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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001075.txt from 1998/04

From: Mitch Bassman <>
Subj: re: National Symphony Second Clarinet Audition
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 12:06:47 -0400

<Repost of a message sent 5:25 PM on 4/17/98 just prior to the mailing list

I have been completely fascinated by the thread (initiated by Jonathan
Cohler) on the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, DC) Second Clarinet
audition. I'm interested because, as a resident of the Washington, DC,
area, I am an NSO subscriber and attend many of their concerts. Also, I
posted the NSO audition notice to this mailing list on March 13. Let me try
to add a few bits of information and clear up a couple of mis-statements.
(No flames, no name-calling, just a few new pieces of information to be
considered or ignored as you wish.)

First, I need to state that I am not a professional musician and have not
experienced first-hand the type of auditions that have been described. (In
fact, I work in the computer software and services industry and have often
rejected applicants on the basis of resumes.) I do have an immediate family
member who does have orchestral audition experience, so I know a little
about it. I am also on a first-name basis with NSO musicians and musicians
in other major orchestras, though none of them are in the clarinet section.

In his first post, Jonathan wrote:
>I just had a very disconcerting conversation with an arrogant personnel
>manager at the National Symphony by the name of David Bragunier.

FYI, in addition to being the NSO Personnel Manager since 1976, David
Bragunier has been the orchestra's Principal Tuba player since 1961 when he
won the job as a fresh graduate of the Peabody Conservatory. He has 22
years experience as the personnel manager and is familiar with the audition
process, both as an administrator and as a young musician.

Jonathan continued:
>I also wonder how Stanley Drucker would have felt if he was told he
>couldn't audition for the New York Philharmonic when he was 19, because his
>resume didn't show enough experience. Or how about John Bruce Yeh when he
>was 19 and auditioning for the Chicago Symphony. Or....

Well, we know the NSO does audition young musicians (there are quite a few
in the orchestra), even young and inexperienced clarinetists. The job is
open because Michael Rusinek is leaving. (See last month's thread about the
Pittsburgh or Philadelphia matter.) Rusinek won the job in 1961 as a
22-year-old senior at Curtis. As far as I know, it was his first job; I may
be wrong about that.

Roger Garrett observed:
>Also, many people who win jobs do not stay in
>their first one for 5-10 years. A very high percentage of them move to
>another position within 3 years.

Yes, Rusinek is leaving after seven years to take a principal position in a
different major orchestra. But his predecessor had been the NSO second
clarinetist for at least 30 years (maybe closer to 40, I don't recall
exactly) before his sudden death. Someone told me (at the time) that close
to 600 applications were received for the opening in 1961; my source may
have been misinformed or may have been exaggerating.

David Blumberg added:
>The San Francisco job was won by someone who had to get Gigliotti to "make
>the call" because the Columbus Sym. was not "in their league", and the
>player was rejected on resume alone. He now recently won the last
>Cincinnati audition

In the last month or so, I have been traveling and have heard live concerts
by the NSO, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Columbus Symphony. Yes, I
agree that the Columbus Symphony is not in the same league, but it's
excellent nonetheless. It doesn't have strong players in every position
(like the majors do), but the total sound is superb and there are some
outstanding players in key positions. The Principal Timpanist of Columbus
left last year to take a section percussion job in Pittsburgh. Why? An
extract from the salaries list (US$, 1995 data) that Dave Blumberg posted
on March 12 tells the story:

>Orchestra Scale (annual) Season (weeks) Paid Vacation
>--------- ----------- -------------- ----------------
>Columbus (OH) 40,250 46 4 weeks
>National (Wash DC) 61,620 52 8 weeks
>Pittsburgh 63,960 52 10 weeks

David Thomas, the Principal Clarinetist in Columbus, sounds as good as
anyone I've heard. His tone is gorgeous; his musical expressiveness is
exquisite. My wife and I were talking about it for a long time after the
concert, and my wife is very (very!) critical about anything musical.
Robert Jones, who plays second and E-flat in Columbus also impressed both
of us, especially with his E-flat playing but also with his ability to
blend as a second player.

Daniel Paprocki wrote:
>Since this position is also an Eb job has your student done some professional
>subbing on Eb?

This is definitely not an E-flat job. Note (above) that in Columbus the
second plays E-flat. That is not true in Washington, DC. The position is
for Second Clarinet and *Assistant Principal*. The NSO has four permanent
clarinetists. The NSO's E-flat player is William Wright, who has been with
the orchestra since 1960. The bass clarinetist is Lawrence Bocaner, who
also has been with the NSO since 1960. They both play beautifully and
often. The person who wins the Second Clarinet job will play a lot of first
clarinet parts. The NSO has assistant principals in virtually every
section. In almost every concert I've heard recently, the assistants have
opportunities to play the first part in at least one composition. Unless
there is a major clarinet solo involved, it is not unusual to see Rusinek
sitting first and Bill Wright sitting second during, for example, a piano
concerto. Loren Kitt does play for concertos if the clarinet part is
significant. (The same idea is true in other sections.) By the way, Kitt
has been with the NSO since 1970; before that he was the principal
clarinetist in Milwaukee for three years.

Then Hat NYC 62 added:
>Let me just add to this that for a SECOND clarinet audition, which this is, a
>different type of player is often selected than for a principal position.
>are looking for solid and flexible, not necessarily the most expressive.

See previous comment; this is also an audition for Assistant Principal.
They will be looking for someone who can play first clarinet parts
expressively in Loren Kitt's absence.

I hope some of this rambling has been of interest. It does not address
Jonathan's original point, but it does address some of the comments that
have grown out of that point.

Mitch Bassman
Burke, Virginia, USA

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