...until “the tiny errors became...so clear.”
April 27, 2014 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Auditioning for the MET Orchestra: "Why is there so much pressure? In part, because the candidates must prepare an exhaustive list of some of the most important and demanding parts ever written for their instrument. For Boris’ audition, the list included a solo concerto plus eighteen excerpts from fourteen operas. Rob’s audition included even more excerpts from both the symphonic and operatic repertoire, in which he had to demonstrate his abilities on no fewer than nine different instruments." posted by not_the_water (10 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting that the screen stays up until the end. Good for the Met!
posted by Dashy at 3:44 PM on April 27, 2014

"Rob describes a nearly five-month process of learning to pick up and position crash cymbals in such a way that they make no noise until he wants them to."
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:47 PM on April 27, 2014

Interesting that the screen stays up until the end. Good for the Met!

Standard practice for most major orchestras.

I've seen a lot of friends go through this similar process for the major orchestras in the US, and it's totally insane and either awesome or heartbreaking.

The Met has a reputation for being both the finest and most intense orchestra in the nation. I've watched musicians run excerpts for these auditions on adderall until they had carpal tunnel so bad they couldn't move their wrists. It's not that you are trying to improve your performance at that point - you are trying to make it so second nature that there is no possible way you could fuck it up even if you are sweating balls, because you may only have one chance.

I can't really imagine how final decisions are made. At that level, even experts are hard pressed to pick out the best among the best. At some point I imagine you just sort of go with your gut.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:23 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

The MET Orchestra has several such policies that are either unusual or unique in the world of orchestral auditions. The committee is not allowed any communication or discussion amongst itself before voting on a candidate; no candidate is ever cut off mid-round; perhaps most unusually, the MET Orchestra always offers a job to a candidate at the end of an audition.

Why are these so unusual? They don't sound at all weird - maybe the one where they don't cut candidates off in the middle, but seeing how difficult it is to even get to that stage, I doubt anyone would be terrible enough to warrant that treatment.

(I've only ever auditioned for choirs, and haven't done that since forever. I don't miss it.)
posted by rtha at 5:47 PM on April 27, 2014

When I graduated, mid 90s, screens were just often just in first round, or at least taken away at final round. Two friends who auditioned for major league orch & opera orch within the last three years still had that experience, so - not universal, yet.
posted by Dashy at 5:49 PM on April 27, 2014

Many orchestras take the screen down when they're at the final round. Some even go over your resume with you. Last year I was one of the last few people remaining at an audition for a pretty respectable regional orchestra; my final round was about 2/3 playing, 1/3 job interview. And the Met's policy of always hiring whoever was best that day is well known and very notable - it's frustratingly common for an orchestra, especially a major one, to drag everyone through the process and then decide that nobody that day lived up to (a) the last guy, (b) their platonic ideal, or (c) what they're hearing from their current substitutes. More (in my experience) rarely, the committee is listening for a particular player they expect to be there, that player bombs in the semi finals, and when the screen comes down they're not there.

The Boston Symphony (in)famously went about 5 years without hiring a section trumpet player because, in essence, they decided that no trumpet players in THE WORLD could play the interval between an F and Bb in tune to their satisfaction.
posted by range at 6:11 PM on April 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

There's also Yo-Yo Ma's famous quip that he couldn't make it through the Philadelphia Orchestra audition. I believe he really did sit through Boston's screened process, and was not selected.
posted by Dreidl at 9:04 PM on April 27, 2014

Unsurprising. Solo playing requires an entirely different skill set from orchestral playing.
posted by Madamina at 9:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Met may be the only American orchestra which guarantees they will choose a winner at each audition. There is still a probationary period to get through before you are granted tenure. I don't know how long their probation is; most US majors are 1.5 or 2 seasons.

The Met is the only one which always uses a screen until the winner is chosen. In most orchestras, the screen comes down in the finals. Wind and brass candidates may have to play section excerpts with the current members in the finals. Some orchestras get it down to 2 or 3 candidates who are each asked to play from one to a few weeks with the orchestra before a final decision is made.

I don't know about practicing on speed until you have carpal tunnel, but repeated _correct_ practice over months and years is a part of the preparation for an audition like this. Everyone working towards an orchestra job knows what the top 10, top 20, top 30 excerpts are for their instrument and they work on them (practicing AND listening to recordings) from college or high school until they win a job. The old saw that an amateur practices until they get it right while a professional practices until they can't get it wrong has a lot of truth.
posted by Warren Terra at 12:34 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd way rather go through this than some Ultimate Fighting match in a Google conference room over the span of 3 days.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:10 AM on April 28, 2014

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