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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001163.txt from 1998/04

From: "Edwin V. Lacy" <>
Subj: Re: Orchestra auditions
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 13:50:28 -0400

On Mon, 20 Apr 1998, Hard Reed wrote:

> Amazing as it may seem, it's often not too difficult to separate the
> real "players" -- the musicians -- from the "accomplished auditioners."
> For example, we may ask a candidate to replay an excerpt, but, in doing
> so, make certain requests (tempi, dynamic, style...whatever). The
> response to this can be very telling. Believe it or not, we're not
> listening "blindly."
> Furthermore, we have that wonderful thing called probation, which can be
> up to two years before we must decide to make a new musician a permanent
> member of the orchestra. Since I have been in my present position (17
> years now), we have only denied two musicians tenure. Anybody can be
> "fooled," but it doesn't happen easily or often.

Until my message to which Larry replied, I have stayed out of this
conversation. However, I have been involved in several aspects of the
hiring (and firing) process. I have been an administrator in education,
and responsible for personnel matters. Also, I have been involved in
several aspects of the hiring process for our orchestra, which is a
metropolitan-class, per-service orchestra, and therefore somewhat
different from the full-time orchestras being discussed here, but we do
try to run our auditions pretty much the same way as the "majors." We
haven't had to deal with hundreds of candidates for a single position, but
have auditioned as many as 40.

In any kind of hiring I have been involved in, we always try to determine
the requirements for the position in advance, and we ask for resumes.
Some candidates may not be invited to audition on the basis of their
resume. This is especially true in the case of positions in education, or
those for which the duties are split between performance and teaching. It
generally is not too difficult to tell when a person is likely to lack the
necessary qualifications to successfully fulfill the requirements of a
position. To argue otherwise would be to claim that experience has no
value. As a person with a _lot_ of experience, due mostly to just hanging
around longer than many others, ;-) I would refute that contention.

On occasion, upon being informed that they are not being invited to the
audition, a candidate may call and request (or beg) to be reconsidered.
Sometimes, we figure that we have done the candidate a favor by not
inviting them, because it seemed on the basis of the resume that they
probably would not be successful. But, if they really want to spend the
money to come here to audition, we often will acommodate them. So far,
not one of the candidates in this category have made it past the first
round of the auditions.

Mention was made of a hornist who won a position in the Detroit Symphony
just a few weeks after he had graduated from high school. As it so
happens, I think I know the person in question. I played in an orchestra
in this area when he was still in high school, and perhaps surprisingly,
his resume might not have eliminated him from consideration from the
position. He was not an average high school musician. He had studied
with Phil Farkas for several years, and already had won some big
competitions. His technical skills were unquestionably outstanding. The
question to me would have been whether a person of his age could have
exhibited the kind of musical maturity and understanding required to be a
successful member of a major orchestra. I wonder how this person worked
out in the orchestra in the long run.

The situation which always perplexes me is that in which orchestras hold
auditions for an opening, perhaps listening to hundreds of candidates,
some with outstanding performance credentials and others with long-term
major orchestra experience, and then announce that they have not been able
to find a satisfactory candidate. I suspect that there is more than a
little posturing going on here. ("We are so good that no one can meet our

And, the ultimate question would be, has all this emphasis on stringent
requirements on candidates resulted in better orchestras? I think it is
likely that it has meant that orchestras have more technical facility, and
perhaps that it has even out the level of playing ability from the first
to the last stands, but I have yet to see evidence that it has produced
more musically satisfying performances.

Ed Lacy
Dr. Edwin Lacy University of Evansville
Professor of Music 1800 Lincoln Avenue
Evansville, IN 47722 (812)479-2754

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