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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001091.txt from 1998/04

From: Jonathan Cohler <>
Subj: Re: Auditions
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 14:04:24 -0400

HatNYC wrote:

>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. They
>are looking for solid and flexible, not necessarily the most expressive.

Again, this is off-topic. There has been no discussion in this thread of
what "they are looking for," but simply how one is admitted to the initial
round of auditions. Different orchestra committees may indeed be looking
for different things. I maintain that the paper resume is a useless and
completely unreliable way of narrowing down a pool of applicants for a
full-time orchestra position.

> This
>is another reason why solo competitions mean nothing.

Sorry, but I fail to follow your logic here. Solo competitions test a lot
more than expressiveness. They also test solidity, ability to play under
pressure, sound quality, intonation, articulation, one's ability to phrase
and interpret, flexibility as well as one's expressivity.

In any case, this is not the issue at hand. The issue is should a resume
be used at all as a roadblock to a first-round audition. I believe it
should not be for reasons of fairness, and for the objective reason that
one obtains better results that would be otherwise unobtainable by
admitting people based on resume alone (see Larry Liberson's message).

In fact, the argument that a less experienced student should go do smaller
orchestra auditions (which someone on this list made earlier in this
thread) to build a resume, is really ass-backwards. It is precisely these
"smaller" orchestras where average tenure is substantially shorter, and
therefore they cannot afford to audition as many people. It is only small
orchestras that have a financial justification for not auditioning all

As I demonstrated with my financial analysis in which noone has yet poked
any holes, the large orchestras can all easily afford to audition well over
300 applicants.

> Having a soloist as a
>teacher is probably not a big help getting invited to a second clarinet
>audition, either.

I don't know what this means exactly. Please explain. I assume it is not
meant as a personal attack on me as a soloist.

My status as a soloist says nothing about my knowledge of or experience in
orchestral repertoire, and it also says nothing about my connections with
orchestral players.

In my case, I know dozens orchestral clarinetists and am friendly with
quite a few, so in terms of contacts, I believe I am as well off as any
orchestral player.

In terms of knowing the repertoire, I have played most of the standard
repertoire in my career and conducted quite a bit too. I conduct two
orchestras and listen to several hundred orchestral auditions every year as
a judge. (I have also judged several solo competitions too.)

Therefore, I consider myself as well acquainted (or in some cases perhaps
better acquainted, because of my knowledge of entire scores as opposed to
just the clarinet part) with the orchestral clarinet repertoire as most
orchestral players.

>By the way, although it is probably likely that most members of an orchestra
>like the NSO have won solo competitions at some point, that does not mean that
>all winners of solo competitions are qualified to be in major orchestras. Same
>for Tanglewood, many great players have been there, not all players who have
>been there are great!

Again, I never said that all winners of solo competitions are qualified to
be in major orchestras. You are putting words in my mouth. Certainly,
however, I believe that all winners of major international competitions are
qualified TO BE CONSIDERED IN THE FIRST ROUND of any orchestra audition in
the world.

>Auditions are inherently NOT fair. They never will be.
>can be. If Jonathan Cohler and I heard the same people audition, we would
>probably rank them differently, because we have different priorities when it
>comes to approaching both music and the clarinet.

The fact that two judges rank the same people differently has nothing to do
with fairness. It has to do with preference of playing characteristics.
Fairness has to do with whether both candidates were given equal playing
conditions and equal access to the audition.

> Audition committees are the
>same way, whether they are for symphony orchestras, colleges or solo
>competitions. Screened auditions are probably fairer, but will not prevent a
>prejudice against, say, vibrato from eliminating someone.

Of course, but once again, this was not the subject of discussion. No one
is arguing that different committees will have different preferences. The
discussion was about criteria for ENTRANCE into the first round of these

>People have been trying to get orchestras to listen to all comers for ages,
>and things have gotten better.

In what sense have they gotten better?

> However, as Larry Liberson said (and I can
>corroborate from having heard auditions when I was in the Charleston
>Symphony), at least 90% of the people who actually pay the money and show up
>have no clue. Making the qualified wait 5 days in between rounds of an
>audition (and pay the resulting hotel rates and lose work) so that all of the
>clueless can get a fair chance is probably not the answer, and it exhausts the

Ah, but read carefully what Larry wrote. The problem is that the committee
has no a priori way of knowing who that 10% is. And he noted that the
printed resume was certainly no clue. Therefore, his and the DSO's
conclusion was that without their system of allowing all applicants to
audition (and to do so behind a screen even through the finals), they would
have never found their concertmaster, a horn player, and several string

In an ideal world, perhaps the "qualified" shouldn't have to wait around
for the "clueless" as you put it. But when the qualification that makes
the qualified qualified is a piece of paper known as a resume, then the
system is inherantly unfair, biased and counterproductive both for the
players and the orchestra (as Larry has explained).

Jonathan Cohler

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