Saturday, February 4, 2012

Orchestral audition perspective

Thanks for all the wonderful comments on my previous blog about the recent Second Bassoon audition we had here in Cleveland.  Since people have been responsive to this topic, I'd like to continue on this thread for a while.

Please reply, ask questions, give your experiences!  This is a crazy way to get a job and I can only offer my perspective and experiences (limited though they may be).

A Fresh Perspective

Today I'd like to offer a fresh perspective on performing an audition.  When taking an audition, it's hard to remember why you wanted to do this thing called music in the first place!  With the pressure, the nerves and the often depressing experience of being just one of many great musicians on the day, remember that you WANTED to do this, so why not try to enjoy yourself!

One way to show your enjoyment and love of the music is to try to imagine you're playing these excerpts for people who have never heard the bassoon before and don't know the music.

Forget about that panel of experts out there listening.  Remember, each of them came to music this way -- uninitiated and raw.  There's still a part of that in each of them you can try to reach.

How many times have you played the bassoon and had someone in the audience come up and say, "I didn't know the bassoon could do that - or sound that way!"  If they've never experienced the bassoon that way before, then they've never really HEARD the music you're playing before either. Try to play at all times with these people in mind.

I find it refreshing and empowering to try to be an ambassador for the bassoon. It's hard to do this in an audition, but using your imagination is helpful in avoiding letting your nerves get control of the audition.

Even more important, imagine yourself as an ambassador for the music you are playing.  You are playing some of the greatest music ever written and it's your job to show the listeners (even if they are really jaded orchestral musicians) the wonders of what you've brought to play.

Thus, the Mozart Concerto becomes a wonderful display of the nobility and grace of the instrument and not a grim minefield of mistakes waiting to be checked off by the committee.

You do have a heavy responsibility to represent our much-maligned instrument and its low-calorie repertoire well, however.  To do this you must play in a way that gives the listener a sense of the context each excerpt along with the style and flavor of each little one or two minute segment.  Remember that with a committee made up of mostly non-bassoonists, the general impression you leave must be very clear and distinctive.

In my experience, committees do not generally listen with music in hand.  Sometimes, only the bassoonists listening will know about a particular dynamic or nuance in an excerpt (and sometimes even they won't notice). Yes, the details are very important, but players often lose the forest for all the attention they're giving to the trees.

Once I played in an orchestra that played a concert at a clarinet conference.  I asked the young clarinetist in the orchestra next to me if he was nervous playing for all the clarinetists in the audience (which included Stanley Drucker and Larry Combs, for instance).  This guy was known for his arrogance and replied, "No, I'll just pretend I'm giving them all a lesson"!

I'm certainly not suggesting that you need to adopt this level of arrogance when performing, but remember, when you audition, it's your chance to show those listening how great the music that you're presenting is, how much you love playing the bassoon and what a wonderful time it is to share this with other people.

That's what it's all about, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mr. Stees,

    Recently, I've been experimenting with what kind of mindset I should be putting myself into before a solo performance and in one particular recital I decided to pretend I was "giving them (my peers at university) all a lesson", just as your clarinetist-colleague said. The results were much better than my more recent experiments.

    Though I don't wish to show any kind of outward arrogance, maybe it's a mindset that may parry performance anxiety? Anyways, food for thought.