• Band and Orchestra Auditions, by Dr. Jerry Young


    Appendix IV: Musicians

    Ronald Bishop: Tubist of the Cleveland Orchestra

    Mr. Bishop joined the Cleveland Orchestra in 1967. In addition to being among the finest orchestral tubists in the world, he is a premiere teacher and soloist. He has served on the faculties of Baldwin-Wallace College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and currently is on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. In the fall of 1997 he presented a solo recital tour in New Zealand.

    1. What has enabled you to enjoy success as performer and teacher - both musically and nonmusically speaking?
      • Great instruction and great role models. His earliest teachers, although not tuba players, set high standards and encouraged good habits. He feels that he had a solid foundation in the basics of playing and musicianship and that maintaining good health has made a large difference. As a student, he spent a lot of time playing with trombone players. A selected list of teachers of influence includes Betty Hamilton-Dobzinsky (first teacher), Donald Knaub, Robert Gray, Arnold Jacobs.

    2. What prepared you to win the auditions you have won over the years?
      • "Fire and desire." One has to be "hungry" to win an audition. He was thoroughly prepared to sit down and play well for twenty minutes.

    3. How do you advise students that come to you to prepare for orchestral auditions?
      • He tells them truthfully how competitive the field is. One must be/prepare like an Olympian, totally dedicated to a goal and willing to do what it takes to achieve that goal.

    4. Do you see/hear audition repertoire on the horizon that is becoming standard audition repertoire that the profession doesn't think of as such today?
      • He sees the audition repertoire as being somewhat static for the time being. People should be
        looking more at recent contemporary orchestral composers (Messiaen, John Williams) and the
        wind ensemble repertoire (Schwanter, etc.) just to be better prepared for eventualities in audition
        repertoire.

    5. What general advice do you have for anyone preparing for an audition?
      • What is going to make me (as an audition committee member) want to choose you? Make a musical statement. Allow your personality to come through. Believe in your product. Be a wonderful presenter (ex. Ron Bishop "to be or not to be" vs. Sir Laurence Olivier "to be or not to be" - the words are the same, the presentation is not! LO will win!) Don't try to guess about what the committee wants to hear - listen to recordings and know the parts.

    Interview with Martin Erickson, U.S. Navy (ret.) and Professor of Music at Penn State University

    Mr. Erickson was a tubist with the U.S. Navy Band for well over 20 years and was principal tubist for most of that time. He is one of the world's premiere tuba soloists and among the very best combination classical/jazz artists. In addition to performing as a soloist around the world in both classical and jazz venues and as a member of bands and orchestras, he is a leading pedagogue with numerous successful former students.

    1. How committed are you? This is the primary question that persons interested in winning auditions must answer, because the level of commitment must be very high.
    2. Recommends establishment of a preparation timeline. ME has a suggested timeline and recommends the following individuals as good information resources for other approaches to good preparation leading up to an audition: Joh Hagstrom (second trumpet of the Chicago Symphony) and Ed Livingston (retired professor of music from Illinois State University).
    3. In planning for the day of the audition, one should have everything carefully planned so that energy (mental and physical) can be focused on the audition. Travel, eating, accomodation of important personal habits, etc. should be considered. Don't economize yourself into a losing situation, i.e. if a hotel closer to the audition site will allow you to relax more or provide practice space for you, but the cost is more, the cost is worth it if the liklihood of your winning the audition is increased.

    Military Band thoughts

    1. ring a substantial, quality contrabass tuba to the audition. Be observing what instruments are being used in the band(s) you're interested in pursuing in terms of size and characteristic tone color they produce.
    2. Work to produce a "blending sound" that will fit in with a section. NO "edge" is necessary in a military band audition and most often "edge" equals failure.
    3. Know how to interpret the various styles of band music. Do your listening to many recordings. Your personal interpretation may be fun, but it probably won't "sell" to an audition committee. Stay close to standard interpretations.
    4. The principal concerns are going to be quality of sound, intonation, time, and style. Do your homework in those areas.
    5. A bonus that isn't often thought about: are you a good person? Personal interviews and stage presence are a part of military band auditions. This is not different from a job interview in some ways. Can you "fit in" and work with others?

    General Practical Advice

    1. Don't make extraneous sounds at an audition. Are you a foot tapper? Are you a noisy breather? Don't make any sounds other than musical ones. Also, be careful of displaying unusual "rituals." You should just plan to sit down and play.
    2. Minimize, but PLAN your warm up. Here "warm up" refers to the "play a few notes to get used to the room" time usually provided in audition situations. Don't just haphazardly blow two or three notes - know what you're going to do.
    3. Choose tempi that allow you to perform with clarity. Do you know what your "peaks" of ability are relative to such matters? Going just a LITTLE slower than an indicated tempo, but playing with clarity is better than stumbling through a passage at a tempo you cannot initially accomodate.
    4. Whether a woodwind or brass player, have you cleared your instrument of fluids in keys or tubes before you have begun to play?
    5. Professional carriage telegraphs so much - you can lose the audition before you play a single note. Be aware of stage presence.
    6. Trust your preparation - don't change something at the last minute that you've been practicing simply because you hear someone at the audition doing it differently.
    7. Believe that you deserve the job.

    Interview with Wesley Jacobs, tubist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

    Mr. Jacobs has been with the DSO since about 1970. In addition to his long tenure with the orchestra, he has taught at several institutions and currently is professor of tuba at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He also is the owner of Encore Music Publishers, the largest commercial publisher of music and study literature for the tuba.

    1. What has enabled you to enjoy success as performer and teacher - both musically and nonmusically speaking?
      • Consistent practice. (Everyone is different, but...) He takes no vacations from the horn. As you get older, challenges come physically. Intelligent practice is necessary to overcome those challenges. Diversions help to maintain excitement - WJ recommends that we develop interests outside of playing.

    2. What prepared you to win the auditions you have won over the years?
      • Consistent practice! Playing in an orchestra was his goal since his second year of college. The first audition he took (San Francisco) was not successful, but he "stuck with it."

    3. How do you advise students that come to you to prepare for orchestral auditions?
      • Focus on orchestral literature and on the technique of playing the tuba.

    4. Do you see/hear audition repertoire on the horizon that is becoming standard audition repertoire that the profession doesn't think of as such today?
      • He does not see any patterns involving new repertoire emerging.

    5. What general advice do you have for anyone preparing for an audition?
      1. To brass players in particular: DON'T PLAY TOO LOUDLY!!!
      2. Play musically, in tune, and with good rhythm.
      3. Be yourself.
      4. For tuba players, emphasize high playing - especially be able to read well.

    6. Other general comment:
      • WJ is very glad that they don't use tapes for DSO auditions. In applying to positions or competitions where tapes are required, only the less thoughtful individuals don't submit perfect tapes - it's a necessity. One can pat oneself on the back about total honesty, however, those who use technology to produce perfect tapes will be the ones invited to the audition, competition, etc. He (obviously) encourages individuals to take advantage of available technology.

    Fritz Kaenzig: Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and The University of Michigan

    Mr. Kaenzig has been a member of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra for many years and has served on the music faculties of the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Illinois in addition to his current position at the University of Michigan. In addition to his regular summer appearances with the GPSO, he has performed extensively with other orchestras, including the Los Angeles, Chicago, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras. He is an internationally recognized solo performer and pedagogue.

    1. What has enabled you to enjoy success as performer and teacher - both musically and nonmusically speaking?
      Balance between a commitment to living life and making music.
    2. What prepared you to win the auditions you have won over the years?
      • a) Orchestral:
        Listening to recordings
        and going to concerts. Playing
        with recordings in practice
        time. The ability to play what the audition committee wants to hear is very important, and these
        practices build that ability. You must be able to "sell" your musical ideas effectively.
      • b) College/university:
        Intelligent programming of the recital portion of the interview. Plan a
        musically effective recital.

    3. How do you advise students that come to you to prepare for orchestral auditions?
      See 2) a) above.
    4. Do you see/hear audition repertoire on the horizon that is becoming standard audition repertoire that the profession doesn't think of as such today?
      The short answer is "no." Extended research may say yes, though. Repertoire that isn't necessarily new, but that is receiving more play (Nielsen and later Shostakovich symphonies are examples) might begin to appear on audition lists in the future. Do not look for movie score parts, although they are certainly challenging. In the long term, there will be additions to the "standard repertoire," but we can't "pin down" what those additions will be at present.
    5. What general advice do you have for anyone preparing for an audition?
      Play musically! Make the most out of the music before you. Don't overblow. Play with refinement, taste, style, and intimate knowledge of every piece. Know every measure of every piece - not just the "standard excerpts."
    6. Additional note: FK posed the questions: "What is the job?" Do we prepare our students for
      performance jobs?"

      Advice to students: "You are a soldier! What are your goals?"

    Interview with Gene Pokorny: Tubist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Mr. Pokorny joined the Chicago Symphony in 1989. He has also been a member of the Israel Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, The St. Louis Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition to being considered among his peers as the premiere orchestral tubist in the world, he is among the finest pedagogues. His instructional CD recording on basic orchestral audition repertoire for the tuba is considered to be a ground breaking educational work. Due to a sudden family illness, Mr. Pokorny was unable to complete our scheduled interview and provided answers to the project questions in written form. Everything included with each question is a direct quote of his written statement.

    1. What has enabled you to enjoy success as performer and teacher - both musically and nonmusically
      speaking?

      I had a good upbringing and enjoyed the support my parents gave me. By not really being a "popular" person, I found some social recognition by the fruits of spending time in a practice room. My continued pursuit of higher musical goals led me to better and better jobs. The sacrifice of one failed marriage and the prospect of no descendants has been tempered by the knowledge of knowing what I did was the correct thing to do at the moment. In the last eight years I have found solace in Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." It is the handbook of life. There has been no greater investment I have made because what is in that book has affected every other important thing in my life so completely.
    2. What prepared you to win the auditions you have won over the years?
      Adherence to the "basics" regarding the technical aspects of playing, especially low register ability, playing in tune and in time with clarity. 2) The idea of assigning a separate picture in mymind for every excerpt to be performed.
    3. How do you advise students that come to you to prepare for orchestral auditions?
      I tell them that the audition itself is a cosmetic end result. The real end result is to become a better player, a better musician. I tell them that the true judge of how good a player you are should be yourself and your smart pursuit of being an objective listener. What an audition committee thinks of your playing is secondary. Then I tell the student to work on the answers I gave in question 2) above.
    4. Do you see/hear audition repertoire on the horizon that is becoming standard audition repertoire that the profession doesn't think of as such today?
      Mahler: Symphony No.6, Liberman: "Drala," Gorecki: Piano Concerto
    5. What general advice do you have for anyone preparing for an audition?
      Do not base your happiness on the decisions of an audition committee. go for a much bigger goal in mind: you becoming a better musician. Judge yourself by the progress achieved, not the changeable winds of an audition committee.

    Interview with Ross Tolbert, tubist of the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra

    Mr. Tolbert won his position in the Minnesota Symphony in 1967. Prior to winning that position, he was tubist of the New Orleans Symphony. His first professional position (at age 17) was with the West Point Academy Band. In addition to his 31 year association with the MSO, he has also been the very successful professor of tuba at the University of Minnesota.

    1. What has enabled you to enjoy success as performer and teacher - both musically and nonmusically
      speaking?

      In younger years, starting out, a healthy ego didn't hurt. Over the years, he has been successful in evolving in his role in the job. Being a team player in the orchestra and fulfilling his role in all its aspects (beyond just playing well) has been important.
    2. What prepared you to win the auditions you have won over the years?
      Felt that he was indeed well prepared - understood the music as a whole, more than only the tuba part. Luck is also an element...
    3. How do you advise students that come to you to prepare for orchestral auditions?
      To win the audition the music must "speak." The player must "be in tune with the music." Further the player must BELIEVE in the music itself.
    4. Do you see/hear audition repertoire on the horizon that is becoming standard audition repertoire that the profession doesn't think of as such today?
      (Same comment as others - Sensemaya might become a more common part of lists, but it's already part of the repertoire of the informed player.)
    5. What general advice do you have for anyone preparing for an audition?
      • Tape your audition in advance just to listen to yourself instructively - one can't depend on
        one's own ability to hear all aspects of the performance while playing/practicing.
      • Whether making "practice" tapes or a tape to send in prior to a preliminary audition, have
        someone else "proof" your taped performances. Find the best people you possibly can to
        "audit" your tape.
      • Try to make your performance as "natural" as possible - put yourself (mentally) in the
        texture or the orchestra - you must have the TOTAL picture (musically speaking) in your mind.
      • Musicianship and basics (rhythm, tone, dynamics, and interpretation) are critical. The
        player must communicate confidence and must demonstrate total respect for the rules of the
        audition.
      • Should sight reading come up, try to get all the right notes - more important than the most
        accurate tempo.


    Photo of Dave and Jerry Young, 2012
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