Dear Candidate

Dear Candidate,

You asked me for feedback on your audition.  I’m glad you got in touch, but I don’t have anything very specific to tell you.  My notes have been shredded and I am not a specialist on your instrument.  That said, I do remember your audition – you were in the last preliminary round that we heard and I did actually vote for you to advance.

It’s an unfortunate thing about auditions.  On the committee side of things, we can’t help but grade on a curve. In other words, as we hear and advance candidates we become more and more aware of the level that is possible, and a perfectly competent audition late in the day might not advance whereas it might have early on.  The sad reality is that easily two thirds of the players we heard could have done a great job on the job, but we had only one position to offer.  The even sadder truth is that this very small orchestra was able to attract candidates who were really superstars, and should absolutely be out there making fortunes with their talent and not just auditioning for our little gig.

Once we as a committee have heard a certain number of well-qualified candidates, we have to be picky, or the day will never end. By the end of the day the people who advanced either played nearly flawless auditions, or had SOMETHING really special – one excerpt or more that made us all sit up and take notice.  There were players who really made us hear in our heads the orchestral context of the excerpts, or who demonstrated something creative and personal (while remaining appropriate), or who just blew us away with the range of their dynamics and the perfection of their technique.  In some cases it was just one magical moment in an otherwise merely competent audition that tipped things for us.

It saddens me to say this to you.  This is something I work on and sweat about in my own playing, too – the work either has to be perfect or very very special to compete for a position in this era of struggling small orchestras.  A committee almost never rejects a strong musical presence for a few minor mistakes,  but the voice has to be very compelling to reach through the screen of the blind audition process.  Your audition, dear Candidate, was very solid but you needed to give us just a little more to get through.  To win a job requires so much more than the chops to play in the orchestra, because ALMOST EVERYONE HAS THAT. 

I’m not sure this information will be helpful to you – but I respect your request for feedback and giving you context is the best I can offer.

All the best to you!  I loved hearing you play and I thank you for attending.


3 thoughts on “Dear Candidate

  1. Unknown says:

    It's crazy they'd even respond. It's good to see true collegial support in the form of a candid letter but it still doesn't help you actually advance. You're a rock star player and they should be sorry they missed the chance to hire you — whether it's a tiny orchestra or the CSO.

  2. Jennet says:

    Scott, that's the sweetest response I could have gotten. Sadly, it tells me that I did not adequately clarify that this letter was one I wrote to a candidate auditioning for MY orchestra! I edited so carefully trying to preserve anonymity and broaden the message to all who might be playing this hopeless hopeful game of orchestral auditions… and totally missed that there might be another way of reading the post. Heh. Chagrined.

  3. RobinDesHautbois says:

    Auditions are a bitch…. Back in the day, I knew people which were experts at winning auditions, but at the concert played without feeling while some incredibly soulful players joined the Army because they crashed and burned at auditions (not talking of myself in either case).Also, I've heard the song \”something to say\” before while rejecting anything different from their own sound/style….. I have adopted a rather Daoist philosophy in my Christian frame of reference and just go with the flow, doing my best to observe rather than react, understanding that one failure opens the doors to many more propitious opportunities. Cheers!

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