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  • Audition Day at the Coast Guard Band

    Audition Day at the Coast Guard Band
    by: MUC Chris Howard

    Usually, on a Monday following a late Sunday afternoon concert, Leamy Concert Hall is a quiet place. Monday, October 17th, 2016, however, was a different story. Forty-four French horn players from across America congregated at the Coast Guard Academy to audition for a single coveted opening in the United States Coast Guard Band. This was the final tally of musicians who chose to travel to New London for the two-day audition; 124 applicants inquired about the position. The auditionees represented such renowned institutions as The Manhattan School of Music, The Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, The University of North Texas, and The Curtis Institute. Many were already performing and teaching professionally or working on advanced degrees in music performance.

    Participants perform as many as four separate times during the audition process, with fewer musicians advancing to each subsequent round. Chief Musician Barrett Seals, the Coast Guard Band’s audition coordinator, greets the players in groups of ten as they arrive each hour to check in for their allotted audition time. “We work hard at the Coast Guard Band to ensure that all those who attend an audition here feel at ease and are set up to succeed through a thoroughly objective and professional process,” says Chief Seals. The preliminary and semi-final rounds are performed with the audition committee behind a screen to ensure complete anonymity.

    When it is time for an auditionee to perform, a proctor walks each candidate onto the stage and announces the player’s assigned number to the committee. Three well-known orchestral and band excerpts are chosen by the committee for performance in this preliminary round. The applicant plays the selections without interruption while the committee listens carefully to evaluate the performance. The total time allotted for this round per candidate is about eight minutes. This process was repeated for each of the forty four auditionees. At the end of the day, eleven musicians were selected to play in Tuesday morning’s semi-final round, for which the screen remained in place and anonymity retained.

    The semi-final round proceeded with a process identical to the preliminary; however, the musicians were each asked to play for a longer period of time. At this juncture in the audition, the performers were so similarly talented that longer listening times were critical to properly evaluate the candidates. From this round of semi-finalists, three candidates were chosen to move to the audition’s final round. For the finals, the screen separating the committee and players was removed and each of the three expert musicians asked to play for up to twenty minutes. Two of the three were then selected to play again, this time alongside the Coast Guard Band horn section. This helped to determine who would best fit into the sound of the ensemble.

    As with any premier service band or professional orchestra, auditions for the Coast Guard Band are an exhaustive and arduous process. In the end, a winning candidate was selected and interviewed by the Band’s leadership. Following the successful audition, the winner will meet with a Coast Guard recruiter to determine fitness for duty in the service and will enlist in the Coast Guard at the rank of Musician First Class for a period of four years.

    Visit the Coast Guard Band's site to learn more about the band, auditions, the musicians, and to hear recordings:

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