Friday, November 05, 2010

Auditions then and Now

Wow. I just read an article about auditions by Dr. Noa Kageyama that struck me as a something that draws a firm line between generations and musical mindsets. Dr. Kageyama is speaking to a "performance-oriented" generation, rather than an "essence-of-music-oriented" one.

I usually find auditions sterile and demeaning experiences, so I find myself at quite a distance from Dr. Kageyama. I remember only one from my days as a flutist that was not sterile and demeaning. It was in 1980, and I was auditioning for Tanglewood. I had auditioned for the previous summer, and was totally tripped by the orchestral excerpts they asked me to play. I was truly sight-reading for the "sight-reading" part of the audition.

I worked on those particular orchestral excerpts diligently (every day with the metronome) for a whole year before my next audition, and was thrilled to find that they asked for exactly the same two excerpts: the bird from Peter and the Wolf, and the part of Strauss' Sinfonia Domestica that calls for the flute to play a high D. I played them competently (if robotically--since they were rather robotic excerpts).

I was deeply in love with the music of Messiaen during the late 1970s, so I decided to play Le Merle Noir for my audition (pretending that it was part of the Quartet for the End of Time), even though it wasn't a standard audition piece. Gunther Schuller and Charlie Russo (both advocates of new music) were the only members of the jury. I played the piece for them, and the spirit of Messiaen was in the room. Hearing the music played by someone deeply in love with it must have meant something to them, because I got a call a few weeks later telling me that I was Gunther Schuller's first choice as flutist for Tanglewood. Certain personal issues made it seem like a better choice to go to Graz, Austria for the summer, so I declined the invitation to Tanglewood.

I can't imagine, with the insane level of competence, particularly among flutists around today, that any audition could ever be that personal. It is a shame that young musicians who want to have careers in music have to live (and compete) in a such a different world.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

I knew students who got their prescreening requirement waived through taking one private lesson with the major teacher at the institute, but it is a lot easier for a professor to get to know a student at a personal level in an hour lesson than a 15-min audition. Myself is a classical pianist, and I find it very hard to grab the attention from the judges in 15min when they have to listen to another 200 pianists on the same day...