A few weeks ago I took another 2nd bassoon audition.
It was a good experience, as they all are. This being my second audition since winning a salaried gig, I am reminded that it is vastly easier to take and prepare auditions mentally when you know that you have a secure gig to return to.
Winning your first gig is such an incredible hurdle to clear. For so many different reasons, being in a job puts you in a very different place than those in school, newly graduated, working odd jobs, even some free lancers. However, HAVING a job and then trying to advance into a "better" job is very tricky.
One of the challenges I keep facing are scheduling conflicts. I promised myself I would take one audition per season to help keep me "fighting fit" and maintain my awareness of what bassoonists sound like out there. (Because I DO listen to everyone around me in auditions.) In reality, because I had so many scheduling conflicts, there was only one audition this season that I could even attend. Fortunately, I was invited to attend. Keep in mind, you won't always receive an invitation. Sometimes they will ask you to provide a recording and sometimes they will simply state that, based on your resume, you lack the necessary experience. It's always fun to see how they word those letters...
Of course it's also easier to get invited to an audition when your resume shows you in a full-time position. It's also easier to prepare the audition because playing full-time (minus the distraction of school work, part-time jobs, etc) your playing improves in subtle but consistent ways. I wasn't quite aware how much I had improved until I took the audition at the end of last season. This audition was another reminder of how I have further improved with a second season in the books.
What has improved:
-confidence, confidence, confidence!
This was definitely one of the longer lists I have encountered for a 2nd bassoon audition. It was a pretty standard list with a few excerpts I have not seen on a 2nd bassoon audition. This is great because it allowed me to really focus on cleaning up some of the standards and put a few news ones on the radar. I took about 3 weeks to prepare. That's about all I had time for and, true to life, there were still some last minute distractions that took time away practice time in the final week. However, because we have family in the area of the audition, I arrived a few days early and was able to get some good work done in my final practice sessions.
It seems that in with every audition I have a major breakthrough with at least one excerpt. For this particular audition it was all the Symphony Fantastique excerpts. I have performed Symphony Fantastique with Graziella Contratto conducting when she was the assistant conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, with the Tuscaloosa Symphony in Alabama, and last season here in Great Falls. I can play the excerpts just fine...but that's the problem. They have always been just fine. This audition, with the help of my husband, I finally got all the trills worked out in the fifth movement and found a better anchor note for the run in the fourth movement which FINALLY made the run sound perfect instead of just fine. That was really awesome and made the whole audition worth it. I have to play it again this season with the Billings Symphony which will be fun now that I'm not sweating little details like that anymore.
My preparations felt quite good for this audition. Even Mozart 35 came together at the last second with the horrid octave jumps in the 2nd bassoon part. I felt good. I had switched bocals a few weeks prior and was a little nervous about that because it made me sound BIG. Really meant for principal playing. I thought about switching to a more subdued bocal but I have to admit, I just didn't want to because I have loved this new bocal so much.
That was an error.
For a 2nd bassoon audition, I underestimated how unbelievably soft they want you to play. I went in feeling confident in a principal bassoon way which meant bumping up my dynamics to show off my confidence. I played the first excerpt, 4th mvt Symphony Fantastique and was immediately asked to replay but SOFTER. The good news is that they asked me to replay which typically means they are interested. The bad news, they asked me to replay which means you didn't give them what they wanted. I played four more excerpts and then was released.
I felt too loud. I started tensing up on the Brahms and my pitch went up and that was the last one they heard from me. I played the way I like my 2nd bassoon to play with me. I felt good about the audition and if I had heard myself, I would have been very interested. I was true to myself.
I knew it was not going to be my day though and that is totally OK.
A few years ago Gabriel Beavers told me not to take 2nd bassoon auditions because I don't have the correct sound for it. Two years later with a lot of time playing principal under my belt, bocals and reeds set up for principal, and a lot more confidence, I'm sure I'm even FURTHER from the appropriate 2nd bassoon sound. However, I still envision myself sitting very happily in an orchestra somewhere playing 2nd bassoon. When I'm honest with myself, I think I probably want to play second so I can avoid the pressure of principal.
What is key in this whole experience is understanding that 1) principal bassoon and 2nd bassoon are very different jobs and require different skill sets. It's in the details and in high level playing, they are very different bassoonists. 2) there is a way to play music in the orchestra and then there is the way you play excerpts in an audition. It's not the same. Especially for 2nd bassoon auditions.
I'm committed to taking one audition per season but I need to commit to NOT taking 2nd bassoon auditions...
...which is easier said than done.