Job interview

Today’s “dailypost” is to share a story about a memorable job interview.  I am not really a job interview type of person.  As a musician, I am more accustomed to either getting the job by word of mouth, or by auditioning.

There’s nothing worse than auditions.  To get an orchestral job, unless you are very well-connected (i.e. related or married…) or lucky, you have to “win” an audition.  For most full time jobs, people come from miles around, and possibly nearby planets, to audition. 

The way it works (please skip to the following paragraph if you are already familiar) is that the job is posted and a “list” is given out of the excerpts to learn.  These are excerpts (parts) of orchestra pieces that you must learn and perform on your own in front of the committee, generally behind a screen for anonymity.  Usually you are asked to play a Major Concerto (for violinists, think Brahms, Tchiakovsky, or Sibelius—and look them up if you don’t know them, awesome pieces), a movement of a Bach Sonata or Partita, possibly a movement of a Mozart Concerto, and perhaps 10 to 20 excerpts.  The excerpts are somewhat standard throughout the industry, and for any given audition you would likely only be preparing one or two new pieces, the rest you would be relearning for the audition.  The entire list could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 or 3 hours to perform.  You would spend many hours every day preparing the list, for perhaps two or more months.  You would record yourself, you would play for friends and colleagues, you would memorize it, you would make sure every note is perfectly in time and perfectly in tune, with a beautiful sound, nice phrasing, no obvious shifts, and you would hope that they love the style you play in.  Then you would buy your plane ticket to the audition, perhaps a hotel room, meals, taxis, etc.  You would get to the audition and you would play, behind a screen, perhaps for three to five minutes, and the committee of 8 to 10 people would decide whether or not you were good enough to advance to the next round.  Out of 30 to 50 people in a day of auditions, probably 4 to 10 are advanced to the next round.  And from that, one is chosen…maybe.  If you miss a few notes, or if the committee doesn’t like your style, or perhaps the sound of your violin (perhaps you don’t play on a multi-million dollar instrument like someone else might) you are out.  Out of luck, out of time, out perhaps a thousand dollars. 

Once you have that orchestra job though, then you can look down on the other musicians who don’t have one.  You can act surprised that they play an instrument, or make comments like “oh, you wouldn’t know what good playing sounds like because you only teach beginners.”  You can ignore them at restaurants, or talk about how “hard” your life is, or how money is tight with three kids in private school…the possibilities are endless!  And you can forget that someday you started to learn the violin from somebody perhaps just like them…and would never have gotten to where you are if there weren’t like-minded people. 

(I am not even really upset today…just thinking of job interviews made me think of auditions, which brings us here…I actually had a really good day, 9 hours of teaching, and many of my students were great delights!)

2 thoughts on “Job interview”

  1. The head of the strings dept. at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati once told my husband that the odds of a violinist making it into a major orchestra were slimmer than that of a baseball player making it into the major leagues. I hate the way that sounds, but it’s probably very true.

    It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes when I think of former violin peers who I played side by side with who are in major orchestras now most likely because they did have familial connections.

    You hit the nail on the head, though, about those who’ve “made it” hopefully remembering that they might not be where they are if it weren’t for those oh-so-regular violin teachers.

    1. I wonder what truth there is to that baseball analogy? I guess the main difference is that it really is possible to make a living as a “minor league” musician for your whole life!

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