This topic is something inwhich many people spend a lifetime of contemplation: the act of being scrutinized by someone else in order for you to find a place in which to practice what it is you profess. Whether it be in sports, or in the arts, or for a job teaching these, auditioning has been a part of my life, and for many of yours as well. In our particular interest and (perhaps) profession: that of playing music,specifically, the clarinet, auditioning can come as a surprise, or the natural order of things. In mine, it has been both.
I wanted to play the clarinet since the age of 14 or so. I asked for it from my parents, and was turned down cold, with a smirk and a snigger. “musicians walk the streets”.”There is no living in music”. But I persisted, and finally after the passage of time, my mother suggested that I write to Benny Goodman and ask him for one of his “old ones.” At my age , I was gullible but not to that extent, so I persisted.
Finally, it was agreed that I would get lessons, in this circuitous manner: My mother would place an ad in the local paper: “Wanted to buy, old used, clarinet”. I have no idea of how long I waited but there was a single reply. A fellow answered the ad, stating that not only did he have a clarinet for sale, he could also give me lessons as well. He would “come to the house”, as so many did in those days, with the clarinet and the terms.
That was my first audition, perhaps a mutual audition. He was a very nice man, dressed well, and he was carrying a case which held my clarinet. I think he charged 3 dollars an hour, maybe a bit less. He turned out to be a professional player, one of the best in Boston, and had played Principal in Houston for several years. He had the most beautiful sound I think I have ever heard, and while I failed my audition miserably, making nothing but a series of squeaks for the whole lesson, what I remembered is the sound that he made, which I will never forget, as it remains my goal to achieve to this very day. And sometimes, I do. That was my first audition.
My first actual audition for a job in a symphony orchestra came only four or five years later. I had progressed so rapidly that I was already practicing Orchestra Studies, memorizing the whole Bonade book in a short time, playing in all of the secondary school ensembles and being singled out for my playing ability, That first teacher had remained my teacher. In the time spent, I never missed a lesson, not ever, not even when driving long distances, I insisted on practicing.
To continue, my first teacher figured in my first official audition, a kind of manipulative exercise on his part, but even in retrospect, I don’t care. If he really believed I played that well, then he is not to be faulted for pride in his students ability. (I never spoke about it) .
The contractor called my teacher to play the Bass Clarinet with the Boston Pops Orchestra on their annual tour. He felt somewhat intimidated by the offer and passed it on to me, his student.
I was very excited about this. Our school had just purchased a Bass and I insisted on learning to play it. I used to play both in band concerts. I guess I played well. I know that I played better than the others. However the Boston Pops Orchestra was a very big deal,and while not nervous, I was excited. Everyone knows who the contractor was, but I will just mention RM, for they were his initials. He was also the Personnel Manager of the Boston Symphony. He asked me to play the regular clarinet. The first question “play t\an E major scale, legato three octaves, up and then return.”
And so, I did. I have no recollection of how I sounded, but at the conclusion of my E major, he told me quite dispassionately, “you have the beginnings of a good sound. Come back in 5 years.”
That was my first real audition. In subsequent postings you will read of many more, both more successful and not. ( Oh, and I did “come back”.)
Best wishes for all your holidays.