Many young violin students dream of pursuing a career as
a professional orchestra, but are not familiar with the
audition selection process, or the minimal requirements
that are often required.
First, as one would imagine, it is and can be a very
competitive and exhaustive process. 'Winning' a
professional orchestral job is a culmination of a
lifetime of preparation, hard work, talent, expense (it
costs money to go to these) and an element of luck!
If you are thinking of embarking on a professional
career of playing the violin, then this means, that you
love the violin! Good for you!! There is a
common belief (which we share here) that whatever it is
that you dream of doing in life, the passion and love
that you have for that particular interest will carry
you through some of the toughest times and all the hours
of dedication. Love for what you do, is the key.
Professional Orchestra Violin Audition Process:
Let's first assume that the violin applicant already
has a considerable educational background (a Bachelors
degree of some kind). Yo Yo Ma I think was a
History major! Mostly though, people will have
music degree backgrounds and from some top tier school.
We're not going to get into "which" schools here as that
could easily develop into wholly dedicated web site just
for that alone.
- most all professional orchestra auditions (in
the USA and Canada) are advertised in the
International Musician trade magazine that tends to
advertise vacancies months or weeks in advance.
You have to be in the musicians union to get one of
these. If you are not, (still a student) just
borrow one from your teacher or from someone that
belongs to it and receives it in the mail.
- you then send in your resume and there is
usually a deposit required at time of application.
The deposit is usually required because so many
players just want to inquire or see what the list
is, but for that orchestra's personnel manager
trying to slot all these players in, it is really
difficult to do if bunches of people do not actually
show up the day of the audition. The deposit
usually guarantees that people don't do this and
requires that they give a notice of not coming.
No one's trying to make money on auditions here and
the deposits are given back if the player lets them
know that he/she is not going come. Orchestra
players joke that when some of the top vacancies
attract 150 players, there must be some kind of
conspiracy with the local hotels! Not true,
but think of the logistics involved with 100 bass
players showing up in one city at the same time!!!
- upon receipt, you will get your audition
repertoire list. There is always bound to be
something strange on the list that stands out, but
most usually it is from the standard repertoire and
again, should not be a total surprise. If
everything on the list is new and different, thing
twice before you book that expensive air ticket.
- again, usually a 'candidate' will receive the
list in due time and have weeks to practice the
parts. You can buy excerpt books, but it is always
better to find the whole and original part.
From this you can copy what you need from that, or
just highlight which parts they say to prepare for.
- The first round is usually behind a screen.
This is to try to ensure complete anonymity so that
there is no chance of any kind of pre-judging based
on race or gender, or whatever would effect anyone's
judgement (trying to be fair!) Preliminary rounds
are usually around 10 minutes each. (Sometimes
even shorter.) You are given a number and
usually groups of 5-10 people go out and play (one
by one) and after each person, the committee people
listening will vote. Each orchestra is
different. Some (like in Cleveland) do not use
screens and some orchestras keep the screen up all
the way to the end (I think the Met. Opera does that
now.) Some auditionees find it comforting to
actually play or practice behind some curtain (even
that can make you nervous) and practicing this, can
really make it less distracting. Less
distraction is always better.
- These days, audition committees like to even
give measure numbers so that there is very little
guess work of just what you might be asked to do at
the audition. They are not trying to trick
anyone here and if you everyone will be playing the
same parts and excerpts. Easy to compare
apples to apples this way. Sometimes, if
the committee is unsure on whether or not you have
played or showed your best, they might ask you to
play on a couple more excerpts that person before or
after didn't have to yet play. That's ok, this
is usually good for you.
- For auditions with bigger numbers, there is
often semi rounds (and these usually behind the
screen still), but not always. Most usually,
you will be asked to play more (different) excerpts
- Finals. Ok baby, this is why you are
here...shine. The screen is down, so I hope
you shaved or wore something other than your
favorite T-shit! Dress and look professional.
For men, I really think neck ties are needed.
Wear something acceptable (not jeans!) and ladies,
don't were high heels or anything that you won't
feel totally at ease and comfortable playing in.
- Often, the 'winning' candidate might be asked to
sit in with with the orchestra for a week or two.
You are paid and your (future) colleagues just want
to make sure that you are 'ok'. For
instance...you don't stand up in the middle of the
concert and stretch!! That would be weird and
a bad career move. (This just proves that we
have a good sense of humor here.)
Taking auditions can be a physical and financial
drain. At the same time, in a strange 'twisted'
way, they can be really fun and so often educational.
You can find out where you 'are' just by showing up,
hearing other people play and hang around. This
was a simple and quick scenario on taking a professional
orchestra audition. It is (very) brief. For
more detailed information, there are books and
masterclasses that teach violin orchestra repertoire.
with a good luthier, you can find that happy medium
that with the proper sound post adjustment, he can find
a good bridge height and sound post fitting that should
work all year round. This is especially true if
you have a new violin or 'new' to you or to the area.
For example, you bought the violin on the west coast and
brought it home across country to a new and different