• Band and Orchestra Auditions, by Dr. Jerry Young

    Appendix II

    Interview Summaries: Orchestras

    Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Auditions Coordinator: Jeffrey Stang


    CSO will hear "pre-preliminary" tapes as a service to potential candidates. A subcommittee of the orchestra's elected audition committee will listen to the tapes and advise candidates regarding their potential at the live audition.

    Problems with tapes submitted:

    1. "non-conforming" selections (works that are really inappropriate)
    2. poor recording quality. Recording studio quality is recommended.
    3. recording-related pitch problems: use a pitch-referenced recording deck, if possible.
    4. record in monoral mode, not stereo.
    5. play as perfectly as possible.


    For the CSO, the resume serves only as an application. The resume is NOT screened. It should be brief and concise: one page is fine. Be sure that your name, address, phone, and instrument are in the header!

    The CSO Audition Committee

    The orchestra elects seven members to a standing audition committee, which listens to all auditions for all instrument vacancies. In addition to the elected committee, the principal of the section wherein a vacancy occurs and a delegate from the orchestra members committee hear the audition (total of nine members). The orchestra members' committee representative is present principally to ensure that procedures are followed and that the audition is indeed fair. While the official committee makes decisions in the preliminary round, any member of the orchestra may listen to any audition. The Maestro is added to the committee for the final round of the audition and makes the final hiring decision.

    Audition Day Procedures

    1. Early arrivals draw lots for order, later arrivals are assigned numbers.
    2. Candidates warm up in a large holding room.
    3. Generally a private warm up area is provided twenty to thirty minutes before the audition.
    4. The audition usually takes place in Orchestra Hall. (Buntrock Hall is the alternate location.) The audition area is carpeted (control for gender bias) and is screened in the preliminary round.
    5. An announcement is made each hour regarding promotion to finals or dismissal.
    6. Finals are not screened (unless a current member of the orchestra is auditioning). If an accompanied solo is required, an accompanist is provided for the finals. (No accompaniment is used in the preliminary round.)
    7. Maestro consults committee and makes the final decision.


    Discussion during the preliminary round is greatly discouraged. Committee members simply vote yes or no by secret ballot during the prelims after each candidate. Six "yes" votes grants promotion to the finals. Five "yes" votes are considered to constitute a "split vote." The vote is double checked by a show of hands. A candidate receiving five votes will likely be asked to re- audition as part of another preliminary group later in the day.


    Simply "standard repertoire" is the requirement, although a list may be published. Any "sight reading" will be drawn from the repertoire. There will be no "declared sight reading" in the preliminary round. "Sight reading" will generally only be used in the finals as a tie break type of measure. If a solo is used as part of the audition, it will generally be chosen (in consultation with the Maestro) by the section principal where the vacancy occurs.

    Additional Note:

    The Maestro can invite up to four candidates to a pre-final round for principal positions.

    Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus

    Chorus Manager: Susan Reddel
    Asst. Chorus Manager: Angela Grimes
    Music Director: Duain Wolfe


    The CSC is a 180 member group. 105 must (by union stipulation) be "professional" members. All other members are unpaid and are designated as either "intern" or "volunteer" members. ALL members of the chorus must audition for membership. Continuing members re-audition every two years. The "bottom line" requirement for membership is a suitable choral voice, although music literacy is a must. Most members have vocal training and most "pro" members have a music degree and professional background. Again, this is a "union" organization and is paid on a "per service" basis.

    The Audition Committee

    The preliminary round for the audition is heard by the Assistant Conductor of the CSC. The chorus manager is present, but only to assist with administration of the auditions. The final round of the auditions is heard by the music director and the assistant conductor, again, with the chorus manager in attendance. A union representative of the chorus may also be present if desired. The music director of the chorus makes all final decisions on hiring.

    The Audition

    Positions are advertised in newspapers, postings in Chicago area churches, in the New York Opera Newsletter, etc. Candidates simply contact the CSC for information and an audition appointment (see Appendix VII). For the preliminary round two works of about three minutes duration, one in english and one in another language. An accompanist is provided. Candidates are required to bring original (not xeroxed) music for the accompanist's use. In addition to performing the two prepared works, sight reading is required. The sight reading does not come from the repertoire, but is originally composed by the music director. Less than perfect performance on sight reading is not necessarily a disqualifier, but good reading ability is a "plus." No screen is used for CSC auditions.

    The finals for new members are done together with re-auditioning continuing members. One of the two previously prepared pieces is sung in addition to excerpts from Handel's "He Shall Purify" and Brahms' "Requiem." Candidates who are potential new members or who are seeking promotion to professional status must sight read. Once again the sight reading material is originally composed by the music director.


    Rating forms are used for both the preliminary and final rounds (see Appendix VI). The CSC keeps all forms and comments on file for their own reference, as well as to assist repeat auditionees. The audition-critical criteria (again, see the forms elsewhere in this document) include standard items such as tone quality, clarity, intonation, projection, breath control, range, etc.

    The Cleveland Orchestra

    Personnel Manager and cellist, Ralph Curry


    The CO has only recently started using tapes as part of the audition process on a very limited basis. Candidates are generally selected for live audition based on references and resumes. Potential candidates are classified 1-A (automatic invitation) or 2-A (send a tape to be further considered for a live audition). If invited to send a tape, the tape should represent the best possible playing and should be produced using the highest quality equipment possible. The people from the orchestra and administration who review the tapes are aware of technological possibilities and believe that they can detect edited products. A recent trumpet audition was the first use of tapes. There were 260 applicants. In addition to those who received automatic invitations, twelve candidates were asked for tapes - only five of the twelve submitted tapes, and none of those five were invited for the live audition.


    Applications are severely screened. All auditions must take place in one day, so there are only around 30 candidates invited for the live audition. A cover letter and resume usually make the nicest presentation. A nice looking, organized hand written presentation is fine. The resume should include 1) school(s) where your preparation work has been done (note: this DOES seem to make a difference), 2) experiences that relate to the job, both pre-professional and professional - include summer festivals, etc., 3) references - these are not often used, but availability of the information is helpful. One big "DON'T": don't list auditions where you were a semi-finalist or finalist and didn't win the job. You should not telegraph the notion that "I wasn't good enough for them, but I think I'm good enough for you." Communicate successes in your resume, not failures.

    The Audition Committee

    The CO audition committee consists of the principals of the "larger section" (i.e. for woodwind positions, all the woodwind principals) plus the music director and assisting conductors and the personnel manager. Two members of the section where the vacancy occurs are also part of the committee. Note that the CO is unique in that the music director and other administrative personnel are present for the ENTIRE audition - not just the finals.


    There will be a repertoire list issued to invited candidates. (Note: RC stated that many candidates obviously do not know how to "read" a list for any audition. Look carefully at the repertoire indicated to see if there are commonalities or characteristics in the music that indicate the organization's interest in certain kinds of skills. In the CO, for instance, brass players must be able to play expressively, string players should have a great spicatto, etc.) Everything will come from the standard repertoire, but be absolutely certain that you know the entire part to everything - not just the "standard excerpts." The person who can just "play the licks" will probably NOT win. The CO hears the part, not just excerpts. Know your entire part and how it fits into the whole. Sightreading is a part of the final round, however, once again, it will come from the standard repertoire - do your homework.

    The Audition

    Candidates come to Severance Hall and sign in, fill out a questionnaire, and are assigned an audition time. A "communal area" is provided for general warm up, and candidates are taken to a private area for about twenty minutes prior to the actual audition. The audition takes place in Severance Hall, and each candidate is given immediate notification of promotion to finals or dismissal. There is no variation in procedure from preliminary round to finals. The CO never uses screens at any point in the audition process.


    The committee engages in very little discussion during the preliminary rounds and no discussion during the final rounds. There may be minimal discussion during a given candidate's audition, but none after. A single positive or "yes" vote from any member of the audition committee is sufficient to promote the candidate to the next round. The Maestro makes the final hiring decisions and, in the case of the current Maestro, he does not always agree with or follow the committee's recommendation. (Note: the attitude of the orchestra seems to be that the Maestro should have this latitude since he must also make firing decisions.)

    Stage Presence/Appearance

    Work on your stage presence - from the door to the chair and stand, as well as AT the chair and stand. You can lose before you ever play a note. For personal appearance, dress and groom yourself with respect to the importance of what you're doing. DON'T wear jeans. Look nice, be comfortable and well-groomed.

    Other comment: Auditions are a legacy for any performing organization. This is the means whereby an organization maintains its excellence. A bad hire equals two years of unhappiness for the candidate and colleagues and results in a firing, which is very traumatic for all concerned. It is important to be careful.

    Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

    Eleanor Kushnick, 23 years experience in administration, librarian

    Music Directorship is (as of spring, 1998) open. Immediate past music director, Gareth Morrell, recently accepted a position with the Metropolitan Opera of New York.


    The membership of the chorus consists of a very "mixed bag." The group is totally a volunteer group, and there are no upper age limits. Members range from college students to community members in their 70s. No high school students.

    There are four choruses in the organization:

    1. The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra Chorus (all adults and in force for the full Symphony season) (175 members)
    2. The Blossom Festival Chorus (summer season only. Also all adults, some who sing only in summer and some continuing members from the CSOC)
    3. 5-8 grade children's chorus
    4. 9-12 grade youth chorus

    Openings are advertised in the "auditions section" of the Cleveland Friday newspaper. Press releases also go to other area sources and radio announcements are made. There are generally openings most of the time. Most members come from within a 75 mile radius of Cleveland.

    The Audition Committee

    The music director of the chorus is the sole auditor.

    The Audition

    All potential new members must audition, and continuing members must re-audition every two to three years. (Some continuing members may re-audition sooner, dependent upon skill level.) The audition lasts about ten minutes and consists of one memorized piece (any language) from classical vocal literature, sight reading from the choral repertoire, and a test of vocal range. An accompanist is provided. New members must also fill out an application form that gives a summary of musical background, training, and experience.


    The qualities generally sought include: a clear vocal sound - minimal vibrato, a voice that has good blending qualities, flexibility (in terms of being able to produce a given required sound), good pitch, intonation, time, reading ability, etc. Forms (see Appendix VI) are used to rate each candidate

    The Detroit Symphony Orchestra

    Audition Process and Procedure

    Interview with Wesley Jacobs, tubist and Deborah Fayroian, cellist


    Tapes are never used. Anyone may come to audition for open positions in the DSO, however a letter of application and resume are expected to be submitted in advance.


    Candidates submit a letter of application and a resume. The resume should be only one page and should emphasize things that have impact on/relate directly to the position.

    The Committee

    Audition committees are elected and are constituted of those orchestra members with expertise in the area where the vacancy occurs. The Maestro joins the committee for the final round and makes the final hiring decision. Any member of the orchestra is eligible to listen to any audition.

    Audition Procedures

    Audition procedures are established by the orchestra and specified in the orchestra's bargaining agreement. The candidates and the committee are instructed to use separate doors for entrance to the building on the day of the audition to maintain the integrity of anonymity for everyone. Approximate audition times are sent to candidates in advance of the audition day, however exact times are not issued until arrival at the audition site. The standard audition procedure is observed here (large common warm up area, candidate taken to private area for a few minutes prior to the actual audition, audition takes place). Both the preliminary and final rounds are screened. After each group of four or five auditionees, candidates are informed of promotion to finals or dismissal. The audition area is carpeted to prevent potential gender bias. Each candidate is informed of standard rules (don't speak, questions should be whispered to the proctor, etc.).


    The standard orchestral repertoire is the only source. If "sight reading" is necessary, it will come from the standard repertoire.


    There is no discussion during any individual audition. Typically, if discussion takes place, it will happen after a group of four or five auditionees. Generally there is a yes/no vote on each candidate. The string section, specifically, does use an objective instrument in adjudication with numerical scoring. A candidate must attain 35 points to move on to another round of auditions.

    Stage Presence

    Because of the totally screened situation, personal appearance and stage presence are not really at issue for DSO auditions. It is notable that expectations for stage appearance (dress and grooming) for members of the DSO are stated in the orchestras contract.

    Other comment: The American Symphony Orchestra League should consider standardizing audition procedures throughout its membership.

    Grant Park Symphony Orchestra Summary

    Interview with Fritz Kaenzig, member of the GPSO elected audition committee

    The Grant Park Symphony is a unique organization in that it is a professional orchestra that functions during the summer months only. Its principal performance venue is a large, modern outdoor shell in Chicago's Grant Park.

    The Application Process

    Positions and audition dates are advertised via all normal channels (International Musician, etc.). Everyone who wishes to audition is heard. No tapes or other pre-preliminary materials are required.

    The Audition Committee

    There are two standing audition committees elected from the orchestra designated as "panel A" and "panel B." The "A" panel is charged with listening to auditions. When members of the "A" panel are unable to attend an audition, someone from the "B" panel is asked to substitute. This panel listens to preliminary rounds. The final rounds involve the same committee plus orchestra principal players and the Artistic Director (who makes the final hiring decision). Anyone from the orchestra may listen to auditions.

    The Audition

    In the facility used, there are multiple warm-up rooms used prior to audition time. Each candidate is taken to a private "holding" room a few minutes before their audition. The preliminary audition is screened, while the final round is not screened. Material for the audition is from the instrument's standard orchestral repertoire, and any "sight reading" used is drawn from the standard repertoire.


    No discussion takes place in the committee during each audition. After each audition a concensus is reached regarding promotion of the candidate to the final round. In the finals, the committee recommendation to the Artistic Director is, again, a concensus decision. The Artistic Director may accept that recommendation, hire another individual, or hire no one.

    Stage Presence/Physical Appearance

    May have some bearing in the audition. (Gender or race is never an issue.) Some individual
    prejudices may exist regarding candidate's dress or grooming.

    The Minnesota Orchestra

    Personnel Manager Julie Haight


    Because rules for each audition are established by the committee for each particular audition, tapes are sometimes used and sometimes not used. When they are used (which seems to be not infrequent), candidates are sent a very clear set of instructions regarding how the tape is to be prepared together with specific repertoire requirements. (See appendices for an example.) Interestingly enough, some candidates do not follow directions...


    The resume should simply follow "resume 101" rules. Be sure that name, instrument, and address are at the very beginning and very clear. Current professional experience and (musical) professional employment experience should follow that information, then educational background and teachers. Do not list finals or semi-finals achieved when you weren't the winner!

    The Audition Committee

    Audition committee personnel guidelines are specified in the orchestra's master agreement. The easiest way to summarize the make-up of committees is to say that committees are comprised of "experts" from the larger instrument family wherein vacancies occur, i.e. strings listen to strings, brass listen to brass, etc. The committee will number seven and will usually include the principal, three other players from the section (where applicable), and one person from each of the other sections in the instrument family. (Example: first violin section vacancy committee: principal violin, three first violinists, one violist, one cellist, one bassist)


    The repertoire for the audition is all specified. Again, because each audition is unique, repertoire requirements differ. Solos may or may not be required. Orchestral repertoire passages to be performed will be chosen by the committee and approved by the music director and are sent to all candidates in advance.

    The Audition

    Times are generally assigned before candidates arrive. Because of the facilities available at Orchestra Hall, this allows candidates to arrive in a timely fashion and have access to private warm-up facilities for a bout half an hour prior to the audition. Candidates are told the exact passages they will perform (from the previously provided list) a few minutes before they go on stage for the audition. Auditions are generally held in Orchestra Hall, and about 90% of the time a screen is used in preliminary auditions. Sight reading can be a component of any audition and candidates are so informed, although it is rarely used. Sight reading, if used, will come from the standard repertoire, but "standard repertoire" may include chamber music. NOTE: The MSO does rather regularly ask finals candidates to play with the section in Orchestra Hall to measure the candidate's ability to blend with the section.


    In the early rounds the committee can and sometimes does talk briefly after each candidate. There is a break after every five candidates in the early rounds wherein more discussion and a vote for dismissal/promotion can take place. After each set of five, the previous five candidates are informed of either dismissal or promotion to the next round. At the final round, there is no discussion until all finalists have played and a first (secret) ballot has been taken. After the vote is taken and counted, discussion ensues with the vote used simply as a point of departure. The Music Director is involved in both the vote and the discussion and makes the ultimate hiring decision.

    Stage Presence/Appearance

    "The proof is in the playing." BUT it is a good idea to look and act professionally.

    Other notes...

    1. The "total package" is what wins an audition. No one item or occurence (missed note, etc.) in an audition "loses the audition."
    2. Don't give up! Some eventual winners have auditioned for an MSO position five or six times before succeeding.
    3. The MSO advertises positions via the usual channels and sends out packets to those who inquire about positions. Technically ANYONE who applies may come to the audition. A $50 deposit is required with the application, and that is returned upon arrival at the preliminary round of the audition.

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