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February 5, 2021

Reflections from CIM Audition Days


Audition Day

By: Isabella Sobkowicz

CIM’s Newsroom includes a student-led blog with posts covering a variety of topics, including the CIM admissions process, student life, and interviews with faculty, students and alumni. CIM undergraduate and soprano Isabella (Ella) Sobkowicz, who is currently studying with Dean Southern, is a regular voice on the blog for conservatory Admissions.


As CIM approaches another exciting audition season, I felt inspired to reach out to our current students and alumni to find out what they remember from their big CIM audition! As I sorted through these replies, I took note of how many alumni and students auditioned in different ways; some came to CIM, others auditioned in person, but at a different location, and some submitted videos or cassette tapes. While auditions this year will look different from past years, our future students will have an audition story that they will likely never forget. If there is one thing I’ve learned from reading these stories, everyone’s CIM audition experience is unique and special.

Memories from Alumni Who Graduated in the 1980s

“John Mack was a kind-hearted teacher whose impeccable playing and sheer presence inspired many oboists. He wanted to get to know his prospective students so the oboe auditions were mini lessons. I believe he extended this opportunity to all that auditioned. He viewed teaching as a sacred duty and he delivered! I am grateful for the memory of his booming voice (which I can still hear), his humor, the inspiration of his playing and knowledge of reed-making, that he shared without reservation.” - CIM alumna Elizabeth Condon (MM ‘88, Mack)

“My first CIM audition took place remotely at the Aspen Music Festival, after which I traveled to New York City where I learned I had been admitted into my choice teacher, Vitya Vronsky Babin’s studio. I had three weeks to pack my belongings and move to Cleveland from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and upon arrival I played my audition program live for the piano faculty in the President’s office. I vividly remember their smiles and Mrs. Babin’s first words to me…meeting this legendary artist who would become my teacher for the next six years was the most important event in my life and work as a pianist. Her character and teaching will live on with me forever.” - CIM alumnus and faculty member Gerardo Teissonnière (BM ‘85, MM ‘89, Vronsky Babin)

Memories from Alumni Who Graduated in the 1990s - 2000s

“I remember meeting the Voice faculty and feeling very ‘seen.’ The audition was in a small space, which made me more comfortable than at any other school, and I remember receiving encouragement and advice from the faculty. That, and my sample lesson with the warm and welcoming George Vassos made me settle on CIM as my top choice.” - CIM alumna Kim Lauritsen (MM ‘04, Vassos

“It was January 1989 and I was seventeen…I had heard from a family friend who played in The Cleveland Orchestra second violin section that CIM was a great school and that Victor Danchenko was an amazing teacher. So, I showed up. No application submitted, no slot reserved. (Later on, I did work study in the Admissions office and heard stories about how panicked they were to have someone just show up, but at the time I had no clue). I remember loving the 60s modernist vibe of the building. I played my audition and I thought it went well, but I really didn't know…a few weeks later, I got a letter telling me I was accepted. Which was good because I didn't bother auditioning anywhere else. I ended up staying for six years and wouldn't trade my CIM experience for anything. My point in sharing this story is to let you know that if you feel overwhelmed or confused, like you really don't know what's going on during your audition day, you're not alone. Many have been there before you feeling just the same. It's a big deal and the decision you make will shape you for the rest of your musical journey. But you should trust your feelings; if the situation feels right, it probably is. Good luck!” - CIM alumnus Maxim Moston (BM ‘93, MM ‘95, Danchenko/Updegraff/Weilerstein

Memories from Alumni Who Graduated in the 2010s and Current Students

“The first time I saw CIM was on a cold audition day in the winter of 2014. Driving down East Boulevard and seeing the beautiful architecture of Severance Hall, The Cleveland Museum of Art and CIM all covered in a beautiful, fresh blanket of snow is an image I will forever cherish!” - CIM alumnus Zachary West (BM ‘18, Cohen)

“I was really worried that I bombed my audition, since CIM was my top choice. I was welcomed with a warm voice and caring smile from another voice student named Shira Ziv. She helped me think more on the positive side of auditioning and relax from my audition jitters. I’m so thankful for that meeting! Also, I had my first lesson with my teacher Ms. Kuznetsova. After seeing her perform on stage in Pittsburgh, it was like being in the presence of royalty! I couldn’t believe a professional opera singer would be my teacher! (And I do not regret my choice whatsoever)!” - CIM student Caroline Friend (Kuznetsova)


In these times of great uncertainty and immense devastation, the world needs to hear what we have to say as artists, and CIM is nourishing the minds and talents of musicians who are the future of classical music - both online and in person. Auditions are a wonderful opportunity to show the faculty at CIM who you are and how you want to use your voice as a musician. Be courageous, kind and have a ton of fun!

For those auditioning in February, check your Status Page for your individual audition schedule and visit the Virtual Audition webpage to find the agenda of other activities for each day. The students, staff and faculty at CIM are looking forward to welcoming you to CIM’s virtual audition days!