We had a bit of a hard week ’round about these parts.
Trombone-playing Mr. T was out east for an audition. Cute, smart, handy and talented.
He was well-prepared. He’d practiced his butt off. He had everything memorized and then some. He was doing 2-3 mock auditions a day. He’d recorded both auditions and regular practice. He done some visualization. He had fixed an ongoing problem on his fancy Edwards trombone. He’d just done an audition in June for Principal Trombone in Vancouver last June and been a semifinalist. He was on his way to rockin’ the house.
But then he didn’t. And nobody at our house was prepared for that.
This is always so funny and strange when it happens, and I think it happens to all musicians, whether they’re orchestral ones like us or garage punk band musicians or school choir hopefuls. The audition. More specifically, the “it’s just not my day” audition.
I’ve had days like this. And I knew exactly what he was going through.
Now I’ve interviewed for jobs and not gotten the job. But not nearly as often as I’ve auditioned for a musical group and not gotten the job. In fact, I can really only remember one job that I interviewed for and didn’t get. Basically, when I was younger, if they actually considered my resume and brought me in, I seemed to do well. And, probably most importantly, I had every confidence that I would do well and get the job. Why? Partially because experience taught me that but also I had an innate belief in my abilities: my intelligence, my work ethos, my organizational skills, my body of knowledge and my interpersonal skills.
So why is an audition so different?
As far as I can tell, there feels like a giant filter between you and the people auditioning you. When you see an audition ad, there’s usually no specific qualifications listed other than “The Plumbutt Symphony Orchestra reserves the right to dismiss any candidates not meeting the highest standard” or some such rot. When you send your resume, oftentimes, orchestras will either let almost anyone play or be incredibly selective about who they invite and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of standard format or types of information required on the resume. While you get a list of pieces and excerpts to play for, there is usually no further information on how they want you play them, if you even can. There may be tempo (speed) and character markings from the composer, but orchestras have traditions that aren’t always well-known. Once you’re on stage, you’re literally filtered by a screen that blocks the committee from view for at least the first round, if not the second. Candidates who don’t “make it through” get little to no feedback about their playing from an auditioning panel. I could go on.
This whole thing makes a musician feel a little unstable. You can spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself and the whole process. And that’s not good for your confidence.
So we’re doing a little regrouping and debriefing and analysis around here and looking forward to the future. Because once you’ve decided you’re a musician, it’s very difficult to do anything else instead (as well is a different story entirely). At this point, being a musician is something we have to do. It’s not an option to stop. So we’ll keep on going, but this time a little stronger, a little better and a whole lot more resilient.