There are few things that compare to sitting in an orchestra and being part of the massive, rich sound of a tone poem of Richard Strauss, with volumes that can range from the nearly imperceptible to the almost ear-splitting thunder of the orchestra. Imagine the thrill of playing a melody-laden Brahms Symphony with its lush, full, orchestral sonorities, or a Mozart Symphony full of beautiful lyricism and rhythmically driven energy. There is a countless wealth of orchestral literature that evokes these tangible, yet moving sensations.
After more than 30 years of playing professionally, I’m still enthralled with this profession – I love playing in a symphony orchestra. To be able to perform this repertoire, inspired by both the music and my colleagues in the orchestra, continues to give me a thrill. It has remained my passion.
And now it’s your turn!
You’ve studied your instrument for years. More than likely, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on private lessons and countless hours practicing and rehearsing. And now you’ve decided you want to play professionally in a symphony orchestra. It’s time to make your dreams a reality. If you’re taking the time to read this book, you will probably not be satisfied until that dream is fulfilled.
There is now only one thing standing between you, your talent, your desire and your dream to play professionally: THE AUDITION. Few words spoken to a musician seem to have as daunting an effect as the mention of an audition. As a music student, you endured the experience many times and are familiar with the pressures involved in auditioning for an amateur orchestra. Not knowing for whom you will play. Not having a guarantee of the outcome. Not knowing how your competitors will perform. Not knowing if you will have a good day or bad day. Not knowing if you will be derailed by nervousness. A broken string, a stuck valve, a crabby person on the audition committee, there are so many uncontrollable variables, and so much of each audition left to luck or chance – or so it may seem!
Now the stakes are much higher. You’re not auditioning to win a contest or a higher seat. This audition is going to be for your livelihood, your career, your dream.
I know how you’re feeling now, because like you, I have survived my share of auditions, and have judged many more. I have seen musicians simply stop on their own accord in the middle of a concerto and walk off stage for no reason. I have watched musicians crumble in tears in the middle of an audition. I even remember one person who started laughing so hard that going on was simply not possible. However, an audition doesn’t have to be a scary experience. There are steps you can take to prepare for your audition and optimize your playing where and when it counts the most. It can even be an enjoyable experience and in the process, greatly increase your odds of winning the job.
I’ve had the privilege of sitting on countless orchestra audition committees and have helped hundreds of musicians prepare. I’ve also learned the most common mistake that musicians make in orchestra auditions, and I’ll tell you so you can avoid it. So, whether you are completely new to the process or just need another perspective, this is my attempt to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from my students, my personal experiences and my observations of those auditioning over the years.
PART I. FINDING YOUR AUDITION
How to find available positions
There are some old tried and true ways to find auditions, namely The International Musician magazine and the European version, Das Orchester magazine. I’ll go into detail on both of these in a minute. But first, since this book was originally published, many more options for finding openings have emerged online.
One source of openings around the world is www.orchestraplayers.com. Orchestraplayers lists openings from all countries. The navigation on the far left of the home page allows musicians to search by instrument. This site often offers many details regarding the specific position, including salary. Auditioncafe.com is another wonderful source for openings around the world, as well as helpful tips and other useful information. The site is cleverly designed and easy to use. Of course, you also can simply use .....