RECOMMENDED

(used with permission from the Julia Rose website)


ORCHESTRAL TUBA PLAYING AND PLAYING FOR AUDITIONS

Included here are points to ponder in a career that not only leads into the orchestra but anticipates healthy survival as an orchestral tubist. Most of these points will be further explained if they are already not self-explanatory. If you have questions, ASK ME! Please note that many of these pointers have been given to me by many people through the years. Among the many, Jeffrey Reynolds gave me the key ones especially in regards to auditions.

AUDITIONS

Applying.
Make the right impression before you even play a note. Resumes should have the following:
  1. 1-2 pages maximum
  2. Type it.
  3. Is it the truth?
  4. It should be neat and organized
  5. Watch those deadlines!!
  6. Speling is verry imporntat!! At the very least spell PERSONNEL manager correctly.
  7. Phone number where you can actually be reached or a message can be left. Include area code.
  8. Information you do not have to give.
    • Race
    • Creed
    • Religion
    • Sex
    • Marital status
    • Age (i.e. birth date)
  9. Instrument position you are interested in.
  10. List only the organizations that will flatter (Daniel Barenboim will probably not be too impressed with the fact that you were first chair contra-bass bugle in the East Cupcake, Idaho All Boys' Drum and Bagel Corps).
  11. It will not hurt you to mention that you belong to a musical fraternity or are a member of TUBA.
  12. Do not forget to list any semi-finalist or finalist achievements you may have attained at other auditions.
  13. List the fact that you play a secondary instrument besides your primary one (cimbasso, euphonium, contrabass trombone, etc.)
  14. List music festivals, chamber music groups or solo festivals you've been involved with. As well, list awards and scholarships attained.
  15. List your current teaching position.

Audition preparation

The process of an audition is a replacement process. It starts with the opening but does not end until tenure is achieved.

If possible listen to excerpts done by the best orchestras around. If possible listen to recordings of the orchestra with whom you are auditioning. Consider the possibility that the audition committee may be looking for something completely different than what you are hearing on that orchestra's recordings.

Work from a position of strength. Let the excerpt you are working on be successful early on even if the only thing that is successful about it is a steady tempo. After that, work on the notes. After that, the dynamics, etc. It doesn't matter as long as you are expanding upon something (anything) that is successful with the way you are playing. In other words, don't look at the goals as big, many and insurmountable. If a glass is 7/8 empty (i.e. unsuccessful) do not work on that part. Work on the 1/8 that is full (i.e. successful) and expand upon it.

Play for friends. Invite them over or, better yet, go to a large hall or church and hold your "mock" audition there. Get used to walking out, sitting down, playing through the excerpts non-stop in any order.

Don't just play excerpts in preparation for an audition. Go through your entire warm-up and daily routine before working on the audition material (deep breathing, mouthpiece buzzing, long tones, melodious low etudes, lip trills, single tonguing, double tonguing, sight-reading, etc.). You should also be working on solo music whether it is a requirement at the audition or not.

Important equipment:

Use an electronic metronome, a tuner and a tape recorder which has variable speeds including a half-speed (double-speed) capability. An in-tune piano is helpful especially to sit next to side saddle with the tuba and play excerpts and /or solo lines together. Ask if this is not clear.

Although it is important to play in a small room to make sure you are not faking fast passages, get into a big hall and get used to projecting "beyond the coat closet" out to the last "exit" sign in the building.

Audition Day:

Try to make it a regular day.
No "special" warm-ups
Don't overkill lip
Check in at stated time, not an hour before.
When you walk out, play a few notes:
  1. This is to warm the horn up, not you.
  2. Make a beautiful, flattering sound to whet their palette for what is to come. No turgid, double-pedal ZZZZ's
  3. Listen to the hall while you play. Imagine what you sound like out there.
  4. Don't play a whole routine...just a few seconds.
  5. Before playing any excerpt, slow everything down. LOOK at the excerpt. Mentally play it before a sound is produced.
  6. Try not to hear players before or after you. Though they may really not be sounding good, you may think they are and will spoil the concentration you must have for yourself. Remember, the worst competition is not the other person; it is ourselves. We must be able to play up to the level we know of which we are capable in a pressure situation. Others don't matter in this regard.

BE YOURSELF

  1. Don't try playing like your teacher or your mentor on the day of your audition if it means changing something.
  2. Don't play like others around you.
  3. Don't use different, unfamiliar horns and don't decide to use alternative fingerings at the last minute.

    Be aware of:

  1. Musicianship
  2. Rhythm
  3. Tempo. Stick to a tempo once you're on it.
  4. Intonation. Know characteristics of relative intonation in solos and excerpts. Refer to Christopher Leuba's book on intonation to find tendencies.
  5. Dynamics. Use the full range. Brass players generally never get soft enough for committees. Remember there are non-brass players on the committee who might not buy into the "CREDO" like you do. Give the illusion that you are a sensitive musician.

Recommendations:

Get yourself on an audition committee or just get permission to sit in on auditions of any orchestra you can (pro, community, university, etc.) for ANY instrument. You'll learn a lot just by listening to what (all) players do on stage.

Listen to special instructions that come from behind the screen. They are often ignored.

Excerpts themselves should be very characteristic especially those that come from tutti sections BUT if there is an absolute solo, show them what you can do. Put it on the line! (i.e. "American in Paris" has go to WHALE!!)

REMEMBER:

You are being judged as a Potential Colleague. Among others, these are four major factors that tell a committee how you will be in the section:

  1. Preparation
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Attitude
  4. Absolutely world-class tone

Preliminary Audition Committee Objectives:

  1. Skill and Craftsmanship
  2. Command of the instrument (the ability of you to control the instrument and not that of the instrument to control you)
  3. Intonation
  4. Rhythm
  5. Conception of the piece or excerpt
  6. General Musicianship
  7. Selected Tempos

Semi-final and Final Audition Committee Objectives

  1. Rhythm (especially noted on tuba auditions)
  2. Creative, exciting musicianship
  3. World-class sound
  4. Intonation (general accuracy as well as tuning 3rds and 5ths, etc. with self and the section)
  5. Balance with the section (pyramidal concept)
  6. Matching articulation

OTHER THOUGHTS APPLICABLE TO AUDITIONS AS WELL AS SURVIVAL ON THE JOB. By keeping a few things in mind, life can be a lot easier to deal with as a student, professional or a hobbyist. At the very least, consider the seven points listed below. It requires imagination, an independent will, self-awareness and a conscience but I believe the results are worth it:

  1. BE PROACTIVE. Don't let the task act on you. You must act first. Only one person can make you start practicing at 8 AM. A tuba player doesn't have to wait until "Das Rheingold" appears on an audition list to start acquainting himself/herself from working on the score. It is your "responsibility" (i.e. ability to respond).
  2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. Be to knowledge as a sponge is to water. Look at the score, see how the part fits in. Try to know the composer' intentions beyond the notes or special instructions he/she may have. Imagine what it should sound like under ideal conditions (for example, "Die Walkuerenritt" played with 16 liters of vital capacity). These thoughts, once integrated are the FIRST creation you have of a piece. When you play it, you are creating it for the SECOND time. Ideally, they should be very much alike. Practicing is not boring. If it is, the principle of beginning with the end in mind should be restated and reinstated.
  3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST. This is the process of doing things which are important but not urgent. Long tones, low register, working on the free, relaxed exchange of air in the body, working on musical projects that are far in the future, etc. Waiting to work on long tones until the week before the audition is not going to result in positive solutions. Learning to play your instrument is a very "natural" process. You can't "cram" like you can for a music history test. It takes a steady commitment much like working on a farm. You must plant in the spring, water and weed in the summer before you can reap the harvest in the fall. There is no quick-fix on the farm or on the stage.

    Then, when you are working in a section:

  4. THINK WIN/WIN. Pursue a good working relationship with your low brass colleagues, especially the bass trombone. Find balances, articulations, etc. that complement the music more than your ego. Realize that the tuba does not have to be heard at all times in order to make the music right. Cooperation in the workplace is as important as competition in the marketplace.
  5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD. It is far better to strive to be a good ensemble player in an orchestra than it is to be a "soloist" within the orchestra. The only effective way of making good ensemble with your colleagues is by LISTENING to them and understanding their vantage point. (This sometimes means being an amateur psychologist.) By listening, this means listening to what they are playing as well as what they are saying. Then you must have the courage and tact to express yourself effectively. This not only has to do with communicating differences in technical as well as musical points (attacks, releases, intonation, volume, articulation, tone color, balance, phrasing, etc.) but also to have the courage to keep (or to get) the lines of communication open. It also may mean knowing when NOT to talk about some jugular issues.
  6. SYNERGIZE. This means taking points 4 and 5 and coming up with solutions that work within the section so the music wins. Value the DIFFERENCES you find in your colleagues. A player you are working with might get a pinched tone in the high register but maybe their rhythm is impeccable. Value the positive. Nurture the professional and personal relationship so you can talk about those aspects of the other's playing that are disagreeable with your own. You can ignore this step but why seriously damage the relationship of someone that you may have to spend the rest of your life sitting next to. Above all else, value the human asset. People have much to offer even when you are looking at things differently. Very occasionally, special performances occur where the product is much greater than the sum of the parts. This is the crowning achievement of synergy. You are lucky if it happens more than five times per season.
  7. SHARPEN THE SAW. This means to take time out for renewal; taking time to take care of your mental, physical, social and spiritual nature. Don't be a tuba player who happens to be a human being. I have never known a musician who on their deathbed wished they had spent more time in the practice room. Be a human being who happens to be a musician who happens to play the tuba. We are talking about being balanced and being wise in a "Ben Franklin" sort of way. This is done by taking care of our SELVES through reading great, deep literature, challenging our mind with new ideas, spending four hours out of a 168-hour week doing aerobic exercises, being one who thirsts to find out what another human being is all about and spends time looking deep inside themselves to find answers of jugular issues. It is very helpful to have role models. Not one role model will work in all situations.

These seven points can be applied to just about anything in your life. I believe if you spend efforts directed towards them, your musical accomplishments will improve. For more details about these ideas, pick up Covey's THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE. (Information below)

Listed below are questions with which I have struggled. These may be questions which you have asked yourself as well. If not, you may find yourself asking these questions later in your career. Listed also are several suggestions for a successful career:

Where do you want to live? Is playing in an orchestra more important than living in a particular place or would you rather live somewhere and end up doing something else besides playing in an orchestra? How long are going to be willing to put off dog, husband, wife, children, vacations, good weather, access to other culture etc., before you get that orchestra job that MIGHT never come? Read what other players say in a TUBA JOURNAL article from a few years ago, "View from the Back Row" (Vol. 17, No. 2, Spring 1989).

Do you enjoy the rural life away from the city but want to have a major orchestra job? Be ready for a long commute unless you pay a lot for a house. With orchestras in moderately-large cities and smaller going bust, you are in all likelihood going to have to try to live in a big city or be willing to spend at least as much time commuting as actually playing in the orchestra.

Is playing in the "best" orchestra somehow tied to your personal ego so much so that it prevents you from living somewhere else where you would really rather live though the orchestra in that town has not nearly the reputation?

Is it worth living in crowds and with crime all around in a big city (which also happens to support a big orchestra) so you can play the 17 minutes of a Strauss tone poem on stage at Carnegie Hall?

Definition of "REPUTATION": "The public or community estimation in which something is commonly held." Is public opinion always right? Are you willing to wager YOUR happiness on what other people tell you is truth though you may see reality differently? You wouldn't normally get a public opinion poll to find out who you should marry. Why should it work that way with an orchestra's reputation? Do you have to read a review to find out how you played last night? Is curiosity in what a reviewer says just that or is it going to ruin your day because you place too much dependence on somebody else's opinion?

Does your employer (orchestra management) realize the importance of mental and artistic renewal for its player? If a chamber music possibility occurs for a tuba player that would be innovative and refreshing, would management realize the long-term musical and human asset benefits which would affirm the player and eventually benefit the orchestra or do they think only of the short-term urgency by making that person forego the chamber music opportunity so he/she will be present to play a relatively insignificant concert that another player in town could play with no great or even notable loss of quality? In other words, does the employer value the employee by considering the human asset?

Do you as a player value the orchestra as a means for you to present your musical product and your musical potential to the public? Are you presenting yourself respectfully? Are you representing your instrument respectfully? Do you walk on stage with an energy of purpose that says, "I am not only an ambassador for myself and the music about to be presented. Tonight, I am THE ambassador of this musical instrument, the tuba. If this audience were to never hear another note of music from a tuba, I shall want my efforts of presenting it to be successful in demonstrating the beauty, the nobility and the expressiveness of which it is capable. I represent not only my own creativity on the instrument; I represent all the progress that has been made on this instrument until now. I am able to present what I can because I stand on the shoulders of those great players that are engraved in the instrument's legacy. I want to represent those players capably so future players will reach further heights than I, not only because of their own fine abilities but because they will be standing on all of their predecessors' shoulders. It is a great responsibility. I welcome it. I want the audience to love the tuba as I do."

Find colleagues in the orchestra you can relate to. They might not be sitting next to you. If they are, you are lucky. Appreciate that fact.

Find friends outside the orchestra. VERY important. This is a very good way to get some perspective on your job and your role in it. It also will put you face to face with the "real" world; a world that couldn't care less how bad a conductor is that YOU have to work with.

Go to other people's concerts especially chamber concerts. It is good for perspective and appreciation of music for music's sake.

Schedule your own recital every year or two. It is not only good to do something personal for your own instrument and art of making music but it is helpful to play in front of a group without 105 others to hide with.

If you like your colleagues in an orchestra and you like the environment, take the plunge and make it home. Help make it an even better place. Let the orchestra and community not only be better because of the way you play the instrument, your professionalism and the musicality you bring to the job, but let others and the community be enriched by your presence by taking on other roles than just being "the tuba player."

Take lessons at any age. Always be willing to learn. Study the Hindemith "Tuba Sonata" with a clarinet player. Study a Mahler song with a singer. Study Bach with a string player. It doesn't matter as long as you are willing to consider the possibility you can learn something new. At least it proves you aren't dead yet. If you have a week off, study with somebody great even if it is far away. If you study euphonium and have a week off from school drive to St. Louis or Chicago with a friend and get a couple lessons from Roger Oyster, Tim Myers or Michael Mulcahy. Hear the orchestra and live a little bit! The whole trip is a tax write-off and you will learn something NEW.

Take advantage of summer festivals like the ones in Saint Louis, Santa Barbara, Tanglewood, Tempe, Vermont, Idaho, etc.

Have a strong enough sense of security and purpose in your career so that you can see the virtue in many types of playing styles. In other words, don't believe that there is only one way to play an excerpt or a solo and there is only one person who can do it and anybody else who tries is crap. Roses come in different colors and sometimes yellow may be more appropriate than red.

Listen to orchestras in the flesh. If you can't do that the next best thing to do is to...

Listen to "live recordings" of orchestras and chamber music complete with coughs and clams. It is much more real than the "doctored" stuff that comes out of the Decca, Erato and other companies. These companies basically could not care less about the "sound" a particular orchestra produces. They are only interested in finding "their" sound hidden within an orchestra's sound. These "sonic greasetrap" recordings do NOT capture the true sound of an orchestra.

Listen to chamber music recitals and solo instrument recitals. It doesn't matter the instrument. Learn how any performer phrases, emotes, copes with nerves and takes command on stage. This is all applicable to what you would do in the same circumstance. This is to say nothing of listening to a piece of music in an oboe recital (for example) that sound interesting and imagining it transcribed for tuba.

Emphasize the low register. Let it have the contrast as you can derive in any register of the tuba. Let it be as controlled as the middle register.

It is better to play a smaller tuba that you can control well and can "fill up" rather than half-filling up a large tuba. Realize that you may eventually be able to play a large tuba in a very controlled way but that it may take some time to work up to it.

Work on yourself for improvement. Do not characterize yourself as a victim or you will surely become one. You probably know more than a few people who believe the whole world is against them. The minute you think the problem is "out there," that is the problem. Prejudice will always be present in some form. Do no be shocked when you find it. It is there. Work on it through your "circle of influence" (see the Covey book).

Listen to all types of music so you have a fair idea of what is expected of you. In a symphony job you may be playing Brahms the same week you are playing an Ellington pops concert. Develop a keen sense of imagination so the picture you have of "Tragic Overture" is completely different to that of "Satin Doll."

IMPORTANT!! The picture you have in your mind of what you want a particular solo or orchestral piece to represent is key to its interpretation. It hardly matters what you are thinking about as long as it is clear and is different from other pictures you imagine about other music.

More on role models. I believe that having an example to work from is a great way to develop real improvements in the way we view and deal with life. Personally and professionally I have some favorites that work for me. Jeffrey Reynolds has been a guiding light in my life for over two decades as a pillar of solid principles, great musicianship on the bass trombone and humor on the job that injects reality into what is a very unreal profession. I have never worked with a better section principal than Susan Slaughter. She is extremely objective, expects a lot from her section, always gives the benefit of the doubt and has more integrity than anyone I know. Jerome Howard ("Curly" for all the aficionados out there) is a great example of someone who never let social norms, other people's thoughts or the intense, personal pain that he experienced in his own offstage life affect his peculiar way of dealing with life onstage. If there is a conductor or a colleague who is being a pain in the ass to themselves and everyone around, it is the inspiration of a mindless Curly comment that brings everything back to basics ("Soit'nly!!"). "Red" Lehr and Charlie Vernon are great examples of two people who do not allow the "Emily Posts" of society affect their true selves. What you see, hear, smell and experience from these two people can mask the genuine human warmth and giving nature they possess in overwhelming doses. Michael Mulcahy is a model of someone who is inquisitive, serious, outrageous and one whose consummate artistry is totally inspiring.

Role models on the tuba: I have many examples of players I want to play like. Roger Bobo was the first. His radically unique sound in the early seventies inspired me to go well beyond the flabby, inarticulate blob which recording engineers aimed for such a long time (and still do). Roger was also an example of a player who was never too shy to keep trying something new and better, whether it was music, instruments, mouthpieces, etc. Tommy Johnson is a model of total stability. he cuts the fat away and gets right to the heart of the issue. His rhythm is impeccable. His low register is unapproachable. Arnold Jacobs is a great example for me of vitality and youthfulness in thought and spirit. What an adventurist!

I have various other role models for other areas in my life. The idea is to find examples that will help lead YOU on a road that you may wish to travel yourself. If something is insurmountable all it takes is one person to prove that it IS possible and everyone will jump on the bandwagon. Example: in the early 70's, William Kraft wrote "Encounters II" for solo tuba. Everyone said it was impossible to play. Then Roger Bobo recorded it. All of a sudden it was playable and possible. Now, lots of people can play it even though it WAS impossible at one point. How much courage does it take for YOU to be a role model for somebody else? How much will your playing, your life improve if you know others are looking up to you as a guiding light?

A great book: THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Published by Simon and Schuster. About $13.00. Available at almost any bookstore. Foreign language versions? Call 1-800-331-7716. This is the handbook for the human existence. Period.

Another great book. THE COMPOSER'S ADVOCATE by Erich Leinsdorf. Yale University Press. This book inspires you to look beyond the notes to find the music.

YOU ARE YOUR INSTRUMENT by Julie Lyonn Lieberman. Huiksi Music Company. THE AUDITION PROCESS by Stuart Edward Dunkel. Pendragon Press. These are books that deal with the body/mind/spiritual approach to the art of music performance with special emphasis on dealing with stress and anxiety.

REAL WORLD 101 -- What College Never Taught You About Success. by James Calano and Jeff Salzman. Warner Books. $7.95.

They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them

It is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. No one can hurt you without your consent.

You can't talk your way out of problems you've behaved yourself into.

BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. SELF-GROWTH IS TENDER; IT'S HOLY GROUND. THERE IS NO GREATER INVESTMENT.

Gene Pokorny
Principal Tuba, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Tuba, Summit Brass
Member, Three Stooges Fan Club

(used with permission from the Julia Rose website)

 

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