29 November 2015 #2
“Did not advance.”
So, yeah, that means I didn’t win the audition. But I don’t feel badly. Here’s why:
- I played better than I did a few weeks ago at the CSO sub list audition. There, you may remember, I was excused after playing the mandatory solo piece. Well, I got through that piece in MUCH better shape today than I did then.
- Um, number 1 sums it up pretty well. For most of us musicians, most of our lives, the best result we will ever experience is that we played up to our best ability at any given moment. There are only so many jobs available, and there are supremely talented people–who also work hard, and have the place in their life to spend enough time working at their craft–who will win the jobs. And that’s great, because the rest of us, all of us, can go to places like Symphony Center and the Lyric Opera and hear great music played greatly by the Chicago Symphony and the Lyric Opera Company. Great, isn’t it?
Did I play up to my best ability? Well, no. And yes.
Everything I played today I can play more accurately, more in tune, with better rhythm, more musically when I am at home, barefoot, unshaven, wearing my pajamas … even enjoying a beer. So No, I can play better than I did. But Yes. Today wasn’t about playing at home and all that entails. This was about having to drive, find parking, signing in, waiting for a practice room, having 30 minutes to re-warm up (pity anyone who has to drive for more than an hour to get to an audition), waiting again to be taken into the room, speaking only in a whisper to the proctor (so the committee doesn’t know who is playing), and then playing short little bits of music with absolute accuracy, in front of an invisible panel of experts, without any applause or comment to provide feedback. And no beer. Given the limited opportunities I have to ‘test’ myself under those circumstances, Yes, I played pretty damn well. (I can do better, though … see above … and I sound even better if you are the one drinking the beer … )
(Some of you will want to know more about how this works. Here’s a quick summary, of what you didn’t glean from the longest sentence in the previous paragraph. After your resume passes muster–probably something like, oh, yeah, this person has played professionally &/or has a degree from a music school–you are provided a list of pieces to learn for the audition. In the case of this audition for Lyric Opera, there were 23, plus a required solo piece. Your work your butt off to get those ready, so you can play them as easily as you recite your address. When you get to the audition itself, a subset of that list is presented to you. Yep, you read that right, if only you knew, you wouldn’t have to practice ALL of those 23. But that’s not how it works. Anyway, you get a short time to warm up and then you go onstage or into a large room or whatever. There’s a big curtain across the room and you know that behind it are some people. You don’t know who or how many. Typically they don’t say anything, and you’re not to speak to them, only whisper to the proctor who ushered you into the room. This is to prevent bias, against whatever minority or gender that might be involved, and probably also to eliminate favoritism by a teacher for his student or whatever. It’s all very un-natural and thus your heart is pumping and your palms sweat and you have to keep schlepping your stuff all over the place . . . okay, you get the idea. You start to play whenever you are ready, but oh, you are not expected to make any sound before you begin the required solo piece. So your own sound is a complete surprise to you in this room. As you finish playing each piece, the panel says … nothing. You just go on until either you have played all of that day’s excerpts or some voice from behind the screen says “thank you,” whichever comes first. You go back to the room where you signed in and wait for a little while. Soon, or not so soon, someone comes in to let you know if any of the folks waiting–now there are several of you, staring blankly into space and trying to converse politely, but in reality overwhelmed that all the work is now over–need to play for the panel again today or have been advanced to the next round, whenever that is. Mostly people are thanked and told they can go home.)
The bottom line for me is
- I was given the opportunity to audition (even though my resume is skimpy on professional experience over the last decade).
- I worked hard in preparation, using as much time as I think I could reasonably take from the ‘rest’ of my life. I had the willpower and kept at it.
- I remained steadfast, even when dealt a nasty wake-up call a couple of weeks back.
- I made improvements to my playing, there is no question, bringing some technique back from dormancy. Possibly I even acquired a few new skills.
- To be honest, I glimpsed the level of playing I have to get to in order to succeed at a professional orchestra audition. I will not go so far as to say that I am now driven to reach that level or die trying, but I learned something about the challenge. When someone retires from the CSO, don’t be surprised to see my name on the list of auditionees. I have an idea of what it will take.
- I have had a good time writing about this process, and sharing it with a number of you who have put up with me blasting your Facebook groups with my posting. I owe you some props for all the things you are doing, and now I’ll have the time to recognize you for your efforts.
Thanks for listening! Keep listening, to the CSO, Lyric Opera, Chicago Bass Ensemble, King Crimson, Stick Men, Gunnelpumpers (hi Doug!), who- and what-ever music you love!