not chosen.” Or even worse, just getting a form letter. Or worst of ALL, just never hearing back at all.

Sometimes, that’s going to happen. Sometimes you’re going to try your best, but you won’t succeed. It’s not a personal judgement, it’s not a character statement. You don’t have some moral failing. The problem is, there are many, many talented musicians out there, and sometimes, yes, someone is better than you. Or their timbre fit the group better. Or the orchestra realized that they didn’t have the budget to hire as many people as they thought.

None of this means it’s going to sting any less to get a rejection letter from a group or school that you really wanted, of course. However, there are ways to handle it well, and get yourself back on your feet.

Remember that rejection hits a lot harder than acceptance. The human brain is literally wired to pay more attention to negative things than positive things. If you’re gotten into the program, the high of being accepted would wear off way quicker than the bad feelings that result from a rejection, even if you knew the odds of getting in were really low. Keeping this in mind can help you through the lowest parts of getting a rejection.

Think back on times you’ve done well. This helps counteract the previous problem! You’ve probably gotten some really great compliments, and gotten into a couple cool programs yourself. I keep all my jury sheets and acceptance letters to basically everything, so when I start feeling gross after getting turned down from something, I can go look at those and remember that I do in fact have talent and people think I’ll succeed.

Note: Do not fall into the trap of thinking “somehow I’ve fooled all these people and I’m not as good as they think I am and I’m gonna disappoint them all.” That’s impostor syndrome talking. Ignore it.

Remember that you still have years and years ahead of you. One not-great audition does not ruin a career. One school rejection letter does not doom you. Even if you’re 25, or 35, or 50, or 80, you still have time to improve and try again. There will be another audition, there will be another gig, there will be another school or semester. You’ve just got to pick yourself up and keep trying.

It’s okay, too, if it takes a while to do that. Especially if it was a dream situation that didn’t work out, give yourself a little slack and take the time you need to accept it. There’s time enough for that, too.

Practice. Regardless of the reason for a rejection, practice is a great thing to turn to. Music is soothing, it’s emotional catharsis – you know this, you’re a musician. It also is something you should do anyway. Go practice. It will make you feel better and prepare you a little more for the next great thing you’re going to do.

You’ve got this. You’ll survive. I believe in you.

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