Typically, at the end of the academic year, Dr. Jeremy Wohletz, department chair of Arts and Letters and associate professor of music, asks his studio students what goals they have for the following year and try to have a summer game plan for those students to get a head start on those goals. When he asked Lexie Berger, senior composite music education major, what her goal was, she responded that she would like to audition for the Bismarck Mandan Symphony Orchestra concerto competition.

This semester, Lexie submitted a recording for the preliminary round of the concerto competition and was selected to be one of four finalists for the Collegiate Instrumental category. In the second round of the competition, Lexie had to perform her audition live and memorized in front of the judge. Although she was not selected as the winner, Lexie stated, “it was the best I’ve ever performed!” Below are some questions leading up to competition day and how she responded during the competition!

Could you speak about the process of the competition?

I selected my piece last spring when I was looking for new repertoire to work on. I had seen posters up for the young artists' concerto competition and decided I should try it since I was already working on a concerto. I submitted a video of me playing a portion of it for the first round of auditions and got an email that I made it to the finals later that week. From Oct. 14th to Nov. 5th, it seems like all I listened to was Sabine Meyer's performance of the concertino and worked on memorizing.

The live audition was amazing. I haven't performed a solo work to be formally critiqued since the state solo and ensemble festival in 2019, so it was awesome to get in front of judges again. After my fellow finalists and I performed, there was a judge's meeting and they presented the winner. It was great being among such highly skilled and dedicated musicians and I'm proud to have been nominated alongside them. I look forward to the performance in April, Katelyn Cermak is a beast flutist!

How did you prepare for the competition?

I listened to the piece constantly. Everyday going to school or coming home, in between classes, while I cooked supper. My fiancé is glad to not have to hear it anymore! Listening to it really helped get the interpretation and flow of the piece in my head and made it so I could practice without actually taking out my clarinet. On top of that, I played through the whole thing at least three times a day.

I also had my first practicum placement the week of October 25-28, so for a portion of one of my planned lessons, I performed the piece for Wilton's High School band and asked them to critique me using a judge's sheet for solo and ensemble festival. Additionally, we have a performance class as a part of being a music major. I performed it for my fellow music majors and the music faculty as a faux audition. It was my first time performing something completely memorized, and I was so nervous I had to immediately sit when I was done, but it was the best thing I could have done to prepare for the real thing. 

What did you learn from the experience?

I learned so much from this. I play much more musically when I play memorized, so I might start trying to memorize more of my music, or at least sections. Mostly, I learned I'm a lot more capable than I think I am. Throughout the whole process, I questioned why I was doing this, but many of my professors kept pushing me, knowing my abilities better than I did.

When I did my practicum experience, the students at Wilton would go through their expectations before the start of class. One of them was "have a positive attitude,” which they would say with big thumbs up. I did this (thumbs up and all) before my faux performance in the performance lab and right outside the door of the live audition before I walked on. So, I guess the biggest thing I learned was to believe in myself more. For that, I want to thank Dr. Wohletz, David Sorenson (my accompanist who ran through it with me probably ten times that week and gave up some of his Saturday), all of the music faculty and majors at Bismarck State College, and the music students at Wilton Public School.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Doing this competition made me a better musician. It was a lot of work, took a lot of time, effort, and willpower, but it was worth it because I came out better on the other side. I may not have 'won' the competition, but I gained so much that I do still consider the experience a win. Push yourself. You're capable of more than you think, and you'll grow so much. Do something scary and have a positive attitude.