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 Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Ralph G 
Date:   2002-07-29 04:09

Can the professional orchestra players tell me if I'm dreaming here?

I wanna play in the pro symphony in my city (Corpus Christi, TX). They have a six-month season (usually October-April) during which they play one concert per month, plus the Nutcracker at Christmas with the ballet and a benefit gig on the 4th of July. Last season they carried only two clarinetists. Lord only knows when an opening may come available. Anyway, it's a decent orchestra but not world class.

My background: I'm 35, been playing since 1979. Majored in music my first year in college (85-86) but didn't take it as seriously as I should've, so I changed to communications and kept playing for fun. My current profession is public relations. Since college I've played in a summer municipal band from '95-'99 and was part of a church choir. Then my horn broke and I hardly picked it up for three years. I just got married this year and my wife had my horn fixed (I think I'll keep her!). Now I'm going at it with a vengeance; playing in two different community bands and aiming to play in two more after the summer.

A dear friend of mine and my wife's recently became executive director of the symphony and keeps telling us that I need to give it a shot next time a clarinet slot is open. After going "yeah, right" a bunch of times I admit she's got me dreaming now. Li'l ol' me becoming a pro clarinetist sounds mighty cool.

So would I be wise to give this dream up? Currently my orchestral experience is ZERO.

And just for grins, what's the best way to prepare for such an audition? Method books, orchestral excerpt books?

Let the laughter and derision commence!

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: diz 
Date:   2002-07-29 04:29

Never loose your dreams!

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Ralph G 
Date:   2002-07-29 04:46

Thanks for the encouragement!

Maybe I should rephrase the question: is an amateur player like myself with zilcho orchestral experience who's never even held an A clarinet likely to be in WAAAAY over my head when it comes to going after a paying gig with a real metro orchestra?

I'll never lose my dreams (someday I still plan to play quarterback for Notre Dame!), but I'd be grateful for some perspective.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: steven. 
Date:   2002-07-29 04:59

you have to start somewhere. i also think that as long as you have the desire, and the time to put in, you have just as good of as shot as the next john or jane.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Stéphane 
Date:   2002-07-29 08:42

Ralph,

I sincerely think you should give it a try. Don't change everything overnight of course, keep your job in PR, work, study, practice and go to auditions. These will give you a better answer than us at what you can expect. And if you fail, what the heck? At least you would have tried and you will still remain a great sought-after amateur. But if you can actually make it, what a feeling!! As far as I am concerned, I am 36, and started the clarinet only in last September! (I am a decent piano player though). I am not a musician by profession unfortunately, but if I had enough talent to change the road, I would not hesitate one sec! Let us know.

Good luck.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: susannah 
Date:   2002-07-29 09:37

I agree that you should go for it, but as far as your questions about lack of experience go, yes, I think you may be disadvantaged by never having played in an orchestra before. This is not to say that you can't do it, after all, everyone must start somewhere, but those that have played in several orchestras before will have a headstart. The the auditioners may also have some worries about this. However,...work for it hard, and you will have a chance.
Orchestral jobs are tough to get at the best of times, so don't feel bad if you don't get it. Good Luck.
P.S. make sure to find out if they have 'set' audtion pieces of orchestral excerpts.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: msroboto 
Date:   2002-07-29 10:29

You might want to get started now. Look for some other local orchestra's that you can get some experience in.

This will put you in a better position when the other auditions roll around.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   2002-07-29 10:32

Realistically?

1) You'll need to buy that "A" clarinet

2) You'll need to do an awful lot of excerpt work, along with listening to the excerpts in context

3) You'll need to learn how to sight-read "like a pro"

4) You may be called on to sight transpose

5) You'll be competing with people who haven't stopped playing and have been taking getting an orchestral job very serious for years.

Which means it's going to be really, really hard and the chances of your getting the job slim. Slim but not none. If this is one of those things where you just <b>have</b> to do it, something that you'll regret not doing for the rest of your life, then it's worth doing, whatever the outcome.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: David Dow 
Date:   2002-07-29 13:26

I have been playing in a pro orchestra in Canada for over 15 years and work on an audition committee for this group as well. It is very important to get a union membership so when an audition comes through, you get the notices in local directories such as the Union Mag. These usually will specify whether or not to send an CV and your references. So you should also have all standard audition material ready for audition at a moments notice. I also work as a union contractor, so it would be wise to also try to get work in Musicals and other local groups in order that your "name may get around". Work of this nature also requires great ability and musical circles do have a strong grapevine. As for an A clarinet this is a definite must, so be sure to have one on hand, and also remember that alot of groups have what is called a call list which auditions may be held for from titie to time. The call list is in case one of the regular orchestra members is ill, so they call you in for the job which they miss. Best of Luck David Dow

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: David Dow 
Date:   2002-07-29 13:26

I have been playing in a pro orchestra in Canada for over 15 years and work on an audition committee for this group as well. It is very important to get a union membership so when an audition comes through, you get the notices in local directories such as the Union Mag. These usually will specify whether or not to send an CV and your references. So you should also have all standard audition material ready for audition at a moments notice. I also work as a union contractor, so it would be wise to also try to get work in Musicals and other local groups in order that your "name may get around". Work of this nature also requires great ability and musical circles do have a strong grapevine. As for an A clarinet this is a definite must, so be sure to have one on hand, and also remember that alot of groups have what is called a call list which auditions may be held for from time to time to time. The call list is in case one of the regular orchestra members is ill, so they call you in for the job which they miss. Best of Luck David Dow

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Brent 
Date:   2002-07-29 14:38

Something i haven't seen anyone say yet and which i would like to add: Get a teacher. You are not too old to seek feedback from a professional who is doing the job now. You may have little problems, minor bad habits or other issues of which you are not aware. One minor problem, be it rhythm, tone, interpretation, or anything else, could make the difference between getting the job and not getting it. Having another trained ear to hear and help correct the problems will help get you closer to your goal.

When i went back to lessons with a member of the Cincinnati orchestra, he asked me what i hoped to accomplish. I told him, "I want your job." I still don't have it (darn!) but that helped define how we approached the learning process.

It's not a pipe dream, but Mark is right, you have your work cut out for you.

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: William 
Date:   2002-07-29 15:00

You will need an A clarinet, and then, you will need to lern how to play it--they have a different "feel" than do the Bb's. For now, also, start practicing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto (in A), 1st mvt. This is the single most commonly asked for audtion piece--and, while you can start learning on your Bb, ultimately, it should be played on your A. And practice with a tuning meter *on* so that you can learn the unique tuning characteristics of your clarinets. Playing "in tune" is a absolute must for serious orchestral work. One of the major differences between "band" and "orchestral" playing is the range of dynamic levels you will need play within, expecieally at the softer end of the decible spectrum. So, as you practice those excerpts, take those ppp markings VERY seriously, maintaining tonal focus and intonation (keep your tuning meter on). From your short playing "bio" I would assume that you will most likely be playing second clarinet, so learn to count rests very accurately without relying on the conductor to always indicate when it is time to "come back in." Accurate music reading (at sight) skills are important--there are no excuses for mistakes as a "pro." All of the above postings are "right on"--these are just a few observations bases upon years of personal, practical and "semi-pro" experiance. IMHPX, there is nothing better than playing symphonic literature. Go for it, and, good luck!!!!

(did I mention the importance of always playing in tune???)

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Sylvain 
Date:   2002-07-29 15:57

Hi Ralph,
Mark C. gives very very good advice. I also think you need to find a teacher who plays or has played in a pro orchestra so he can gives you useful comments on how to prepare for an audition.

Your chances are slim but auditions are highly stressful and even the best player can choke. So if you keep your cool, play everything required in very good rythm and intonation, you're already almost there...

There is an audition in my university every semester for the ensembles. There are always 1 or 2 players really above everybody, but
after that it's whoever is more relaxed that day.

So good luck practice hard!
-S

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: catina 
Date:   2002-07-29 16:39

Ralph,
As has been mentioned earlier you need an A clarinet, and you may need to learn how to transpose into C. If you can't get an A, you'll need to be able to transpose into A as well.
Are there any community orchestras (not necessarily professional) that you can get involved with to try and get some experience?
As for a teacher, why don't you call one of the clarinet players in the orchestra you want to be in and see if he or she will be available for some lessons? You can also explain to him/her how you would like to become involved in the orchestra. Who knows, they may even call you to sub with them.
Do a search on this bulletin board for excerpts.
By the way, what a great present from your wife!
Catina

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Jack Kissinger 
Date:   2002-07-29 18:05

In addition to many of the the above suggestions, I would recommend you contact the orchestra and find out what is required to be put on the sub/extra list. It is probably an audition and they may do it on an ad hoc basis or they may hold sub/extra auditions at a set time each year. You will probably have to know a concerto (perhaps Mozart) and some orchestral excerpts, which they should be happy to identify for you.

It sounds to me as though you are not quite ready yet, even for that level, but knowing their expectations is useful while you prepare and it will give you a specific goal. If you are on the list by the time a permanent opening comes up, you may also have an inside track. Also try to find out the background of their current clarinetists. That will give you some idea of the level you have to reach. In fact, you might consider lessons with one of them. In addition to fine tuning your playing ability, they both understand the skills necessary to perform in their orchestra, probably have good contacts and might put you in line for some other playing experiences. As others have noted, you will eventually need an A clarinet but I wouldn't rush out to buy one just yet. I think finding a good teacher should come first. Also, you haven't mentioned what kind of Bb clarinet you currently have. If it isn't a pro-level instrument, you will likely have to get one of those, too.

Community band playing can help develop your skills by requiring you to prepare large quantities of sometimes difficult music in a short period of time. In my experience, however, while good band playing requires the same skills and attitude as good orchestral playing, the experiences are rather different. Also, unless you have a very good band director who insists on care to such detail as intonation, dynamics, blend and articulation, there is a danger of falling into the "faster, louder, higher" mold that defines too many of the band-only players I have encountered.

While I really hate to put myself into a position of disagreeing with David Dow, in your situation, before I joined the union, I would find out whether union membership will place any significant restriction on your amateur playing. (It may not but rules tend to vary from one local to another.) At your apparent level, amateur opportunities are still very important to your development. You likely will have to belong to the union to play in the orchestra (but you should also contact the orchestra to verify this). However, if you are studying with one of the clarinetists (and have a friend who is an insider with the orchestra's management), you should be able to find out if an opening occurs.

One final comment. Don't be overwhelmed by the potential competition. Considering that this is a part-time orchestra with very limited services, your competition will probably be local musicians and music teachers. Some of them may be quite good but you won't likely face the competition you would for the Houston Symphony. In fact, some of the best players in the area may be too busy to bother. If you prepare yourself thoroughly, you will have a better chance than you might imagine.

Best regards,
jnk

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Sandra F. H. 
Date:   2002-07-29 18:06

I've been offered work in our local, fully paid professional symphony simply because I was teaching in the room next to the wind personnel director (who was also teaching), and he heard me play! This is the usual circumstance, however! Practice, get a teacher, and play in some local orchestras to get experience. Incidently, I am not playing in the symphony because I am too BUSY!

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: Ralph G 
Date:   2002-07-29 19:06

I got an email from my friend who's ED of the symphony (regarding another matter) and she said they're having auditions in October if I would like to be listed as a sub (I saw an announcement in last week's employment notices they were holding auditions but didn't list clarinet openings -- is it standard to hold sub auditions when looking for other players?). Seems too soon for me... but maybe they're just looking for anyone who has the time and can read music. Gosh, I'd hate to think they're that desperate.

The principal player is the clarinet specialist at the university I attended (though not the one I studied with; he's since moved on). The associate is the sax and jazz specialist there. Obviously they're no slouches. Maybe it's time to reconnect with my old alma mater.

I work at a community college with a very respected music department. They're offering their fall orchestra class to the public on a noncredit basis in addition to having it as a regular credit class. The class notice says non-strings must contact the conductor beforehand, which I've done. Alas, he's out of state for a couple of weeks.

I have, though, received an invitation to play in the local wind symphony when it begins rehearsals this fall. I'm looking forward to it, although this again may be a case of them needing any able-bodied clarinet players.

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, anybody got an extra A clarinet laying around?

-Ralph

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 RE: Pro players: Is this a pipe dream?
Author: David Dow 
Date:   2002-07-30 13:07

Just thought I would mention it would important as well to get used to the concept of auditioning for an orchestra, so if a subbing job appears locally auditions are a great way of hearing how you sound. If the audition doesn't go so well at least then you can go back to the drawing board and work harder at the material you were'nt prepared for.
I would also then get some lessons from a highly qualiified teacher, and not necessarily from the orchestra you want to get in. I have in the past been on audition committees and have found that the tendency is to invite back players if they don't make the cut. The main criteria in our orchestra are tone quality, technical ability, ability to play exerts with a variety of tempo and tonal qualities as well as ability to come off confident with presence. The Mozart Comncerto is generally the main solo piece we

ask of clarinet players or a tough movement from Weber 1 or 2.

A sample sudition list could be the following experpts:
Brahms Symphony 3 Mvt. 3 opening solo
Sibelius 1 Scherzo all of
Strauss Don Juan clarinet parts all of
Medellsohn Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo
Beethoven Symphony No. 8* Trio
Shostakovich 5 Ist Mvt. solo then; Own
Choice piece Fast Movement from a major concerto ie. Mozart Clarinet Concerto Mvt. 1 GoodLuck David

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 RE: Pro players: one more thing...
Author: Doug Ramsdell 
Date:   2002-07-31 03:36

I have in front of me a CD titled "Orchestral Excerps for Clarinet" on Summit Records DCD-161, played by Larry Combs. It's got a lot of the major excerpts (though not the Mozart Concerto) and it's just Mr. Combs in a studio, playing the excerpts (seemingly effortlessly) and adding some spoken commentary outlining the critical issues in each excerpt. Worth its weight in gold, in MY opinion anyway! (I think Fred Weiner carries it, and believe it or not I've seen it in Borders too.)

Also, Kalmus (music publishers in Boca Raton, FL) publish a lot of orchestral parts in the standard rep, and you can build your "orchestral ears" by ordering specific parts and just listening to, say, the Beethoven 4 played by [your favorite orchestra here] with the music in your lap and the headphones on your head. Great way to "be" in an orchestra and hear what's going on around "you." (just remember to turn the headphones around so the double basses are on your left, and the violins on your right, to replicate the correct stereo pan onstage.)

Also, I don't know where your journey will end, but I wish you all the fun there is, on the journey itself!!
cheers
Doug R

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 RE: Pro players: one more thing...
Author: Doug Ramsdell 
Date:   2002-07-31 03:43

I have in front of me a CD titled "Orchestral Excerps for Clarinet" on Summit Records DCD-161, played by Larry Combs. It's got a lot of the major excerpts (though not the Mozart Concerto) and it's just Mr. Combs in a studio, playing the excerpts (seemingly effortlessly) and adding some spoken commentary outlining the critical issues in each excerpt. Worth its weight in gold, in MY opinion anyway! (I think Fred Weiner carries it, and believe it or not I've seen it in Borders too.)

Also, Kalmus (music publishers in Boca Raton, FL) publish a lot of orchestral parts in the standard rep, and you can build your "orchestral ears" by ordering specific parts and just listening to, say, the Beethoven 4 played by [your favorite orchestra here] with the music in your lap and the headphones on your head. Great way to "be" in an orchestra and hear what's going on around "you." (just remember to turn the headphones around so the double basses are on your left, and the violins on your right, to replicate the correct stereo pan onstage.)

Also, I don't know where your journey will end, but I wish you all the fun there is, on the journey itself!!
cheers
Doug R

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 RE: Pro players: one more thing...
Author: Ella 
Date:   2002-07-31 18:35

As for your chances, my friend's teacher played oboe and flute exclusively. When he found out there was an opening in his local orchestra for bassoon, he took 2 months to learn bassoon. By the time of the audition, he beat out all of his competitors. It's never impossible...

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