I had an audition today for the All-State festival. It reminded me how utterly dumb the audition process is.
First off, the music that we play on the audition is music we’ll never play in an ensemble that we’re auditioning for. I had to play some stupid arrangement of a Baroque Bass sonata. The music is just flat out not special in any way shape form or fashion. I will never play anything like that in any band i’ll ever be in. How does that help me? It doesn’t. Another example: a tuba player would have to play some stupid hard etude or something for an audition. Now find me a single example in the literature where the tuba has pages of 16th notes. Nowhere. The music should fit the purpose. We should have to play a few solo excerpts from standard concert band lit.
Second, this really gives no indication of how good a player is. A mediocre player could make the stupid audition music sound great, almost as good as an excellent player, due to the sheer easiness of the music. Most players get the musical interpretation from their private teachers; there is little individual work. Not to glorify myself, but I made the interpretation of the stupid piece all by myself. The audition-er does not get better. Also, the player will be playing in a group, not all by themselves. There is no way to tell if a player will blend well with other players, or change pitch in order to be in tune. I understand that it is impossible to have a band on hand for the auditions, but still, my point remains. The audition should match the purpose.
The Boston Magazine did an excellent article about the madness of professional orchestra auditions. I can’t get the original article, the server is down at the moment. But here is Ken Woods’ articulate response to it. He’s far smarter than I. But if you can, find the article. It’s well written, interesting, and kind of shocking.