Audition Thoughts Part 20: From the Other Side of the Screen

Procuring a job through a competitive audition is a long process.

Ignore the exceptional outliers who win first auditions.

What more can I say?  What more needs to be said?

Well, quite a bit because we all need a little support and affirmation in this career.  As you can see in the pic above, mostly, we receive a lot of rejection.

This is your safe place, my friends.  I don't care how many auditions you have taken and lost.  Let me be the one to say that I am proud of you for going and trying.

The skill of auditioning gets easier with each audition.  Invariably, as you improve, so will your audition experience.  Unfortunately, the mental, emotional, financial aspects seem only to get harder.  You start to notice that candidates get younger and younger.  You feel greater and greater risks from those affected by your audition success (or failure) whether it is family or colleagues.  You question yourself more and more.  I think the ones who have the best outcome are those with a great support system, thick skin, and no better offers or an alluring Plan B.  

I was not part of the selection committee/panel for the principal bassoon and oboe auditions for GFSA/CW.  However, I did play in the final round oboe audition and observed the final round bassoon audition.  Being a part of the audition panel with the GFSA and the Billings Symphony for the past four years has allowed me to reflect and gain a whole new perspective.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the other side of the screen:

  1. Know the job you are auditioning for.  If it's a military band, you better nail the band excerpts not just the orchestral excerpts.  If it's a second bassoon job, you have to be great at playing second, not just a work-hungry principal.  If it has a large chamber music component, make sure you are totally prepared to sit down and make music with a few other musicians and no conductor.
  2. Present yourself!  Take a public speaking course.  If your degree doesn't require it, require it of yourself.  Join toastmasters, put yourself in front of people, get away from your practice room, BE DYNAMIC!  New professionals, seasoned professionals, ALL MUSICIANS have to be able to communicate away from their instruments.
  3.  The audition isn't just what happens in front of a screen.  Interacting with managers, administrators, community members - they are all watching, listening and talking.  Will an off-hand remark cost you an audition?  Not likely!  But your entrance into an organization can be smooth...or not.  Make it smooth.  
  4. Don't audition/apply for a job you don't want.  I have thought about this for a few years sitting on the other side of the screen and discovering, in subsequent rounds, that we were wasting our time listening to people who didn't want/couldn't take the job.  I am fully aware that all musicians take auditions without a full knowledge of what the job/pay/benefits may be.  What I find frustrating is going into a final round and discovering that a candidate has no way of accepting the position.  In my opinion, if you keep advancing through rounds and you know you can't/don't want the position, BACK OUT BEFORE THE FINAL ROUND!  Give that opportunity to a musician who wants to be there and don't waste the time of the panel.  
  5. The panel WANTS you to be good, they WANT/NEED to hire a great musician!  I have heard this many times as an auditionee and was skeptical because there are many auditions where no one is chosen or several are given trials.  For those actively on the audition circuit, this is very frustrating!  With more experience on the other side of the screen, I now have much greater appreciation for why this happens.  It's hard to listen to a lot of "good" musicians.  With each candidate you hope *this is the one!*  Musicians want to work with other great musicians.  We want the whole package: great player, great person.  We also want someone who is going to be around long enough to build something with.  There is a lot at risk in selecting someone after hearing them for only a few minutes.  Don't overthink your deficiencies/mistakes.  If you don't advance, or if you do advance but don't win, don't make it personal.  There is so much more happening there than you realize.  
  6. Move on!  Having taken 18 auditions and having been part of hiring musicians, I am more aware than ever that auditions are still pretty random.  Yes, you have to be a great player, have a great day, be a great person...and also hope the stars are aligned, the moon is full, the karma is good, and the energy is positive.  The more competitive a position, the more it comes down to minutiae that you, as the auditionee, cannot even be aware of and have no control over.  We all have taken an audition that felt like a make-or-break experience.  Maybe an audition that you simply wanted more than all the rest.  BUT MOVE ON!  If it's not for you, have faith!  I firmly believe that there is a purpose in all things.  Every audition is one audition closer to where you should be.  Don't give the audition power over you and your career.  Don't let a single audition make you or break you.  The best thing you can do as a musician whose employment depends on the success of an audition is: take many auditions, learn as much as you can, keep doing the work, and keep moving forward.  
Congratulations to all the oboists and bassoonists who came out to audition for the Great Falls Symphony and the Chinook Winds Quintet. Best wishes to each of you as you forge a path in this crazy career of ours!


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