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International Musicians Seminar

Advice from Steven Isserlis on applications

Making a recording...

In 2016 Steven Isserlis wrote an article on facebook following making his selection for the IMS Masterclasses that year. He talked about the problems faced as a professor when having to select students through audio recordings. He ended the article with some general advice to young musicians wishing to make a recording to apply for any course. We thought it might be useful advice to offer here, in relation to preparing a recording for our Masterclass application process. 

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  1. Make sure the quality of the recording is good – otherwise you’re starting at a disadvantage, even if the auditioner tries to make allowances. 
  2. Don’t fill the tape with out-of-the-way pieces that the auditioner is unlikely to know; that will seem as if you’re trying to hide something. One unusual piece is a good idea – but mixed with more famous pieces.  
  3. If it’s for a serious course (as opposed to a competition, for which the main criterion might be that you should be studying with someone on the jury!) don’t just record virtuoso pieces. As a potential teacher, I am looking for someone who will be open to musical ideas and rewarding to teach – not someone who will just want to show off. 
  4. Be careful about choosing to play solo Bach. I HAVE been very impressed by the occasional Bach tape - but more often, I have been merely frustrated by hearing the player’s (or the teacher’s) theories pounding through; it’s happened too often. I’m not saying that you should avoid Bach – just be careful, and record something else too. 
  5. Very important: make sure that the tape begins well – first impressions are hard to erase.

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The full article can be found on Steven Isserlis' facebook page.