I love auditions. No, I do, really. First of all, I like the game of it. Fifty people come to the hall, one leaves victorious. The drama is deeply fun.
I love playing auditions. Picture it - you get to walk out onto an unfamiliar but beautiful stage, the home stage of an orchestra better than yours. You have the entire space to yourself. Gazing up into the rows of darkened seats, you can take deep breaths and choose the perfect moment in which to break the silence. You can stand there for up to fifteen minutes, playing all of the BEST and most famous solos for your instrument, to an audience that is listening intently and wanting you to succeed. You can take these solos at the tempo you choose, in the style you like. No conductor is trying to alter your vision of the piece. It’s all for you.
I love sitting behind the screen, too. It’s fascinating to listen to other people audition, and to hear what their preparation has brought to the table. Humans are amazing, right? I love watching the Olympics for the same reason - the divers, figure skaters, gymnasts, ski jumpers, etc are artists as well as athletes, and although I know nothing of these sports I find that I can quickly learn to discriminate between the ones that are merely good and the ones that are astounding. It quickly becomes clear what skills are difficult, and what separates the winners and losers.
In an audition context, even when it’s not MY instrument being auditioned, I rapidly develop a sense of what skills are difficult for the instrument involved, and once it’s clear what I’m listening for I can sit back and root for them all. It’s amazing to notice how people choose to compensate for the difficulties. And it’s fascinating to observe the qualities that will really make me sit up and take notice. If a candidate comes in and begins immediately to make music, to do something intentional and beautiful and controlled - I’m on their side instantly. I’m hoping they get through the tricky passages, I’m wanting them to succeed. Honestly, I want everyone to succeed, but once you grab my attention by doing something beautiful, I’m all in for you. All I want is to hear great playing - and every ten minutes there’s a new person filled with new potential. This is what makes it fun to sit on a committee.
And for my own playing, I can really draw inspiration from the best players we hear. What IS it that makes the difference? Did you hear that PERFECT slur up to the high note? I bet I could do something like that!
It’s even inspiring to notice what keeps the non-winners out of the running. Very often it’s not about mistakes that happen in their lists, but simply a lack of attention to detail. Sometimes particular slurs are sloppy, or articulations don’t quite sound clean, or phrases aren’t perfectly cared for. The playing is FINE, but not great. I love hearing these reminders to take care of my own house, right? To make sure that even in my day-to-day playing I am vigilant about the small sloppinesses that can creep up. That I remain unimpeachable even in my BASIC, non-audition work.
I love auditions. I love everything about them. Don’t you?