the truth about orchestral auditions

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by ekspain, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    Not sure if this a taboo subject, but I think its pretty damn necessary to talk about this, as change can only happen when
    people know about these things!

    Recently, at auditions, the people who seem to win, in Europe and from what I've heard, in the States, particularly in some major orchestras, know, have known, studied with the principle or some of the players in the section, and the section members like those particular players. This seems completely unfair, but also more rampant, given the economic crisis, and the lack of posts in orchestras in general. I know this is a fact in Europe.
    I personally, won a job in Europe, through pure sheer, absolute luck, in that, the person who should have won, had a very very bad day, and was not particularly desired in the section by one or two of the members...I was just the odd guy out, who happened to not make any mistakes, and sounded alright.
    There were viola auditions some time back, the winners were 2 subs. for example.

    SO, how can we change this. Auditions should be fair, or what the hell are people doing, spending thousands of dollars and hours at schools and conservatories training to be their best when they have a 2% chance of getting a job.

    I mean, think about the BSO, NY, Phily, don't most of those player come out of schools associated with the orchestras in players in the section. I'm not trying to be a dick here, or hurl nasty accusations, but I do think its worthy of discussion...

  2. DanRJBrasil


    Jun 10, 2007
    is like this everywhere, and in any kind of trade
  3. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    yeah, perhaps, but doesn;t make it right. It needs to change, and for once, people should win based on their talent and how well they played.
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Dan is correct.

    I don't take these auditions but I going to let you in on a little secret of man kind... it's all in who you know. Why you think that wouldn't/shouldn't affect an audition for an orchestra is beyond me. It affects everything from kids sports try outs to professional auditions.
  5. bierbass


    Sep 5, 2005
    Knoxville, TN
    I have to respectfully call BS on the "its who you know argument". Many people, especially in the free-lance world, like to use that as an excuse for why they didn't get the gig. It has as much or more to do with showing up early or on time, doing the job, and keeping your mouth shut. Most people don't want to work with someone who's a know-it-all. Also, having working equipment is a good idea. And, having a nice bass helps but it is no guarantee that you will play better than the next guy who plays on an "inferior" bass. The bass doesn't play itself.

    As for subs and former students: I can't say its never happened where there was a case of favoritism. I'd say most of the time, the winners were able to play in the style that the committee wanted to hear. To say otherwise is putting down the amount of time, expense that these players spent working on there stuff. I personally know people who have sacrificed a lot to win. Many players are smart and they try to get a lesson with the Principal or section member prior to the audition. Sometimes that lesson may take place years before the audition. This is how they learn the style of the orchestra. It is, however, no guarantee. I'd suggest that these players were educating themselves and nothing more.

    If you want to play in Boston or Philly, find out more about how there orchestras play orsound in their hall. Relative length of strokes etc.

    I've got to go practice. Just my 2 cents.
  6. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    Well, I've heard, from the horses mouth, so to speak, from a person in a major orchestra, that the person in question, got the job, as a result of knowing someone, and that is generally how it works in that particular orchestra. I will not mention names or places. Suffice it to say, its a major orchestra in the US.
  7. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    But, I' want to believe! that your right....Bierbass
  8. I'm sure there is some truth in what you're saying, though I'm hardly qualified to speak to the situation in Europe. Or America, for that matter.

    I've heard some griping about the most recent Philadelphia audition in which the five finalists were all students of the principal. That could sound fishy, but you have to consider that the school in question was the Curtis Institute and the principal was Hal Robinson. Curtis generally boasts the most promising string players in North America, and Mr. Robinson has perhaps the best record in job-placement of any bass teacher in the country (going by percentages, not sheer numbers -- his studio is quite small). That the five finalists should be his students is then hardly surprising, and I hope we can all agree the winner (Joseph Conyers) was beyond qualified in every sense.

    There are quirks to the audition procedure which could be cleaned up, to be sure. The practice of auto-advancing subs seems to give an unfair advantage, but there are arguments to be made in its favor. Auditions which hold a screen up to the bitter end seem to be a bit more honorable and are perhaps more likely to result in a winner being chosen.

    I rather like the European approach of having a chamber music round. There was a Parisian audition last year which required the Rossini duetto to be performed in the final round with their principal cellist. Obviously that would require removal of the screen, had there been one, but it remains a novel idea.

    There have always been "sham" auditions, and there will continue to be. Should you happen to be at one, just call it bad luck and try to learn what you can from the experience. I don't believe it's as common as people seem to think. There are certain people for whom an audition is illegitimate if they themselves were not declared the winner.

    Music is subjective, and a committee's priorities may not be in line with your own. That was certainly my experience at the last audition I took, but I'm still glad to have done it. The goal, I suppose, is to be so good that a committee would have to be deaf to turn you away.

    To that end, I think I might go practice.
  9. Yayyemen


    Nov 17, 2010
    Unless someone provides a solid example of this actually happening in a bass audition within the last five years, i say we move on
  10. I'd rather not be held liable for libel, thank you.
  11. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    There is certain favoritism on some committees, but there seem to be far more that just want the best possible player.

    This is better than the old days, when you studied with the principle and then essentially got appointed due to who you knew... Or is it?
  12. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    I have sat on many audition jurys here in europe. It is not how you say it is.
    I know many people how won jobs out of the woodwork. Myself being one of them.

    the only sure way to win an audition is to play so well that you force the jry to offer you the job.
  13. I know absolutely nothing about the audition process, but would the favoritism have anything to do with reputation? No matter what profession you're in, no one wants to work with the know-it-all a-hole.
    I wonder if we all just shut up and got back to practicing, we would have a fair audition process. :p

    again, I know nothing about auditions, but i think this happens everywhere so and I'm just generalizing.
  14. triscuitbass


    Apr 7, 2008
    I have been following auditions for awhile now and I can say that this thread is total ********. Regardless of what is the outcome of the audition you have to make it to the final round to make this type of accusation. So until you're the runner up you actually didn't have a chance anyway
  15. bierbass


    Sep 5, 2005
    Knoxville, TN
    And I'll +1 what triscuitbass and G-force are saying.
  16. I don't know what my friend ekspain's audition experience has been, but I'm not sure if it's relevant. He's clearly not making a specific accusation, nor is this an appropriate place to do so.

    You may disagree, but I think it's fair to say there have been a handful of questionable outcomes in the past -- especially the circumstances surrounding no-win auditions. I am by no means referencing anything in particular, but I don't doubt there are issues worth discussing.

    Should someone with the means of improving the system chance upon this thread, it could ultimately be to our benefit presuming the discussion remains civil and the points remain clearly stated.
  17. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    Hi guys! I agree with you G force, that it is indeed possible to win a job out of the woodwork, and also with you Paul that being really awesome should tip the scale- a point you both made actually. But in many cases, particularly in todays world where full time jobs are more and more scarce, and the also perhaps with the sheer number of applicants, its much much more difficult to get a job out of the blue like that. I've also sat in on a couple of auditions, where I believe things could have been more legit. I've sat in on a viola audition where, a certain North American violist kicked ROYAL ass, but the jury didn't hire anyone because the favorite had a bad day. This is a pretty universal phenomena, and while it may not happen in EVERY single orchestra, it happens in many. I've recently heard from a member in a major orchestra, who openly admitted that it happens in that orchestra! I found it really disheartening, because there are a lot of folks out there who are looking for jobs, or want to change jobs, and spend thousands of euros, etc, traveling with their basses, going for it when someone has their foot in the door, for the most part. don't think this means I'm saying "give up". on the contrary we should fight harder to be the best we can be, and somehow, through being aware- we should alter this situation little by little.
  18. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    One of the things a student pursuing an orchestral job is told, is to study with bass players in orchestras. So if you're interested in a specific orchestra it makes sense to study with the principal to see what sound they like, how they interpret, bow, play, etc...

    Then at auditions it would make sense that the committee hears that sound they're after, and lo and behold it's the student who studied with them and did their homework on what the orchestra wants.

    Are some things rigged? Yup. But I've seen the above circumstance more often then rigged auditions.
  19. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    ok, mostly, but studying with those particular players in that particular orchestra, couldn't that in a sense, be considered, or at least lead to rigging? It can be argued that human nature is like that. You like a person, he-she plays well, they've subbed with your group... taken lessons with you, etc...our tendency is to want to help that person. It sounds innocent enough, I've felt that way myself, towards certain amiable, well performing people that have subbed with my group.
  20. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    I feel we make too big of a deal about playing a certain way to appease committees. If you make it to finals, the conductor may ask you to play more off the string, but attempting to interpret the orchestra's stylistic preferences is just one more thing to worry about on the most stressful day of your life. My pals who have won the big jobs play the excerpts the way they play them until asked to do otherwise.

    Also, if studying with the principle and playing in his style is how you get the big jobs... Exactly when were Gladstone and Guastafeste teaching at Curtis? :rolleyes: Alex Hanna seems to be doing just fine by playing better than the other guys behind the screen....