Klarinet Archive - Posting 001224.txt from 1998/04
From: Hard Reed <HardReed@-----.com>
Subj: Re: Auditions
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 06:51:07 -0400
Just a few comments more on what's been said (and I apologize for the length,
Clark Fobes stated:
"Jonathan Cohler has advanced some interesting ideas on the practice of
hiring in orchestras in the US. I can share Jonathan's frustration over the
process and the possible exclusion of talented players from the pool, but i
have to disagree with a policy that would allow ANY person to audition."
"Certainly one must expect that out of a pool of 200 - 300 candidates MOST
are not qualified to fill a position in a major symphony orchestra. Talent
is not the only factor when considering a someone for a position.
Experience is a necessary component, although, there have been notable
exceptions. (John Yeh and Ricardo Morales both come to mind). Orchestral
playing is not just about the ability to play the most correct notes on an
audition. Solid, consistent and sensitive ensemble playing is an extremely
important aspect of orchestral playing and usually requires experience to
aquire. A brilliant soloist is not necessarily a good candidate for an
orchestral post. A superior orchestra such as the National Symphony has
every right to limit it's applicants to the "most highly qualified". "
and Ed Lacy added:
"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."
OK...I do not disagree that the resume is an important tool in determining
whether or not an applicant is deserving of an audition. On the other hand,
we can be depriving ourselves of the opportunity to hear a special talent if
we summarily dismiss someone on the resume alone. As I stated earlier, we
will discourage an applicant from attending an audition for certain reasons
(lack of training, experience...whatever!). However, if they are adamant in
their desire to attend, we will not deny them the opportunity. Please keep in
mind that most often these situations weed themselves out without our
"intervention." We may get upwards of 200 applicants or so for a position,
but rarely will a third to a half of that number (which is plenty!) decide to
put in the necessary work and expense in order to attend. We would like to
think that common sense might be a more common commodity than talent!
"I have been on both ends of the audition process (far more experience
auditioning than listening to auditions) and it is clear that after 20 or
more players the committee is not at it's best. I firmly believe that the
best players are at a disadvantage when playing in such a large pool.
Certainly, the audition process is not perfect, but opening auditions to
all comers is impractical."
Well....... ;) Who knows? We only listen to groups of five or six and we
take frequent breaks to attempt to keep us fresh. Is it tedious? Sure, it
is...without a doubt. Doing a set of auditions over several days rather than
burning the midnight oil also helps. But no amount of burnout will keep a
standout auditonee from being noticed -- they shine through like a beacon on a
Ed further added:
"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."
Actually, he won the position while still IN high school...he waited until he
graduated to start with us!
True, his resume was not similar to that of your typical high school student
(or college graduate, for that matter!). However, it was still a resume
devoid of the kind of experience one might look for in a major symphony
orchestra. This person had won a couple of solo competitions and was a very
talented player, well beyond his years, as Ed has said. Fortunately, he also
studied with Phil Farkas (he is from Bloomington), and that did not hurt in
his getting the opportunity to audition (#1 -- this was before our current
contractual policy on allowing all to audition; and #2 -- Phil had played
extra with us, taught our principal horn and had influence on the section).
Bottom line? The DSO would have missed a fine young player all these years if
we looked at the resume, noted his lack of experience and age and said "no
thanks." He is now approaching his mid-30's, sounds better than ever and is
and has been a valued member of our orchestra.
"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
Well, there are several reasons for nobody winning an audition, and posturing
is the least of it (and I've never seen it yet, personally).
Let's talk of philosophy first, shall we. While I cringe at comparing our
world to that of the sports arena, I find a valid analogy in it. We were all
recently bombarded by news of the NFL draft last weekend. Do you honestly
think that teams selected players to maintain the status quo? Or does a team
look for somebody -- a special, serious talent -- to elevate their
I believe it is the latter -- and we should be no different.
First, you're sort of held hostage to who attends the auditions. Rare as it
is, sometimes there is nobody who is suitable. Again, it's not just finding a
competent player (which is hard enough!), but one who fits the situation --
one complements the sound and style of the section, etc. (need I elaborate
further?)...and one who can help us sound even better -- someone to help
elevate us to even a higher level. We're not all so smug that we believe we
are above growth and improvement!
Another aspect that has not been mentioned is that of the music director.
There have been occasions (just about everywhere) in which the audtion
committee has presented finalists only to have the music director veto them
all! Hey, it's not a perfect world!
Please keep in mind that we sincerely want people to play well; we want people
to succeed. We'd much rather have a legitimate pool of players from which to
decide than to eliminate. Unfortunately, this is not the reality.is it?
Now, Craig E. Countryman said:
"Having listened intently to this discussion I find the below statement very
hard to believe.
"Certainly one must expect that out of a pool of 200 - 300 candidates MOST are
not qualified to fill a position in a major symphony orchestra."
After all, realizing the costs to go to an audition, the time to prepare, and
the fact that most of these musicians have a great deal of schooling and feel
they deserve the position, why would those who go not be qualified?? Why would
that many people waste their time? They may not all be virtuositic players,
but I believe that the majority could probably do the job. The auditioning
committee are interested in finding the most qualified and that is where the
process really begins. Certainly there will be some that are unqualified, but
I doubt that most are unqualified. If we cannot get 200-300 qualified
clarinetists to apply for a major position then how do we have enough to teach
at our universities, make solo appearances, etc, etc.
It just seems to be a gross overstatement, and I thought I would point out my
view on the subject and see what some of you thought."
Sorry, Craig -- it may be gross, but, if anything, it's an understatement.
Preparation and schooling and what one feel they deserves has absolutely
nothing at all to do with talent and competence, does it. I'm a pretty decent
skier, too, but did you see me flying down the mountain in Nagano?
"I just find it surprising that a major symphony cannot attract 200-300
Well...we have no problem attracting them!
Most people are unqualified for very simple reasons: they don't come close to
meeting the basic standards of playing in an ensemble. If you can't play in
rhythm or play in tune, it really doesn't matter how fast you can wiggle your
fingers, does it?
And finally (whew!), Clark closed:
"If we want to rail at someone about the problems of getting an orchestral
position these days let's take on the US Government that is constantly
reducing funding to the NEA. Let's take a look at reasons that orchestras
are folding all over the US. AND perhaps institutions that continually
crank out huge pools of hopeful orchestral players need to look at their
role in perpetuating the "myth" of orchestral careers when in reality there
are so few jobs."
ESPECIALLY the latter -- and ESPECIALLY those that have no business doing
so...Bravo for that comment, Clark!
Now, I'm all done with this -- I have to pack for a tour. See you in late