Advice on auditioning for Juilliard from Orin O’Brien

I have several students preparing for an audition at Juilliard at the moment. Over the years I have had many students audition at this institution, and I thought that it would be valuable to relate some advice given by New York Philharmonic double bassist and Juilliard instructor Orin O’Brien. First, the audition requirements:


Applicants are expected to bring their own instrument for the
audition. We regret that there is no instrument storage available at
The Juilliard School for auditioning students.


Bachelor of Music and Diploma Audition Repertoire

1. Major and minor scales and arpeggios in three octaves. Choice of
keys of E, F, or G Major and e, f, or g minor.

2. One etude from the following choices:
a. Kreutzer 18 studies: No. 1 in C Major or No. 9 in G Major.
b. Simandl Method Book II E-flat Major Etudes.
c. Storch-Hrabe Etudes Vol. II (any one).

3. Two contrasting movements of a Baroque sonata, such as those by
Vivaldi, Eccles, Handel, Corelli, or Bach’s Viola da Gamba Sonatas.

4. One orchestral excerpt from the following choices:
a. Wagner Meistersinger Overture.
b. Brahms Second Symphony, first movement, letters E-F.
c. Beethoven Fifth Symphony: Scherzo and trio with no repeats.

Transfer Undergraduate Audition Repertoire:

Applicants who have attended one semester or more at a college, uni-
versity, or conservatory by the time they audition must prepare the
undergraduate requirements, plus two movements from one of the
options of No. 1 in the Graduate section (the concerto requirement).
Memorization preferred.


Master of Music, Graduate Diploma, Artist Diploma,
and D.M.A. Program Audition Repertoire

1. A complete concerto from the following choices: Dragonetti,
Vanhal, Dittersdorf, Bottesini, Koussevitzky. Must be
performed from memory.

2. One 20th-century work composed since 1939. Examples include:
Hindemith Sonata, Persichetti Parable, any work by Teppo
Hauta-aho, or works of similar difficulty.

3. Three contrasting orchestral excerpts of the applicant’s choice.


This is one of the more specific lists of requirements for double bassists. Most colleges tend to be a bit more vague in their required repertoire, leaving more choice in the hands of the students.

Now, here is some additional advice from Orin O’Brien on preparing a successful Juilliard audition:

Be sure and read carefully the freshman audition requirements for
Juilliard, as they are more specific than many other schools. You must
prepare a 3 octave scale and arpeggio in any of these keys: E, F, and G,
major or minor (and that means melodic minor going up the scale and natural
minor coming down: lately we have been getting odd versions of scales, so I
have started mentioning this.)

Two contrasting movements (slow & fast) of a baroque sonata, plus
one etude from the 3 categories offered (Kreutzer # 1 or #9, any etude from
Storch-Hrabe Vol. II, or the Eb etude from Simandl Method Vol. II). Then
there are three choices for the orchestral excerpt. (Wagner, Beethoven, or
Brahms) Whatever you prepare for Juilliard is just fine also for
Manhattan School. My advice; do NOT choose the Eccles sonata, since about
half or more of the bass candidates choose that, and it is rather difficult
for the faculty audition panel to survive a day of only Eccles!!! And my
advice would be to choose any etude from Storch-Hrabe II, because we
usually hear too many of Kreutzer
#1, which is difficult to play imaginatively (since it is all 16ths notes
and if it is not played perfectly, it should not be played at all).
I only mention this in such detail because many students do not
read the requirements for JSM closely, and think that whatever they
prepared for Curtis (for example) will suffice. This is not true, and
sometimes results in the candidate not being allowed to play at all,
causing much disappointment and anger.

Hear that, folks? Stay away from the Eccles Sonata and the Kreutzer etude #1 if you’re auditioning for Juilliard.

Double bassist Kate Nettleman, who was just featured on Contrabass Conversations, did her undergraduate degree at Juilliard. Click here to listen to an interview with Kate and learn about her experiences at this institution.

About Jason

An active double bass performer and teacher, Jason teaches double bass at DePaul University and served on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Bassists for many years. Jason is the current President of the Illinois chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Jason has been a member of the Elgin Symphony since 2000 and has played with the Midsummer’s Music Festival in Door County for the past decade. He is a past member of the Milwaukee Ballet and IRIS Orchestra, and has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Grant Park Symphony, and numerous other professional ensembles.

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