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So, you want to make Regions?
I get a lot of inquiries from students who want to make Regions. Here's some information and advice from my experience teaching students who have made Regions.
What is Regions?
Regions is sort of an Honors Band/Orchestra/Wind Ensemble and Chorus run by the New Jersey Music Educators Association through the schools in New Jersey. There is an Intermediate Regions for middle school studens (grades 6-8) and a Senior Regions for high school students (grades 9-12). The auditions are in December (Senior) and late January (Intermediate). Repertoire is chosen by a committee within NJMEA and includes a standard solo, scales, and a sight-reading selection. Those who make Regions are the best of the Central Jersey student population on their instruments.
All-State audition invitations are offered exclusively to those who perform in Regions. There are 3 Regions districts, Northern (Region I), Central (Region II) and Southern (Region III). Note, you must be recommended to audition by your school music teacher. To qualify, you must play in the school groups (it's not un-reasonable for a band teacher to hold Regions away from an
otherwise talented student who won't participate in school programs). Your private teacher can only nominate you if you are home-schooled or have some other extenuating circumstance.
How do I get in?
Well, the answers here are pretty much what you'd expect. I'll speak for flute (my instrument), but answers are probably pretty similar for all instruments. First understand that competition is really tough, especially on flute. There are just so many wonderful young players out there and lots of fine teachers helping them get better and better each year. So what to do?
1) Make sure you have a good teacher for your student. Students with talent will always progress, but a good teacher keeps the direction of progress in the right direction, puts extra requirements on students, encourages them to work harder, and understands the instrument and its repertoire.
2) Have a good instrument. That old rental flute you bought from the dealer is the minimum quality in the spectrum of flutes. Flutes can be pretty expensive, but the best students gravitate to better student instruments just due to the competitive pressure (minimum $3500 for a better student flute).
3) "Pardon me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The same answer. Practice, practice, practice .... There is no replacement for intelligent, dedicated work. Practicing the last 3 months before the audition is not enough, it must be a regular routine throughout the year. You are being judged by how much and well you practiced in your studies, that's what makes for a good audition.
4) Listen to great players perform your audition repertoire, and not just your teacher. Rampal, Galway, Wm Bennett, and other great players have all recorded most of the flute repertoire. These recordings are available for sale.
5) Take other auditions, compete in competitions, play in any performing group where you can get experience. Its not how well you play in your home, its how well you play at an audition with an experienced judge listening to you and evaluating your playing. That's considerable pressure, and students need to learn to play under pressure. Local youth orchestras, local community groups, music teachers associations, etc.
6) Start working and studying early. There's never any guarantee of success and each student is different. What I can say, is that the odds of success are higher if you start working younger. I have had 8th graders start taking lessons and by they make regions. That's the exception, not the rule. Most of the best students who have made Regions started in 4th and 5th grade, got motivated, practiced and by 7th grade were either making Regions or just missing. By High School they were making it.
What if I don't make it?
I always find that the intense effort most students give to getting into Regions benefits them whether they make it or not. The playing does get a boost from the trying. Local school teachers will always respect a student who tries for Regions regardless of the results. If you make Regions, they particularly like to see this since it also reflects well on your school's music program. Not everyone can make it though, and some misses can be frustratingly close. If you're not a High School Senior, you always have next year, so the best response is to work hard(er), listen to your teacher, and keep your attitude positive.
Seth Rosenthal, Flute Teacher at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts