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Music - Recital and Audition preparation

A step by step guide to assist you prepare for recitals and auditions

Emma Sullivan - Double Bass

Emma Sullivan

QCGU HDR, Principal Double Bass – Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (

Audition testimonial

Over the last 15 years I have done many orchestral auditions – some were successful, positive experiences and others rather dismal failures! I think the most valuable advice I can offer young musicians embarking on their first auditions is to ensure that they don’t just prepare musically, but also psychologically. When we prepare for major performances we often unintentionally psyche ourselves out very early in the learning process – “I have way too much music to learn and not enough time”, “I am really stressed” etc. It is easy to be dismissive of the impact this has on the final performance but it is important to remember that these negative thoughts actually have a lot of power and can become crippling on the day of an audition when you are under a lot of pressure.

Try from the start of the process to approach auditions as yet another opportunity to improve your playing – sometimes the simple act of eradicating the word “audition” and calling it a performance is a good starting point. Also try to remember that there is no point in fixating on aspects of the audition you cannot control such as the other candidates or the results. Rather, you should focus on the aspects within your control, particularly looking after yourself physically and emotionally and giving yourself the best possible preparation.

From a more practical perspective, I find it very valuable to listen to recordings of each excerpt regularly, record myself every few days to allow for honest self-criticism, play the audition material to other musicians for feedback and to practice the excerpts in a random order, rather than becoming accustomed to playing the same excerpts in succession. 

Essential audition tips

  • Record yourself often and from the start of the preparation process, even if you don’t feel ready 
  • Model positive self-talk throughout the preparation and audition stages 
  • Try to judge your success on your own improvement and development, rather than comparing yourself to others – the best result that can come from any audition is that you played your best 


Emma has performed in orchestras in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States of America. Particularly notable experiences have included touring Europe with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2014, playing at the 2008 Olympic Arts Festival with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Beijing, China, and touring the east coast of Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra's regional touring subsidiary, ACO2.

Emma has had the privilege of studying with Michael Morgan at the Queensland Conservatorium, Jeff Bradetich at University of North Texas and Steve Reeves at Australian National Academy of Music. During her studies, Emma received a number of awards, including Griffith University and Queensland Conservatorium medals, first prize in the University of North Texas Concerto Competition and joint first prize in the Australian National Academy of Music Concerto Competition. In 2012, Emma was awarded the Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to undertake a two-month period of intensive study and mentoring under renowned French double bass performer and pedagogue Thierry Barbé in Paris.

Emma is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, where she enjoys being principal double bass of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, playing regularly with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria and sharing her love of the double bass with her students. Emma is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. Her doctoral project, Collaborative Contrabass, is focused on researching, performing and promoting chamber music for the double bass.