A Few Thoughts on Auditions, After Taking 20 Plus Auditions
It's a season of change for me these days. I've done a little over four years of auditions with varying amounts of success, and I've seen how hard people work, and how frustrating the outcome is, most of the time. I'm trying to decide how many more auditions I have left in me, and where I want my future career in music and movement to land. With that being said, here are some of my thoughts on the orchestral audition process.
1) The outcome of an audition does not determine your value as a human or a musician. I can't repeat this enough- you have value as a musician whether or not you advance at an audition.
2) You can prepare thoroughly for an audition and not win or advance. Sometimes, it's because you could have played better in the moment, sometimes it's not.
3) You can prepare in a panicked, last minute way, and advance. I don't recommend this, necessarily, but I have definitely had times when I've played better slightly underprepared and advanced.
4) You may feel that you played poorly in a round, only to find out that you advanced.
5) You may feel that you absolutely nailed that round, only to find out that you did not advance.
6) Even if you did not win or advance from a round, you may feel that you achieved a personal success, and this is NOT to be discounted. Auditions do not take into account your personal playing challenges, difficulties in playing early in the morning or late at night, changes in climate and humidity, and playing under pressure. Personal successes still count, even if the grand outcome is not as you hoped.
7) There is no "one right way" to prepare for an audition. Each instrument presents different preparation challenges, and each person's schedule for work, reed making, teaching, etc, provides different challenges. Some people may be able to prepare 4+ hours a day, other people may only be able to prepare 2 hours, and one way is not necessarily better or worse.
8) Auditions generally evoke a sense of tunnel vision, i.e. I can't do anything but practice for the next month. The reality is that most of us need to "adult," and take care of bills, be in relationship with our partners/children/etc., teach, work, etc. Some rare people have the ability to just clean out their schedule entirely to prepare for an audition, but most of us still have to do our daily tasks, and that's ok. You can still prepare intentionally and have some sort of life in the weeks preceding.
9) It can be tempting to just try to be as accurate as humanly possible, and sacrifice all else, and in many situations, that may work. But, at a certain point, playing in a way that shows you understand the other aspects of music will not only be more rewarding for yourself as you practice, but also be valued by others.
10) Audition committees are human, and therefore never fully objective. Musicians are likely to experience some sort of subjective bias, in which a particular approach or style appeals more to them than another approach. Even though many rounds of auditions are screened, there may be subtle biases, and when the screen comes down, there may be biases of gender, age, race, or just knowing one of the candidates in the finals. We're human, and although we may try to be objective, it's not fully possible.
11) No matter what anyone tells you, you can't control the outcome of an audition, at least not by ethical means. You can play your best, prepare well, maybe even play for someone in that orchestra, but there is little you can do to ensure an outcome. The only thing you can control is your own preparation- even with excellent preparation, we can guarantee how we will play.
12) Auditions are obscenely expensive. You already knew this, but in looking at my taxes in the last few years, many dollars have been spent on flights and accommodations.
13) It takes a lot of courage to simply take an audition. It honestly took me quite a few years to feel like I was ready to face rejection and spend a lot of money. I was fortunate to win a job early in my auditioning career, but it still takes copious amounts of preparation, time, money, persistence, and courage to even taken an audition.
14) With auditions, it can be easy to forget why we enjoy playing our instrument. Often the things that are most rewarding are barely seen or heard in auditions- we're mostly playing by ourselves in repertoire meant for a large group of people, with little feedback from the committee. I try to always remind myself that I do enjoy playing my instrument and that it comes from a place of loving sound.
15) Auditions are truly bizarre experiences- we play selections of ensemble repertoire by ourselves, in front of a group of people. We rarely speak or identify ourselves prior to hiring, and many orchestras do not offer trials. We play repertoire that is usually pre-20th century (for copyright and library reasons), which may not represent what the actual job entails. We don't demonstrate our people skills, section playing, work ethic, or much else, except how we play our instrument in 8 minutes or less. I'd love to see the audition process change to represent more of what the job actually entails, but I don't foresee that happening any time soon. It's a truly bizarre experience, and acknowledging that can be useful.
I'm sure I'll add more thoughts as the week goes on, but I was thinking about these the other day as I was making a long drive up to Dallas. How would you like to see the audition process change?