V.com weekend vote: When was your last audition?

May 1, 2022, 4:48 PM · Remember that saying, "Do one thing every day that scares you..."?

The idea is to do something that will better your life, but it's a little scary. For example: an audition! I'd like to put the most positive-possible spin on it, but I have to admit: it's scary to sign up for an audition, it's scary to anticipate an audition, and it's scary to take an audition.

audition

Taking an audition, you are putting your playing on the line for an orchestra job, or entrance to college, or entry to a youth orchestra, or getting a new teacher, or community orchestra, etc. Of course, you want to be accepted. If you are, it can be life-changing! If you are not, it can be extremely disappointing. I've definitely experienced both sides of that!

As another saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." It's part of the process.

When is the last time you took an audition? Was it during the pandemic? If so, was it an in-person or video audition? How was it different? What was the last thing you auditioned for - a certain group or ensemble? A school? A teacher? What are your observations about auditions, and what do you feel helps people be successful with them? What has helped you? How do you cope when you don't get accepted? Please participate in the vote, then share your thoughts!

Replies

May 1, 2022 at 11:01 PM · People always talk about needing to play in a certain manner or style for an audition. But from watching auditions and hearing reviews, the orchestra members just want you to play like yourself, and to actually play more soloistically rather than orderly and inoffensive as is often heard on the grapevine. I think this easily the biggest misconception about auditions.

May 1, 2022 at 11:17 PM · More than 20 years ago. It was for the CSO's training school, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I auditioned twice for this training ensemble during my degree program. Players have to re-audition every year. No one is "in."

Since I won both auditions - and got most of my required semester credits in orchestra as a result - I really don't know how I would have coped if I hadn't been accepted. Probably about as well as I've handled other disappointments in life - i.e., I would have survived.

What helped me in the audition was - for lack of a better term - the little swashbuckler that was part of my nature from an early age. I had learned, very early in recital experience, something of how to out-bully the nerves and burn off the adrenaline. Then auditions, like recitals, became one of my strong suits. True, I did get keyed up at the start - and that's a good thing. But I still delivered.

One other thing helped. The audition panel consented to my request to first play a few minutes of my own warm-up material - along the lines of Mazas and Kreutzer. I stitched together some excerpts that were in turn aggressive, lyrical, melancholy, then a bit impish - to show that I could deliver variety. BTW, I had long ago learned that an aggressive attack opening helped me burn off the adrenaline.

Once I was done with my own routine, I played the panel’s requested repertoire and did a bit of sight-reading.

One irony: Even though my childhood ambition was to become a symphony player, I finally decided that orchestra playing wasn't what I wanted to do after all. It was, for sure, an honor to be part of this ensemble; but now, at 21 y/o and nearing the end of school, I didn't want the gig anymore and told this to the administration. No idea who replaced me after I decided to pull out, but I'm sure he or she was delighted to get the call from the administration, saying that they had an opening.

May 1, 2022 at 11:56 PM · I auditioned for our university's orchestra. I played the first page of the Beethoven F Major Romance. It was apparently good enough to land me in the viola section!! I auditioned early in the process, and I think the director was surprised by the number and quality of violinists that showed up.

May 2, 2022 at 03:33 AM · I've auditioned for things twice in my life.

The first was in 2011 when I auditioned for the community orchestra I currently play in. I played the Bruch Romanze for viola and was also asked to play a few orchestral excerpts. The audition panel (which consisted of the director and the principal players for the instruments that were auditioning that day) was openly skeptical at the beginning of the audition because I was self-taught, so I assumed I had very little chance of getting in. To my surprise, I did get in.

My next audition was last fall, for the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra after I went back to school for a graduate law degree. This time it was much more comfortable, because the university orchestra director also conducts my community orchestra (the person who heard my 2011 audition was his predecessor) and I felt that all I had to do was show that I was taking the audition seriously, and not mailing it in because he knew me. I played the Prelude from Bach Cello Suite No. 2 and the first movement of the Clarke viola sonata. I ended up fourth chair; everyone seated ahead of me is either a viola performance major or a grad student whose undergrad degree is in viola performance.

May 2, 2022 at 07:40 PM · I wish there was a 'now' option! I've just submitted a video audition to participate in the Toronto Summer Music festival chamber music week. Can't tell you how it worked out yet!

May 3, 2022 at 05:49 AM · More than 15 years ago, I did so many that I don’t know the number, until I finally made it in my current orchestra.

Around that time, I performed Mozart A major concerto as a soloist with an orchestra of my music university. That was a really good performance, it got recorded, and I would say that normally this would take me into second round, in most places.

BUT: I almost never made it to play like this in an audition. Thinking of my successful concert was like thinking of someone else. Now, I am in the position of having to judge others who audition. And I can say, James is right- if people “simply” play the music, musically, and this also applies to excerpts, this is great, given a solid technique. But most people cannot show their full potential. It is very hard to “just” think about the music and ignore the fact that you as a person are being judged, here.

In my final successful audition, I had more or less given up, before playing: My train was late, and I arrived when they had already begun. Then, there was suddenly a terrible noise in my violin, as if a metal chain was inside. I couldn’t find the cause. I was ready to go home without playing, then I thought, well, everyone will be able to see that this noise is not my fault, I can as well play, and then go. I was not nervous, anymore. And the noise was miraculously gone (much later, I found out that something in the frog was broken and rattling, but only when the screw was in a very certain position. Therefore, it came and went).

Learning to play in auditions needs specific training which is nowadays more common than at that time. But it helps to do a lot of auditions. I needed at least five in order to be able to play close to how I had prepared for it. But I got still thrown out in first round. After one of my better performances, I asked some people of the orchestra what I could do, and they blatantly told me to buy another violin, I had no chance with that one! I did, and from then on, I often reached second round. This is not fair, but it is as it is.

Three years ago, I did one more audition, for a principal position, in my own orchestra. I spend more than 50% of my preparation with mental work (the Noa Kageyama course), and for the first time, I had the feeling that I was nervous but still didn’t lose control of my playing. Lots of colleagues found it great, unfortunately not the principle in charge of interrupting and kicking people out, so I didn’t get the position. But I regard this period as very valuable for my personal improvement and I regard it as a successful audition, in a personal way, independent from its outcome.

The worst part of getting kicked out is that you start hesitating if this is the right career: Either you cannot perform near your very own level, so what was all that practicing good for? Or you do play as good as you can, and this still isn’t enough??

After knowing the other side, I can say, in many cases, it is just a matter of taste. And sometimes, it is a matter of a single vote more or less. One of our current concertmasters got barely into second round. From then on, it went well for him. But if one or two colleagues would have voted differently, or had been sick that day, we would by now have forgotten him, completely. Same person, same skills.

After all, there is a good portion of luck that one needs. Given that you make it to play well enough, it is a matter of statistics when you are the one that has that luck. So, I would recommend not giving up, too soon.

May 3, 2022 at 09:09 AM · In my semi-pro orchestra I auditioned on viola and they "put" me in the 1st violins. A failed violist!

Perhaps I made 3 mistakes: holding my viola too high, vibrating on all 4 fingers, and playing in tune? On viola..

Later I played 2nd violin when they found I wasn't in the least offended to be asked.

Other than that, my best auditions are usually the last concert I took part in..

May 3, 2022 at 05:57 PM · Right after an audition I usually think "that is my last audition". My last audition for a fully pro orchestra, 10 years ago, was for a Viola section opening. There were about 25 candidates. I picked a high number. Everyone was in the same large room warming up and practicing. After a couple of hours of hearing everyone I decided that I was a better player than that young kid over there, and I definitely had the cheapest instrument in the room. I bailed. I told the manager that I needed to get back home for an evening rehearsal. I think that they could have put together 2 whole pro level viola sections from that group.

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