Applications

The Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestras have decided to change the audition process this year for the 2020-2021 season from scheduled live auditions to having all applicants submit an unedited video audition. We have determined that not only will this be the safest alternative to an in-person audition experience, but it will also give applicants greater flexibility in submitting their best audition during these challenging times. Percussion applicants, however, will still be scheduled for an audition to be determined at a later time in the fall.

While these audition videos will determine enrollment in the PYSO program for the 2020-2021 season, placement in a specific PYSO ensemble will not be finalized until the season begins. All students will have additional testing and sight reading during the first two weeks of the season to ensure all students are placed in the ensemble that is the best fit for their ability.

Auditions for PYSO’s upcoming 2020-2021 Season are now open!

Register for an Audition

Once you register for an audition and it’s been processed, you will be receiving an email with the link to submit your audition video, as well as an Instrument Audition Reference # to name your submission.

The official deadline to submit an audition video was Sunday, May 24th, 2020. However, we understand that a lot is happening right now and we’ll continue to take applications and audition videos as they come all summer long, depending on space and instrumentation of the ensembles.

Please see below for Audition Requirements and Video Submission Requirements.

  • All students (new and current) are required to audition for the 2020/21 season.
  • There is an audition fee of $30 per application. Those who are in Pasadena Unified School District music programs OR require financial assistance for the audition fee, please email Alex Chu at [email protected]  
  • PYSO mandatory concert dates are as follows: Saturday, December 12, 2020 and Saturday, May 8, 2021
  • Rehearsals are held on Tuesday (intermediate and advanced ensembles) and Sunday (most advanced ensemble).
  • Excerpts for Philharmonic, our most advanced group, will be made available on April 20, 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact Alex Chu, Director of Education and Community Engagement, at [email protected]

Audition Requirements

The Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestras offer multiple ensembles for musicians of all ages and skill levels.

During the audition, adjudicators will take into account an applicant’s preferred ensemble but will ultimately recommend the ensemble that would be the best fit for that applicant’s level. There are some cases where we determine that students need more experience before joining a PYSO ensemble and encourage them to re-audition at a later time.

The audition consists of the following components:
  • Scales
    • Applicants will be asked to perform 2 scales
      • 1 scale of the applicant’s choosing that best demonstrates their ability
      • 1 scale from the requirements of their preferred ensemble
      • Scale requirements for each ensemble are listed below
    • Scales should be played from memory. Scales should be performed at a minimum tempo of one quarter note per pitch at 120 bpm, ideally slurring 2 notes per bow, and no faster than you can play cleanly and evenly.
  • Solo
    • Each applicant will perform a solo, from 2-4 minutes, depending on their level, that ideally demonstrates contrasting tempi or styles.
    • The solo should be well-prepared and may come from Suzuki books, etudes, concertos, solo repertoire, or other sources. Please consult with your private music teacher or school music teacher for help selecting an appropriate solo.
    • “A piece that best demonstrates your current ability level…” does not mean the most difficult work that you can “sort of” play right now. Be realistic about the music you will play at your audition. Your choice of piece will not affect which ensemble you are placed (or not placed). There is no reward in presenting poorly played renditions of difficult works, nor it does any good to spend three months trying to learn a work that is beyond your ability level.  The goal of the audition is to demonstrate that you can play your instrument at a high level, demonstrating strong proficiency in the technical ability, tone quality, and musical demands of the music that you choose to present for him/her.
    • All applicants will be required to submit a copy or photo of their solo music along with their audition video.
  • Sight Reading
    • Typically, all applicants would be asked to sight read several short excerpts.
    • Because we are asking for video submissions, this year all students will be asked to sight read at the start of the semester to determine final placement in all PYSO ensembles.
  • Excerpts (Philharmonic only)
    • Students auditioning for Philharmonic, our highest level ensemble, will be asked to prepare 2-3 excerpts to perform for their video audition. These excerpts can be found below.
Your audition will be judged on the following criteria:
  • Tone Quality
  • Intonation
  • Rhythm, Pulse, and Articulation
  • Musicality, Dynamics, Phrasing, and Style
  • Technique, including vibrato, shifting, set-up
  • Overall performance and preparation

All students will be asked to play 2 scales: 1 of their choice and 1 from the requirements listed below for the ensemble they wish to apply for. Only 1 scale from the requirements is needed for the audition video, but all students should be able to play any of those scales required for that ensemble.

Prelude Strings:

  • Play 1 scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability and 1 scale from the following requirements: (ascending and descending): All 1-octave major scales through two sharps and one flats.

String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble:

  • Play 1 scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability and 1 scale from the following requirements: Memorized Scales (ascending and descending): All 2-octave major scales through three sharps and two flats.

Symphony:

  • Play 1 scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability and 1 scale from the following requirements: Memorized Scales (ascending and descending): All 3-octave major scales through three sharps and three flats.

Philharmonic:

  • Play 1 scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability and 1 scale from the following requirements: Memorized Scales (ascending and descending): All 3-octave major scales through four sharps and four flats; the following 2 octave melodic minor scales: a, d, e, g, b, c, and f.

All students will be asked to play 2 scales: 1 of their choice and 1 from the requirements listed below for the ensemble they wish to apply for. Only 1 scale from the requirements is needed for the audition video, but all students should be able to play any of those scales required for that ensemble. 

Wind Ensemble:

  • Woodwinds:  Play 1 2-octave chromatic scale and 1 scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability.
  • Brass: Play a chromatic scale from a low “concert F” and continue up to the highest comfortable note and back down to the same “concert F” and a scale of your choosing that most demonstrates your ability.

Symphony:

  • Memorized Scales (ascending and descending): Play 1 scale of your choosing from the following that most demonstrates your ability: All 3-octave major scales through three sharps and three flats.
  • Play a Chromatic scale of two or more octaves to demonstrate your performing range

Philharmonic:

  • Memorized Scales (ascending and descending): Play 1 scale of your choosing from the following that most demonstrates your ability: All 3-octave major scales through four sharps and four flats; 2-octave melodic minor scales through two sharps and two flats.
  • Play a Chromatic scale of two or more octaves to demonstrate your performing range

Philharmonic, Symphony, Wind Ensemble:

  • Prepare a 2-3 minute solo on the snare drum, timpani, or mallets. (Please choose one) If you are auditioning on a mallet instrument, please be prepared to perform a scale of your choice.
  • Philharmonic: Prepare the excerpt required of your instrument (posted in April)

Prospective percussion musicians for all ensembles have the choice to perform their sight reading on snare drum, timpani, or mallets. Students may be asked to perform on an additional instrument.

Video Submission Requirements
  • The video audition shall last no longer than 5 minutes, unless you are submitting Philharmonic excerpts as well.
  • Audition videos must be shot in one continuous take (without a break) and include all of the requirements for your instrument in the order they are listed. The suggested timing and order of the audition should be as follows:
    • ~10-15 seconds – Begin your video by saying, “Hello!”, then stating your name, your instrument, the number of years you have played your instrument, which two scales you are playing, and the title and composer of your solo. If playing more than one selection for your solo, please state the title and composer for each and play in the order you announced. Look at the camera when you introduce yourself!
    • ~40 seconds – Play the required scale(s) for the conductor/ensemble.
    • ~4 minutes – Play your prepared piece or study that best demonstrates your current ability level. (Refer to FAQs and Help & Hints page)
    • ~1-3 minutes – If applying for Philharmonic, play your required excerpts
    • Say, “thank you!”
  • The continuous, unedited video audition best simulates a live audition. Absolutely NO editing or sound enhancements of any kind are permitted. Audition videos that are suspected to have been edited or otherwise enhanced will be immediately disqualified.
  • Video must be unaccompanied. Dress code: business casual.
Video Submission Guidelines

The Artistic staff of the PYSO will review all submitted video auditions. The adjudicators expect high-quality video recordings that are the best possible representation of an applicant’s technical ability, tone quality, and musicianship.

Below are a few guidelines when preparing to make the video audition recording:

  • Consider lighting, framing, and camera placement. Please make certain you are well-lit — more light in front than behind you will make you more visible to the viewer. Place the camera so that your entire face, your instrument, and your full range of motion are in the frame at all times. Choose a medium distance that shows as much detail as possible, while still allowing the image to be framed as described above.
    • Place the camera on a tripod or flat surface when shooting to keep the camera from shaking.
    • For phone or tablet users, devices should be set horizontally – put it in Airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode to avoid interruptions – and tap the screen to focus.  Do not use the zoom function as this makes the image grainy or fuzzy.
  • Good sound quality will make a substantial difference for the judges to get the most accurate sense of your music making, tone, and timbre. However, professional equipment and/or studio space is not necessary. With attention to a few details, you can make a successful audition video using readily available consumer electronics.
    • Test the audio level so that there is no distortion during the loudest passages of your selections, while also making sure that the softest portions can still be heard. If possible, consider using an external microphone (recommended, but completely optional) connected to your camera to record your playing and speaking.
    • Do not play directly into the microphone.
  • Please give careful consideration to the room/environment that you are recording your video. Try to record in a quiet, echo-free space, and eliminate background noise as much as you can.
    • Be mindful of miscellaneous items in the background that may be distracting to the viewer.
  • Prior to recording your audition video, clean and/or adjust your instrument to be sure it is in the best possible condition. You may wish to ask your music teacher or a professional repair person to look at your instrument to assist with any necessary adjustments.
  • Please dress comfortably, but professionally for the video. You want the viewer to listen to your playing. Nice business casual, or the same thing you would wear to a classical music performance.
  • Please be certain to WATCH AND LISTEN to your video before submission, checking your audio levels and visual presentation of the video overall. TIP: Take multiple takes of your entire audition, then submit your best audition recording.
  • You will be uploading your video files using an online Google Form. A Google account is not required to upload the files. File sizes up to 1 GB are accepted. We recommend using a format and resolution that is consistent with high-quality internet video.
    • Prior to uploading your video, RENAME your video file as follows (replace with your information):
      • Instrument_Audition Reference #_Last Name, First Name
        • Your Instrument Audition Reference # will be emailed to you after we’ve received and processed your application.
    • Should you wish to provide us a YouTube or Vimeo link of your audition, please create a word document containing the hyperlink (URL) to your video and name the document using the file naming convention as shown above.
Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible to audition?

All public, parochial, private and home school students in grades 6-12 are eligible to audition for PYSO. PYSO is an enhancement to existing school programs, not a substitute. PYSO strongly encourages all musicians to participate in their school music program. Private lessons are also encouraged.

Is there an audition fee?

Yes, there is a non-refundable $30 fee to audition for PYSO. Please bring a check with you on the audition day made out to “PYSO”

This is my first audition! What should I expect?

When you arrive at Oak Avenue Intermediate School, please visit the check- in table and we will direct you to the warm up space. When it is time for your audition, a volunteer will escort you to the audition room.

The audition panel will consist of 1-2 judges. These judges may be a PYSO conductor, coach, or other member of the PYSO community. Your audition will last for approximately 15 minutes.

During your audition, you may be asked to stop playing and move on to another solo, scale, or sight reading piece. This is a common occurrence and does not reflect upon your performance. You may also be asked about your other playing experiences, including participation in your school program and your private lessons.

I’m not sure which ensemble I should audition for. Which one should I choose?

On the audition application we ask which PYSO ensemble you are auditioning for. This assists PYSO staff when scheduling specific audition times with members of the audition panel. During your audition, you will be considered for all PYSO ensembles. For example, even if you select the “String Orchestra” as your preferred ensemble, you will also be considered for the Symphony and the Philharmonic.

Does my solo need to be memorized?

No, your solo piece for the PYSO audition does not need to be memorized. Please bring a second copy of the solo part for the audition panel.

Do I need to bring an accompanist to my audition?

No, PYSO auditions are performed un-accompanied.

What if I have prior commitment on one of the audition days? Can I request a certain time?

On the application, please note if you have certain restrictions and need to be placed at a specific time range (morning, afternoon, not on Saturday, etc). While we try and accommodate all requests, please be flexible and provide multiple availabilities.

My sibling/cousin/friend is auditioning for PYSO and we plan to carpool to the audition. Can we have similar audition times?

On the application, please note if you are carpooling with another applicant to the audition. We do our best to accommodate requests.

I filled out my application! When will I receive my audition time?

Audition times will be distributed via email on or before Wednesday, May 11th. If you apply after May 11th, you will be notified of your audition time approximately two-three days after you complete your application. Watch for an email from Mr. Alex Chu, Manager, at [email protected].

Where are the auditions held?

Auditions take place at Oak Avenue Intermediate School (6623 Oak Ave, Temple City, CA 91780). Plan to arrive approximately 30 minutes before your audition to allow for adequate warm-up time.

Where will I be able to warm up before my audition?

There is a communal warm-up room at the audition location. There is also a seating area for family members.

What should I wear for my audition?

While there is no uniform to audition, neat dress is appreciated! We recommend students wear nice clothes that are comfortable to perform in. This is the first impression you are making on the audition panel, which will include PYSO conductors and coaches.

How are musicians placed?

The primary criterion for placement is the student’s playing. The audition panel evaluates students’ tone, intonation, rhythm, musicality, and technique on the solo piece, scale, and the sight reading. Instrumentation needs for the ensembles may also be considered. PYSO does not place students based upon their grade level. All placements are final.

When will I receive my results?

Results will be sent via US Mail in June.