There was an orchestral audition that took place this weekend at the local opera company. It was an audition for nine violin positions. There were twelve applicants. Of these twelve, two were advanced out of the preliminary round to the finals. It isn’t clear if anyone was offered a position at the time this was being written. This is inexcusable.
I know many of those violinists who took this audition, and they are all superb musicians, and a good number of them are the best violinists in the city, freelance or otherwise. How is it that so few managed to meet the obviously high bar that the committee set for these auditions? I find it hard to believe that out of such a high quality field that only two were found worthy – and with NINE open positions to fill!
It also galls me because elitism-by-committee at any level of ensemble is deeply abhorrent to me. Auditions that result in no-hires, with some exceptions, occur because a committee is run by (or bullied by) one or more musicians who think that only they know what quality is, and are of the opinion that, if you aren’t inhumanly tough, you’re lowering your standards, and that’s just not acceptable within the hallowed halls of insert-orchestra-name-here. Please! Give me a break!
Also likely in mid-level and lower ensembles is the situation in which the committee is cowed by the level of auditioning talent. They are intimidated, and don’t pass people out of fear. It’s hard to be top dog if the new dog in the pack can eat your lunch for breakfast. They’ll find idiotic excuses like “they didn’t play double stops in the overture” or other such nonsense. And maybe that’s all well and good when you’re in the final round, but I’ve heard many an audition that had nearly as many candidates in the finals as this opera orchestra committee heard in their entire preliminary round. Is it that hard to listen? Is their time that important? Are they that superior?
So now you’ve got pretty much every freelance violinist who isn’t in the orchestra already hopping mad about what a travesty this audition was, and how will that play out when it comes time to fill those 7, 8, or 9 open spots during the season? How many takers will they have from the top ranks of the available freelance violinists? How many will take the next (and inevitable) round of auditions? I’m not sure what the answers to those questions are, but I do know that there are some musicians in Portland who have lost my respect, and they aren’t the violinists who took this audition.