I highly recommend that all of my 7th-12th (and sometimes 6th) grade students audition for District Honor Band and All-State each year. Double-reed players have a good chance at being selected, so go for it!
What is District Honor Band? A Friday-Saturday event in your district (several counties), usually in February, involving rehearsals in a band with a guest clinician, ending with a concert. It is an honor to be chosen and students who are invited to this event are often considered for other opportunities like Mid-Fest, Jan-Fest, or camp scholarships.
What is All-State Band? A Thursday-Saturday event the 1st weekend of March in Athens, GA, involving rehearsals in a band/orchestra with a guest clinician, ending with a concert. It is a special honor to be invited to this event, and clinicians are often famous composers, authors, college directors, etc.
When is the 1st-Round Audition? The 1st-round District/All-State audition is the 1st Saturday in December for middle school students and the 2nd Saturday for high school students.
What is Involved in the 1st-Round Audition? On the audition day, students go to the school that is hosting the event at an assigned time frame. Students warm-up in the gymnasium or cafeteria, then find their audition rooms. Inside the room are 2 judges who will not be able to see the students (behind a curtain), and there will also be a monitor who invites students into the room and communicates with them. Judges score each student, and the results are usually shared via band directors by the end of the audition weekend.
How are 1st-Round Auditions Scored? Each student receives a score out of 100: 10 points - a memorized chromatic scale 30 points - memorized major scales, 1 point per correct octave and arpeggio 30 points - etude (a short piece of music, not memorized). These 30 points are broken down into 5-point categories:
Tone - how you sound (most important - have a good reed!)
30 points - sight-reading, same point categories as etude (8 measures of surprise music that students get to study for 30 seconds and then play)
For extra copies of the exact scales, etudes, chromatic ranges, and score sheets, go to the All-State Band page on the GMEA website. I have already given my students a copy of all the music.
How Are Students Chosen after the 1st-Round Audition? The 1st-round audition considers students for TWO things: 1. District Honor Band 2. The 2nd-round of All-State band auditions
If students receive a high enough score (80/100 for oboes, 70/100 for bassoons), they may attend the 2nd-round All-State audition in early January.
What is involved in the 2nd-Round Audition? 2 etudes (the same one used for the 1st audition plus the technical etude) 1 sight-reading No Scales
How Many Oboes and Bassoons are Chosen for DHB and All-State? DHB: In Forsyth County, generally 8 oboists and 8 bassoonists make District Honor Band in each age group. In middle school, there are 2 bands ("honor" and "clinic"), 4 players in each band. In high school, there is a 9th-10th grade "honor" band, an 11-12th grade "honor" band, and a "clinic" band for 9th-12th graders.
All-State: In middle school, usually there are 6 to 8 oboists and 6 to 8 bassoonists chosen for All-State band (2 equal bands, 3 to 4 players in each band). In high school, up to 11 oboists and 11 bassoonists can make All-State in both 9-10th grade and 11-12th grade. There are a few more seats available because there are 2 bands and a symphony orchestra for each high school age group.
Alternates: There is an alternate list for both District and All-State, so if a student cancels, an alternate will be called to participate.
What Else Do I Need to Know Before I Audition? 1. Practice. The scales/etude need to be ready by the end of October for you to be well-prepared. Expect other students to show up and play their scales like well-oiled machines. 2. Bring all your stuff with you (extra reeds, water cup, swab, cigarette paper, etc.). You might need it. 3. Manage Performance Anxiety:
Do not go to your audition room until your assigned time. Waiting in the hallway forever usually makes students feel nervous.
Be well-prepared. You cannot "cram" for an audition. Order good reeds in early October.
Play for your family, friends, and band directors.
Be on the lookout for All-State help clinics or mock audition opportunities. I do mock auditions in lessons as well!
Enjoy the music. Have some fun with it.
You will make a mistake. You're human and it's ok. Let it go and sound great for the rest of your audition. The judges are listening to how you play in general and how you recover from things that happen.
Figure out what your body does when you're nervous. If you get overheated, wear layers and stay hydrated. If your sound gets shaky, blow faster air. It's good to picture the environment while practicing and simulate the experience.
4. Interpret results constructively:
Do not look at your score as an academic school grade (I was a straight-A student, so I get it). Scores in the 90s are rare. It's just a number relative to how others performed that day. A consistent scoring system is most important - as long as the judges score the first student of the day in the same way as the last student of the day, all is well.
Do not draw conclusions by comparing scores between different instruments or comparing your own score from year to year (different judges, different etudes, different time). It's just bad science.
It is possible to make the 2nd-round audition but not District Honor Band (and vice versa).
Example 1: Jason gets a score of 90 on his oboe audition, but 8 other oboists get higher than a 90. There are not enough seats for Jason to participate in the District Honor Band, but he still is invited to the 2nd-round All-State audition.
Example 2: Jane gets a score of 55 on her bassoon audition. She did not make the cut-off score for the 2nd-round audition, but since she is still in the top 8 bassoonists of the day, she gets into District Honor Band.
An audition is only a snapshot of how you played at a particular moment, and it comes down to the judge's personal taste.
You might be competing against older students with more experience, but you should still try...give them a run for their money! Next year, you will have the advantage over students who are auditioning for the first time.
I am proud of you for auditioning, no matter the result. :)