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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000925.txt from 1998/04

From: Hard Reed <>
Subj: Re: Symphony auditions
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 19:18:49 -0400

There have been a lot of general statements -- many bitter, many accurate --
concerning auditioning for symphony orchestras.

Obviously, each orchestra has their own "system" for deciding who will be
invited. I remember once hearing that Cleveland, for example, will invite only
20 candidates for an audition (I was invited a few years ago without even
having sent a resume!). Other orchestras might set an arbitrary limit, others
"screen" by tape, others accept everyone. I'm not writing to condone some of
what is thought of as unfair, just stating what's happening in the real world.

Often a tape is requested if an applicant's resume does not seem "sufficient."
(whatever that may mean!). Even after being rejected, a personnel manager may
reverse that decision if an applicant is somewhat persistent.

As far as having teachers/players, etc. call in one's behalf -- it has
happened this way for eons, or so it seems. However, it generally takes the
forms of facilitating one's entry into the first round of auditions. Then
you're on your own!

Nobody said it was a fair system, for sure. We have, in the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra, attempted to make the audition process as smooth and fair for
everyone involved. We have gone as far as including a clause in our
collective bargaining agreement stating "While candidates lacking orchestral
experience will not be encouraged, all applicants will be allowed to audition
for the DSO." This is not being charitable, but being realistic. Unless we
might have specific knowledge of a person's playing, we have no idea of
somebody's competence based on a piece of paper. Our position is that anyone
who chooses to audition for a position in our orchestra is doing us a favor by
allowing us to listen to them.

Our auditions are totally screened -- from the first preliminary to the last
final. Lest you think this is a gimmick, I can assure you it is not. It
allows us to judge a player solely by the sounds they the last
10-15 years, for instance, we have hired a couple violinists and a violist
right out of college (including one still attending!), a female concertmaster
at the ripe age of 25 (who was, BTW, an incredible find) and a horn player two
weeks out of high school! And in case you're wondering, this is hardly a
training orchestra! We've had auditionees from every (and I mean every!)
major orchestra in this continent.

To state that money is an issue because orchestras must pay musicians to sit
on committees and that is a reason to limit the candidates is pure nonsense.
While we would like to believe that many of our managements are not always up
to the challenge, it's common practice to budget for audition expenses right
along with everything else. We recently had flute auditions that took four
days and violin auditions that spanned three. This was hardly a surprise to
our management. In fact, many orchestras issue service credits to committee
members in lieu of payment.

And what do we hear? has been my experience that less than 10% of
those auditioning have any business whatsoever in being there in the first
place. Most have serious deficiencies in the basic fundamentals of pitch and
rhythm, let alone any musical qualities to consider! However, we will listen
to them play a full audition. If someone goes as far as spending their money
to attend an audition, we'll, at least, give them the coutesy of playing a
full audition, no matter how unqualified we feel they are.

And getting hired? Don't think for a minute that it's always the "best" (a
subjective term if there ever was one) player gets the gig -- it's the best
player that fits. And sometimes, that's nobody...and we have to start all
over again!

In closing, if you have an inordinate amount of difficulty in dealing with an
orchestra, you might ask yourself a question: Do I really want to work for an
organization that treats people like this?

Larry Liberson

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