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How Do I Prepare for Viola Competitions?

Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer

You can prepare for viola competitions by reviewing the entry rules for each competition, submitting any required entry materials by the sign-up deadline, selecting and practicing the pieces of music to perform, and having any needed maintenance done to your instrument to ensure it is in the best possible condition. Viola competitions may have various requirements for musicians' experience level, age, or type of music pieces deemed acceptable. Some contests may also require you to perform certain pieces by specific composers, while others may allow you to make your own music choices. Regular rehearsals of these music pieces are key components of success in viola competitions, and experienced players often advise that these practice sessions should start as early as possible prior to the competition date.

One of the first steps of your preparation for each competition is to determine that you are eligible to participate. Some viola competitions have minimum age requirements, while others may be open only to music students at the high school or college level. Professional competitions sometimes require entrants to be currently employed in an orchestra or to have performed as a professional musician for a certain number of years.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Most viola competitions require an application packet to be submitted a few weeks or months before the competition date. In addition to filling out an application form and paying an entry fee, you may also need to submit an audio or video recording of yourself playing at least one piece on your instrument. Just as with the live competition performance, your music selection for this recording may or may not be up to you. Since competition judges often make acceptance decisions based on your submitted recording, sending in your best possible recorded performance is beneficial.

Once you have been notified of your acceptance as a competition entrant, your next step is to prepare for the actual performance. If you are required to play a certain concerto or sonata, obtain a good quality packet of its sheet music and locate a professional recording of the piece as well. Begin listening to the piece to familiarize yourself with it. This step will give you an idea of how the music should sound when played well.

Break down the music into smaller sections with your viola instructor if you are learning the piece for the first time. Daily practice is also considered essential for a confident performance. A day or two before the competition, have any noticeably worn strings or bow horse hair replaced on your viola to ensure its sound will be as clear as possible.

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