Thursday, December 28, 2017

Audition Thoughts Part 21: Keep moving forward

It's that season again: AUDITIONS!

I am currently preparing for an audition and have applied for several other positions.  When my contract ends July 2018 with BYU-Idaho I will have enjoyed 8 truly spectacular semesters in higher education at two different universities.  There is no way for me to adequately summarize how much I have learned as an adjunct (University of Montana) and now full-time faculty member.  My current position is Visiting Faculty = 1-year contract, renewable (up to) 2 times.  I am in my second year and the position has gone permanent.  I am currently in the application process for the new permanent position.

At this point in describing the current state of my employment to people, they say things like,

"Oh, I'm sure you'll get it!"
"You're a total shoe-in!"
"Who else would they hire?"
"You've already been working here, they won't choose someone new."

These are all well intended comments but, let's be honest, anyone who has spent a few years in this field knows that we are ALL replaceable.  No matter how awesome you *think* you are in your little niche - bassoon - there is always someone else out there who can do what you do.  ALWAYS.

Because I know this very well, I'm not leaving anything to chance.  Thus, I find myself back on the market cruising the audition websites (checking these at least once a week), sending out resumes, CV's, cover letters, emails, working the network and hoping for the best.

Here are my go-to places to look for jobs:
Chronicle Vitae - search "bassoon"

Please comment to share your favorites!

This is also a GREAT opportunity to return to my ongoing series in which I document the process of preparing, taking, and hopefully winning auditions.  (Click on the "audition" label in the left side bar to read the entire series.)

I gave some AWESOME advice in Part 20 of my series - read it!

Because I really do want this to be an authentic and educational portrayal of what we do as musicians, the ups and downs of being a professional bassoonist, I will disclose specifically what I am currently working towards.

Since "winning" my job at BYU-Idaho I have sent in materials for the following live auditions 2016 - present:
Jacksonville - denied
Las Vegas - denied
Royal Scottish National Orchestra - denied
Lyric Opera of Chicago - going to prelims in January 2018

I have applied for the following positions in higher education:
University of Miami - Ohio: Visiting artist, no response, position filled
U Central Florida: Visiting Artist, no response, but I believe it is currently on-going
U of Florida: Tenure Track, submitted and waiting
The Tianjan Juilliard School: submitted and waiting
BYU-Idaho: Tenure track, submitted, first round interview completed

Here's my dilemma and a self-assessment of how my resume is probably received:
I don't have a terminal degree.  I have had a career as a performer but not in a top-tier orchestra (military bands, free-lance, chamber music, regional salaried orchestra).  I would say I have had a solid career but not wildly impressive.  Honestly, I'm impressed every day that I get to make a living with my bassoon but it's a wide spectrum when it comes to defining success in a very competitive field.

Applying for jobs in higher education is a gamble because applicants without a terminal degree are typically placed behind those who have finished their education.  However, I am now in my third year teaching in higher education which may be compelling to some committees.

Then there are the orchestra gigs. 

A salaried orchestra is going to get an excellent turn out for a bassoon audition.  Based on my own experience, this can result in a pool of bassoon candidates 50+ strong with or without eliminating applicants based on their resume.  The average applicant pool can be divided into three main categories of players:

  1. in school
  2. out of school and free-lancing
  3. out of school and currently employed as a full time performer/educator
Having sat on audition committees, I am always more interested in hearing musicians who are currently employed to play/teach their instrument full time. But, as I shared in Part 20, every panel has their own parameters - don't take it personally...don't take it personally...don't take it personally...keep repeating...

In Part 18 I discuss the single greatest challenge to taking auditions while in a full-time position: scheduling conflicts.

It is impossible to attend every audition when you have to maintain the job you are in.  When the stars align and you can feasibly attend an audition but then get denied from a live audition, well, that's a tough email to receive.  Especially if you know that you are in a limited contract and really need to keep moving forward.  Don't take it personally, don't take it personally, don't take it personally...

I will admit that I took a rejection email personally in the spring of 2016 and sent off a less than friendly email to a PM/audition coordinator.  That was the wrong move and I had to humble myself and apologize.  We are now social media friends, so I think "we're good" but it was a really dumb thing to do - not professional behavior.  Don't do it!


Here begins the topic of my next several posts: preparing for the Lyric Opera of Chicago audition and hopefully more interviews/recitals for a higher ed job.  

They don't teach you all this in school, my friends!  

Reedmaking: Back to Basics

Full disclosure: the last time I made reeds from tube cane was c. 1998. 


Why so long? 


Neither Manhattan School of Music nor the University of Utah provided a reed-making room or machines.  With copious amounts of moves, job changes, instrument purchases, LIFE, dropping several thousand dollars on a gouger and profiler was not a reality for me.  I started using GSP cane full-time in 1999 and never seriously pursued going back to tube cane.

I occasionally peruse EBSCO for the latest bassoon doctoral dissertations, curious to see what academia is producing for our field.  I found Dr. Schillinger's doctoral dissertation about the history of reed-making pedagogy and then learned it had been published as a book.

Click pic to order your copy!

This book is a PAGE-TURNER! 

I know, I KNOW!  You're thinking, 

"It's about the history of teaching reed-making...sounds dry."  Well, it's not!  

Winter semester 2017 if I was talking, it was about this book (please forgive me students and colleagues).  If I was reading, it was this book.  If I was day-dreaming, it was about bassoonists from hundreds of years ago...and their tools...and probably their fashion, too.  

Seriously, if you are a bassoonist, you have to own and read this book.  It is truly fascinating, well written, and full of detailed historical examples, diagrams, etc. 

I was also fortunate to hear Dr. Schillinger's lecture/presentation at IDRS 2017 about her unique process of cane selection, or perhaps better described as systematic cane discarding.  As she explains much better than I, (listen to her interview on Double Reed Dish) discarding cane at each step of the process is an essential part of a successful reed-making discipline.

By the start of Fall semester 2017 I was extremely inspired to return to reed-making starting from tube cane.

It also helped that my proposal and design plans for rebuilding our reed room had been accepted and BYU-Idaho now holds one of the FINEST reed-making rooms I have yet seen at a university!  

Having not worked with "machines" for almost 20 years, it was definitely a re-learning curve for me.  Further complicated by machines that have been a bit neglected due to faculty turnover in my position at the university.  You are looking at a Fox 1 straight shaper, Rieger folding shaper, a   profiler, and an RDG gouger.  

Working from left to right, you can see the *fun* I was having getting everything sorted out. My greatest challenge was simply being so many years out of practice with gouging, profiling, and shaping cane myself.

I will freely admit that by the end of this particular day pictured above, I was ready to say: Barton Cane or BUST!  Damaging so many pieces of cane because of my own incompetence was sobering and reminded me that I was perfectly happy paying someone else to absorb all that loss.  

HOWEVER, with Dr. Schillinger's wisdom ringing in my reeds and many wonderful finished reeds from my Barton Cane (I am really loving the Kristin Wolfe Jensen and Darrel Hale cane which I have reordered and continue to have great success) protecting me against any crises, I continued my odyssey!

Proceed from right to left in seeing the effects of adjusting the gouger to better pair with the profiler.  I did NOT spend any more time on the far right piece.

I got the whole bassoon studio involved and it was an absolute JOY to see my students working hard in the reed room and having fun in weekly masterclass working the machines together!  

Getting the gouger and profiled adjusted to work well with each other was not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be which boosted my confidence and the output of quality pieces.  Shaping a TON of cane also honed my dusty skills very quickly!  

Was there BLOOD?  Yes!  

Was there sweat?  Yes!  

Were there tears?  NO!  Really, it was a lot of fun this semeseter!

I'm happy to say, once everything got dialed in, the reeds I have been making are actually pretty great!  I have one in my box right now that has made me a believer in this whole work-from-tube-cane adventure.  

Am I going to abandon GSP? least, not yet. 

When I work from GSP my success rate is easily 90% or higher.  Only when/if I can get tube cane from blank to finished at that rate will I walk away from GSP.    

However, I am now willing to's possible.