auditions the orchestra world


The reentry into life after an audition is often a difficult period of transition.  One has been so focused upon a goal – often for several months on end – and then in the time it takes the personnel manager to say “thank you” it’s all over.  You gather up your stuff and head out of the hall into the real world again, and your brain struggles to catch up to the circumstances.  There is a brief period of just treating yourself to some drinks and a nice meal as a consolation prize, maybe meeting up with friends to distract yourself from what just transpired.  But on the flight home, and those first several days after returning, are when the critical voices start to make themselves heard.  Did I practice properly?  Did I practice enough? Did I play for the right people?  Should I have taken a lesson with someone, or should I have not taken that lesson?  Was I cocky? Did I peak early?  Should I have taken beta blockers, or shouldn’t I have? Am I good enough to win anything? Am I too old? These are among the myriad thoughts that can rob one of sleep even when at one’s most exhausted state.

The audition process is like training for a marathon, but arriving at the race and finding a 100 meter sprint instead.  Weeks and even months are spent examining one’s technique to the point of distraction, intonation, rhythm, phrasing, tone, articulation – they all need to be honed to a high degree of polish.  There really is a skill to preparing in such a way, and no one can really teach you how to do it, you just have to use trial and error to figure it out.  In training for a marathon (or a century ride), one needs to be careful not to peak to soon, or do too many miles too soon, or not enough miles by the time race day arrives.  You want to be in peak fitness, or just about at it just as the moment of truth arrives.  So it is with auditions.  But whereas in long distance training one has the advantage of a long distance event in which to succeed or fail, the audition process has an extremely long exposition and the most compact of climaxes and denouements.  One is literally on the spot to produce perhaps one minute of a solo piece and then four or five excerpts of widely varying tempos, articulations, and musical styles that might last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in length.  The average preliminary round audition might take somewhere between 5 – 8 minutes to complete for each contestant.  So one is reduced to a hyper-critical period of less than 10 minutes in length after a period of months of preparation.  In this context, minor blemishes take on the status of major disasters – there is so little time to distinguish one’s self in this amount of time – and for an audition committee to hear a balanced portrait of a musician’s abilities – that the necessity to play safely and conservatively and as perfectly as possible trumps all other concerns.

So it’s no wonder that coming out of an audition – whether one has failed to advance out of the preliminaries, or if one is the runner-up to the eventual winner – is often a time of much self-analysis and personal agony, not to mention sheer physical and mental exhaustion.

2 replies on “reentry”

well, at least you got to play a snippet or two.

i remember a dancer friend once telling me that she quit the ballet world after an “audition” with San Francisco Ballet. during the first round of the “cattle call,” all the gals were asked to line up. then, someone went down the line pointing at a a few that would remain for the “next round.” so, my friend was dismissed without a single footstep. it was all about the “right look” first.

reminds me of the Bond String Quartet.

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