• Band and Orchestra Auditions, by Dr. Jerry Young

    A Sabbatical Report

    Spring Semester, 1998
    Audition Processes and Procedures in
    Washington, D.C. Military Bands and Choruses


    Selected (Civilian) Professional Orchestras and Choruses

    Jerry A. Young, Ed.D.

    Professor of Music

    The University of Wisconsin - Eau ClaireMay, 1998

    • Acknowledgements
    • Preface
      • Introduction
      • The audition process: common practice
      • The application process
      • At the audition
      • The performance
      • Adjudication

    • Critical Issues

    1. The pre-preliminary or preliminary tape as part of the application process
    2. Audition procedures
      • 2.a. Established procedures
      • 2.b. The audition committee
      • 2.c. Committee discussion during auditions
      • 2.d. Objectifying assessment in the audition

    3. Getting the best possible results: some suggestions for improvement
    4. Are auditions fair?

    • Implications for educators
    • Final thoughts

    Military Organization Summaries

    • U.S. Air Force
    • U.S. Army
    • U.S. Marine Corps
    • U.S. Navy

    Orchestra Interview Summaries

    • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    • Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus
    • Cleveland Symphony Orchestra
    • Cleveland Symphony Orchestra Chorus
    • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    • Grant Park Symphony Orchestra
    • Minnesota Symphony Orchestra

    Orchestra Conductors

    • Zubin Mehta
    • Eiji Oue
    • Henry Charles Smith III


    • Ronald Bishop
    • Martin Erickson
    • Wesley Jacobs
    • Fritz Kaenzig
    • Gene Pokorny
    • Ross Tolbert


    I would like to most sincerely thank the following groups and individuals for making this project possible: The UWEC Sabbatical Screening Committee of the Professional Opportunities Board, The Office of University Research and Assistant Dean Chris Lind for supporting the concept behind the project and for financial assistance to make the research possible; additional thanks to the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Carl Haywood, Dean, and to the Department of Music and Theatre Arts, Dr. David Baker, Chair for additional financial support; Dr. David Baker, Dr. Tim Lane, Mr. Jeff Hodapp, and Mr. Steve Catron for their overall support and for seeing that my duties were superbly covered and my students cared for during my absence from campus; Dr. Todd Fiegel, Dr. Richard Fletcher, Mr. Rodney Hudson, and Dr. Vanissa Murphy for being surrogate advisors for my advisees; Mr. Nobuyoshi Yasuda for his assistance with my visit to the Minnesota Orchestra; the members of the U.S. Air Force Band, Colonel Lowell Graham Commander and Conductor and Senior Master Sergeant Edward McKee who facilitated my visit; the members of the U.S. Navy Band, Lt. Commander John Pastin, Commander and Conductor and Senior Chief Musician Roger Behrend who facilitated my visit; the members of the U.S. Marine Band (The President's Own), Lt. Colonel Timothy Foley, Commander and Conductor and First Lt. Michael Colburn who facilitated my visit; the members of the U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own), Colonel L. Bryan Shelburne, Jr. Leader and Commander and Sergeant Major Jack Tilbury and Senior Master Sergeant John Mueller who facilitated my visit; The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim Conductor and Music Director and Gene Pokorny who facilitated my visit; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi Conductor and Music Director and Wesley Jacobs and Deborah Fayroian who facilitated my visit; The Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph Dohnanyi Conductor and Music Director and Ronald Bishop who facilitated my visit; The Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue Conductor and Music Director and Ross Tolbert who facilitated my visit; Zubin Mehta, Conductor and Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic; Fritz Kaenzig, Professor of Music at the University of Michigan and Principal Tubist of the Grant Park Symphony of Chicago; Martin Erickson, Professor of Music at the Pennsylvania State University and retired principal tubist of the U.S. Navy Band; Carl Topilow, Conductor and Music Director of the National Repertory Orchestra and Professor of Music at the Cleveland Institute of Music; and Henry Charles Smith III, Conductor and Music Director of the South Dakota Symphony. Finally (and certainly not least of all) my thanks to my wife, Dr. Barbara G. Young for her support of this project which included directing a large volume of message traffic and "protecting" me somewhat, not to mention the fact that my research certainly caused me to range far afield from home leaving her with increased responsibilities at home to add to her responsibilities as teacher and musician.


    An unexpected turn after my sabbatical leave was half past was a rather sudden family decision to build a new house. My wife equates this experience to our musical profession. First time home building is like giving a concert without having a rehearsal. Those best at home building are likely those new homeowners who have just completed the process and are not likely to repeat it soon. This description is also apropos to sabbaticals, I think. The further I progressed into my project, the more I sincerely wished that I could turn the calendar back to the earliest interviews and ask the interviewees more or, in some cases, entirely different questions. Further, what has emerged as a final product from my research is somewhat different from what was proposed and very different from my expectation. (Fortunately this wasn't the case with the house!) All that said, to say that I am very pleased and happy with the results of the project would be to considerably understate the case. The product that has come into being is, I believe, going to be quite useful to students and colleagues here at The University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and to music students and colleagues (both educators and performers) around the country. I hope it is also useful to the numerous participants - who are, in fact, the true owners of this research, as their gracious cooperation and donation of time and effort have made the study possible.

    My sabbatical proposal was to deepen and broaden my knowledge of audition repertoire for euphonium and tuba and to become a more effective teacher of that repertoire through working with individuals who deal with it on a daily basis as both performers and teachers. It quickly became evident that the various "new" or "surprise" selections that have been appearing on audition lists in recent years have been principally one-time anomalies. I did, in fact, observe many lessons and discuss literature and pedagogy with my colleagues, per my original proposal. Summaries of interviews with colleagues are included in the appendices. However, in order to gain maximum benefit for the profession from this time and effort, I considerably broadened my project to emphasize audition processes and procedures (which was actually a smaller portion of the original proposal), and this became the focus of my work. The end in view was and is to assist educators in better preparing students for auditions, as well as to help the profession to re- examine audition procedures. This topic is of such broad interest that I was invited to do several presentations on the results of my work during the sabbatical semester, and I continue to meet with colleagues and students to discuss these issues as time permits. The overwhelming number of requests for copies of the summation document which constitutes the body of this report led to the development of this web document. Obviously, the data is too cumbersome to print and/or mail on an individual by-request basis. Additionally, I broadened my coverage to include auditions for choral ensembles where choral ensembles existed.

    What follows is a presentation in which I have attempted to interpret the large body of data I have gathered. For those who love raw data, summaries of the various interviews that provided the data for my study and reflection are included in the appendices. I realize that some of my interpretations (and opinions) will be controversial to some readers. So many matters relative to the audition process are subjective, therefore we may have to agree to disagree about some points. Nevertheless, the thoughts written here are the result of considerable reflection on the considered opinions of many individuals who have extensive experience in dealing with auditions as audition committee members or as individuals with hiring authority. I hope that the reader finds my thoughts useful or, at worst, a catalyst for further thought and discussion on this most fascinating topic.

    NOTE: This web site is appearing on-line more than six years after the completion of my research. The reader should be aware that audition thought and procedure is constantly evolving. While I stand by my conclusions and suggestions for organizations and educators, some statements made by interviewees regarding specific audition procedures for particular organizations may no longer be true or in practice. I did my best to report the status of audition procedures and thought on auditions at the time the interviews took place. The only thing that will never change about audition practice and procedure is change.


    Ralph Curry, cellist and personnel manager of the Cleveland Orchestra, stated in an interview that: "Auditions are a legacy for any performing organization. Auditions play an important role in helping the organization to maintain its artistic identity and integrity." In interviewing many individuals associated with several organizations and observing auditions in many settings during the spring of 1998, Mr. Curry's statement has rung very true. Each of the organizations and individuals I interviewed has rather passionate feelings about auditions and about the unique way auditions are conducted for vacancies in their organizations reflecting a special pride in the musical achievements of their ensembles over time. My interviews and observations have taken place over a period of nearly three months. During that time I have had opportunity to read and re-read summaries of my interviews and to reflect upon the varied practices that professional performing organizations employ in auditions, as well as the commonalties that exist. In this summation paper, I will describe the common features which seem to exist in almost all audition settings, then I will discuss issues relative to the audition process that, as a result of my observation and reflection, I feel need to be more closely examined by the profession. These issues will include the use of taped pre-preliminary and preliminary auditions, codification of audition practices, composition of audition committees, discussion among committee members during the audition process, objectification of assessment, and completing the assessment cycle. In closing I will offer some suggestions that the profession might consider for strengthening the audition process, discuss the issue of fairness, and suggest issues that educators need to consider in preparing individuals for auditions.

    An additional introductory note for the non-musician reader

    Positions in professional orchestras and choruses and military bands and choruses in the United States are highly contested. It is not at all uncommon to have hundreds of applications for any vacancy (particularly for the premiere military bands or any prominent national or regional orchestra), and a considerable number of those individuals indeed meet the basic requirements to fulfill the duties of the advertised position. Even positions wherein the salary does not constitute a full-time living wage, there are usually a large number of candidates seeking an initial position which can be used as a "stepping stone" to a better position with a more prominent organization in the future.

    The Audition Process: Common Practice

    The application process

    The basic application process for most organizations is very simple. A brief cover letter and resume are sufficient. Most military organizations also require a full-length photo, as appropriate physical condition and appearance are requisite for employment with those organizations. The letter should be in a standard business format and should meet the standard requirements for any business or other communication wherein one wishes to make a favorable first impression. The resume should include only information and experience that is pertinent to the position for which one is applying. Candidates should be very sure that name, address, and instrument or voice character are clearly indicated at the top of the page. Although a proper resume is certainly important for any position, it is most critical for orchestral positions wherein a limited number of applicants will be accepted for audition and no taped audition is involved.

    The pre-preliminary tape is standard application fare for civilian auditions for The U.S. Army Band and The U.S. Air Force Band (vocal and instrumental). Persons are selected from the taped round to come to Washington, D.C. for a live preliminary audition. The U.S. Marine Band and The U.S. Navy Band will review tapes prior to live auditions, however, anyone may come to an audition for those organizations. None of the orchestras I interviewed require tapes as a matter of course for vocalists or instrumentalists (some do use taped pre-preliminary auditions for instrumentalists on particular occasions - in those instances, qualified candidates receive specific requests for tapes). Most orchestras will review tapes upon applicant request in order to advise candidates of likelihood of success.

    At the audition

    Although there was some variance of opinion about this issue, the consensus opinion of interviewees was that it is advisable for candidates to dress and groom in a manner that shows respect for the organization and position for which one is auditioning. Some committees may be swayed (to disfavor a candidate) because of poor personal appearance.

    In some settings candidates enter the building where auditions take place by a special entrance to avoid any contact with audition committee members. Generally, specific audition times are assigned upon arrival at the audition site. After times are assigned, candidates generally go to a communal warm up area for general warm up. Anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes before the actual audition, candidates are usually taken to a private, quiet area to gather thoughts and prepare alone. The proctor for the audition will generally escort candidates to the audition site. When the audition is a screened audition (which is the case for most, but not all, preliminary instrumental auditions), the candidate must not speak during the audition. Great measures are taken to preserve anonymity in cases where anonymity is desired. Many instrumental organizations even carpet the audition area and require candidates to remove shoes (in order to protect against potential gender bias). Music is provided, and generally the proctor is present throughout the audition to assist with any problems. Candidates are usually informed regarding promotion to subsequent rounds or dismissal at regular intervals. Vocal auditions are not, as a rule, so heavily regulated with regard to anonymity. Screens are only very rarely used in vocal auditions.

    The performance

    In almost every case, the audition performance consists of excerpts or complete parts from the standard repertoire for the ensemble. In a few instances for instrumentalists solos are required - sometimes chosen by the auditionee and at other times by the organization. Vocalists are always required to present solo selections. Sightreading is a significant portion of the audition (usually in finals only) for military bands. Orchestras rarely, if ever, use true sightreading in auditions. Common practice is to only ask for sightreading when reaching a final decision is difficult and even then "sight reading" will generally consist of music from the standard repertoire that was not on the initial audition list. Choral organizations have widely varying policies regarding sight reading, but most who do use it use it more as a measure of overall musical skill than as an ultimate deciding factor in the audition.


    Adjudication of auditions varies widely from organization to organization in terms of the make- up of audition committees and the manner of voting. Some organizations have elected committees that represent a cross section of the performers across the orchestra while others rely on "experts" (i.e. brass players listen to brass auditions, strings to strings, etc.). In almost all cases, the audition committee, regardless of its composition, is joined by the music director or commander (in military situations) for the final round. (In only one instance among the organizations I interviewed did the conductor listen to both preliminary and final auditions.) A very few organizations have on-paper, objective assessment instruments to score candidates. Most simply take a yes/no vote (some by secret ballot, others by show of hand) on each candidate with a simple majority granting promotion to the subsequent round. For one organization, a single yes vote from the committee is sufficient to pass a candidate to the final round. In most organizations, discussion among committee members during the preliminary rounds is either forbidden or highly discouraged. Even in the final rounds discussion is usually held to a minimum where possible, at least until all finalists have performed. The absolute common ground for all organizations interviewed is that, in the end, one person is responsible for the hiring decision. In the case of the military bands, the commander of the organization makes the final decision, and for orchestras, the music director makes the final decision. In most cases (there are definite exceptions), the commander or music director follows the advice of the committee.

    In Washington, D.C. military band auditions there is always an interview either during or immediately after the final round. As a general rule these interviews are much like standard job interviews, except that some very personal questions are asked to assist the organization in determining that a potential audition winner will qualify for White House security clearance.

    Critical Issues

    1. The pre-preliminary or preliminary tape as part of the application process

    For many years the taped preliminary audition has been a fixture in American musical culture. Whether for admission to a music camp (or even a music school), for a solo or mock audition- type competition, or for a military band, "making the tape" has been a fact of life for most serious musicians, whether a vocalist or instrumentalist. One thing that is a constant up to the present day is the assumption that the tape sent to a potential employer must be as nearly perfect as is possible. Prior to the advent of digital technology, judging "an honest tape" was not terribly difficult for audition committees. If a committee listened to tapes on reasonably good audio equipment, "splices" could usually be fairly clearly heard. Very few individuals would have had access to a recording studio, let alone enjoy the prospect of owning high tech recording equipment themselves. As a result of that situation, successful candidates generally spent many hours over an extended period of weeks or months putting together performance tapes that were as perfect as possible using whatever equipment might be available to them. On the whole, a reel-to-reel or cassette tape could be considered to be a reasonably accurate representation of what a candidate might do in the live performance setting (within liberal margins).

    Digital technology has radically altered the assurance of truly accurate representation of a musician's abilities in almost every imaginable way. When a recording is made using a DAT machine and that person has access to digital editing equipment, the editing possibilities are staggering. A person who knows the way around digital editing software can alter anything from a single pitch (either by changing the pitch or adjusting the intonation) to the tone color of the voice or instrument. Although some individuals that I interviewed believe that committee members can detect digitally edited performances, I would doubt that that is actually the case. Most performances that we hear on compact discs, whether a popular music group or a symphony orchestra, are digitally edited, and I seriously doubt that even the finest ear can identify alterations or "splices." This technology (like most technology) is going down in cost. Many individuals now own DAT recorders, and many universities have digital editing equipment that is available for student use either in open music technology laboratories or through student government financed recording and broadcast facilities. Basic digital editing software can even be purchased for use on a home computer. For those who do not have access to such equipment, the cost of making a tape in one of the many small recording studios around the country is not entirely beyond the reach of an average person.

    The crux of the matter is that, while the technology is generally available, some individuals have easy access to it and others have little to no access to it for a variety of reasons ranging from financial to geographical. It is entirely possible for individuals who are less qualified to reach "the next step" in the audition process over more qualified candidates because of the advantage of digital recording and editing. Although I am without data or other material forms of proof, I am certain that this has already happened numerous times.

    My observations during the course of this project with regard to this matter lead me to the following conclusions/suggestions:

    • Some broad forum should be established to discuss this issue. Organizations, whether professional musical organizations attempting to fill vacancies or educational organizations seeking students or competition contestants, need to come together to discuss alternatives to taped auditions or the establishment of a code of ethics to which applicants for positions, awards or events will agree to adhere when recording application tapes.
    • With reference to the above statement (alternatives to taped auditions), perhaps professional organizations could develop sophisticated application forms that would also serve as a substitute for the resume and then heavily screen those forms. Without doubt, this could be an expensive and time consuming process, however the existing mechanism is also expensive and time consuming, both for applicants and organizations. (NOTE: intense resume screening has been the sole primary method to find preliminary candidates for the Cleveland Orchestra for many years, and it appears to be quite successful for that organization.)
    • Until such time as a code of ethics is established and as long as taped auditions are used, candidates should (in my opinion) without fail utilize digital technology to the fullest extent possible in preparing audition tapes. "Perfect" audition tapes are being manufactured by individuals across this country and around the world. Based on what I have seen and heard, anyone who is seriously pursuing a position had best be one of those individuals unless he/she wishes to place themselves at a considerable disadvantage..

    2. Audition procedures

    2.a. Established procedures

    While the procedures described at the outset of this presentation are more or less standardized, there are as many dissimilarities in audition procedures as there are similarities. Every organization has procedures that seem to basically work for them and all concerned are always seeking ways to improve the situation for both audition candidate and audition committee. After rather extensive discussion of audition procedures with so many individuals in so many settings, it seems to me that the variance in procedures from organization to organization is not at all a bad thing. Each organization must use procedures that allow it to maintain its peculiar musical and organizational integrity. Again, having looked at so many different circumstances, it does concern me somewhat that there is quite a lack of consistency within some instrumental organizations from audition to audition. In an age that is as litigious as is ours, I would encourage all organizations to be as consistent as possible in audition practices and procedures throughout the organization and to carefully codify those practices and procedures. I have included as an appendix to this paper the new audition operating procedures for the United States Air Force Band. (My special thanks to Colonel Lowell E. Graham for allowing me to include this document with this report.) While anyone may choose to agree or disagree with the practices and procedures described in that document, the clarity regarding audition policies, practices, and procedures both from the viewpoint of the institution and from the viewpoint of a candidate is absolutely inarguable. This document is "state of the industry." I encourage all who read this paper to carefully examine that document and to consider encouraging their institutions to codify their practices and procedures as carefully. The format is irrelevant, but the careful thought that went into producing this document is not. Doubtless, the formulation of such a document may produce some heated debate, but the heat of the debate should temper the quality of the final product.

    2.b. The audition committee

    The data from the interviews indicates that there is quite wide variance in the makeup of audition committees from organization to organization. Some instrumental organizations base eligibility for service on audition committees on rank or experience, while others simply elect audition committees from the ensemble at large. Still others restrict audition committees to "like instrument family" members of the ensembles (string players are on string audition committees, etc.). Vocal ensembles (as a rule) are at one of two extremes: either the conductor (and perhaps the associate conductor) hear auditions and make decisions or virtually the entire ensemble listens as a committee. Each of these methods of selecting audition committees have supportable thought and reasoning behind them, and any informed reader of this document could probably articulate the reasons each method might be chosen.

    After discussing all these situations, observing auditions, and reflecting on the matter, I would ask the profession to consider the following:

    • Committees of any nature in any organization are as successful as the members of those committees are committed to the assigned task. This basic reality needs to be taken into consideration when designing contract language relative to audition committee membership in the civilian world or when considering military audition committee assignments. Only those individuals who are committed to the task should be elected, appointed, or assigned. The election system apparently often drafts individuals with little interest in auditions into positions of great responsibility that will affect both the ensemble and the lives of individual auditionees. In some groups, those individuals seem to spend considerable time seeking out others to fulfill their elected responsibility - which probably often places other individuals somewhere they would rather not be. Perhaps individuals in any professional organization should have the opportunity to indicate to management and colleagues interest or lack of interest in serving on audition committees.
    • The notion of having persons on an audition committee from outside a section or instrument family in which a vacancy occurs seems to be a sensible one to me. Choral ensembles virtually never have only sopranos listen to sopranos! Certainly, expertise relative to the performance skills of a given instrument (or voice) must be represented on an audition committee and should likely even have a majority voice in making recommendations, as those persons will be working most closely with the eventual employee. However, the person(s) whose expertise does not lie primarily in the performance area being auditioned can add a great deal to the audition through their ability to detach themselves almost entirely from technique and focus primarily on musical skills, particularly intonation and time. (This is definitely not to say that it is not possible for any musician to recognize quality or lack of quality in all facets of performance. My statement is simply acknowledging that we are all capable of becoming obsessed with technical aspects of music making in our particular performance areas.) Having representatives of other areas is simply a sensible control that might assist in helping to find the best possible musician.
    • Several instrumental organizations make an issue of having only the audition committee present during auditions. While the orchestral choral ensembles interviewed have only members of their administration in attendance (with the possible exception of a union representative), most of the military choral organizations invite their entire ensemble to participate in the audition process, a practice that exists in many European orchestras. In several European orchestras, in fact, the entire orchestra votes on the finalists to determine the recommendation to the Maestro - who is in many cases bound to their vote. I would encourage instrumental organizations to follow the lead of the military vocal organizations in this country. All the organizations involved in this study are comprised of some of the world's finest musicians. Allowing them to (at least at a minimum) audit auditions provides the opportunity for more ears to hear and more input to come to the committee that is charged with making a recommendation. A few written comments passed to a member of the committee from auditors may bring up points that could be of considerable assistance and importance. While it's true that "too many cooks can spoil the broth," more opinions can certainly be beneficial if properly managed.

    2.c. Committee discussion during auditions

    Policies regarding committee discussion during auditions very much surprised me. Once again, since orchestral vocal organizations involve so few individuals in their audition process, this isn't truly an issue in that setting. Military vocal ensembles seem to encourage discourse all through the audition process, while almost all the instrumental ensembles either highly discourage or outright forbid conversation among committee members. An audition is certainly not the place for extended conversation, for the candidate deserves to be heard by each committee member to the fullest extent possible. However, very brief, judicious comments during an audition by any member of a committee might draw attention to important positive or negative factors while those factors are still sounds in the air. Further, a two or three minute break between candidates for discussion could be very beneficial to a committee in accomplishing its work. Both Zubin Mehta and Henry Charles Smith in their comments to me indicated that discussion among committee members - even heated discussion - is important to reaching the best decision. Among the various interviews I conducted with audition committee members, several could recall instances where candidates who should have been finalists were dismissed, and the entire committee came to the realization that this should not have been the case too late to recall them. This situation might not always be rectified through discussion, but it would likely occur with less frequency (at least in my opinion).

    To avoid any appearance of total naivete, I should say here that I understand the particular problems and circumstances that exist in military situations wherein persons of different ranks may be working together in audition situations. For the information of those not familiar with military rank and protocol, it is possible that senior individuals on an audition committee may be responsible for evaluating overall job performance of junior individuals on the committee. (Those evaluations affect both retention and promotion.) In some branches of the military, discussion in auditions is discouraged or forbidden in order to negate the possibility that a senior evaluator might develop some prejudice against a junior evaluatee because of disagreement or that the junior member simply might not express an opinion at all because of fear of prejudice. This is indeed an unfortunate circumstance that I would encourage military organizations to study and, if possible, change where it exists. The inability to have an open discussion, per the Mehta and Smith comments, can most certainly inhibit the ability of a committee to come to the best possible result. Trained musical ears and informed musical opinions (even when they are at variance) know no rank. The audition situation should be a setting where the heat of combined musical intellect forges a product that will strengthen the ensemble (without burning any of the participants!).

    2.d. Objectifying assessment in the audition

    While the science of assessment has made significant advances in the past half century, musicians (at least in the performance part of the profession) have by and large managed to strategically avoid knowledge of or involvement with those advances. In the audition setting in particular we tend to hide behind the notion that adjudication of performance is very subjective, a matter of taste, etc. As a performing musician who has done a good deal of adjudication, I am not entirely out of sympathy with those feelings. At the same time, there are definitely some things that happen in auditions (or any musical performance) that we are absolutely capable of assessing objectively. All the technical aspects of "basic" good playing are readily observable: intonation, rhythm, time, tone quality, and so on are items that can be specifically observed and assessed by any competent musician. Matters of overall musicality and appropriate interpretation of a given work are indeed subjective and arguable items. Nevertheless, in the interest of entering into discussion in the most informed manner possible and achieving the best possible and most accurate result, I believe that some sort of instrument that allows audition committee members to rate and comment on objectively observable aspects of the audition performance and also to add comments on the more subjective aspects of the performance to be very valuable. In addition to providing a reference for discussion, the obligation of using such an instrument more or less forces each committee member to be very involved in really listening to each auditionee.

    While it is most true that professional performing organizations are not in the business of educating individuals who aspire to membership in their ranks, some attempt to keep at least simple records of auditions (perhaps just rating instruments as described above) and making it possible for at least the finalists to receive some comments regarding their audition performance could possibly make a difference at some future audition - for both individual and committee. Some military organizations do attempt to provide some assistance to finalists via verbal discussions at the conclusion of the audition, however, written assessments would add more authenticity to the evaluations. The Chicago Symphony Chorus actually keeps audition assessments on file for both successful and unsuccessful auditionees and is able to use those records to assist unsuccessful auditionees with information regarding audition weaknesses, which they might bolster to improve future auditions. This is definitely an ideal to which other organizations might aspire.

    Audition assessment instruments are used by the Chicago and Cleveland Symphony Choruses and the U.S. Air Force Band. These instruments are used very successfully by these organizations and are not overly complicated, nor should they be intimidating to any committee member. Any instrument is, of course, only as good as the observer using it, but most of us in the professional music field are, by the very nature of what we do, excellent observers.

    Obviously, what we do in auditions determines the entire course of many lives. Anything that we can do to be able to quantify and justify the decisions that we make relative to those lives should both strengthen us as a profession and enable us to better cope with this tremendous responsibility as individuals.

    3. Getting the best possible results: some suggestions for improvement

    In the course of conversations with conductors and ensemble members, a few topics came to the fore repeatedly, and all of them dealt with areas that are not commonly evaluated in the audition process. Here I would like to comment on the three items that came up most frequently. Two items were common to both military and civilian organizations, while the third is a factor only for the civilian groups.

    The first issue is concerned with evaluating finalist candidates' ability to follow what is happening from the podium. Apparently candidates are hired from time to time who are indeed fine players but are not sufficiently able to respond to the language of the baton. Almost needless to say, this situation creates considerable tension not only between the player and the podium, but also between the player and colleagues. It seems strange that we assume so much about such a fundamental skill and so seldom evaluate it in the audition setting. Perhaps a very brief (two minute?) trial wherein the finalist candidates perform audition passages that are conducted by the music director could provide at least a minimal idea of the performer's ability to "follow." Vocalists are often required to do this, either in the context of an ensemble rehearsal, a chamber group rehearsal, or sometimes as an individual. Instrumentalists should consider following their lead.

    A second issue is another that is of extreme fundamental importance to the sound and success of any ensemble - the ability of candidates to blend with colleagues in the section. Particularly when the audition has been narrowed to two or three candidates, it would seem to be a wise thing to hear the candidates perform (at the least) three or four brief passages in the context of the section with which they would be working. This should assist the committee and music director immeasurably in determining whether the person is a "musical fit" for the section and the ensemble. In situations where all members of a section are not participating on the audition committee, it also would/should provide all section members the opportunity to provide input to the final decision and perhaps create the best chance of having the new employee walk into a very inclusive, positive political atmosphere. The only better situation might be to have the individuals participate in a rehearsal with the entire ensemble, although that possibility might be logistically and financially prohibitive in many instances. Most of the military vocal ensembles accomplish all this inside their audition procedures, and it makes a large difference for their ensembles. The Minnesota Orchestra has final candidates play with their section when possible and has found the practice to be very worthwhile.

    The third issue has less to do with musicianship and more to do with personality and values. How can an organization know that a person is going to "fit in" with the philosophy of the organization, colleagues, and administration? Military musical organizations are able to ascertain the answers to those questions up to a point, because each military organization conducts a formal interview with potential audition winners. In almost any business one must prove one's ability to fulfill the duties of the job, however, one must also be able to show the ability to fulfill those unwritten duties that go along with any position. Does the person have a personality that will promote harmony within the organization? Does the person possess the intellect to make sound decisions? What kind of image will this person present to the public? The list of important questions is endless. The most wonderful musician at the audition might also be the person who could be a source of dissension or unhappiness that could take a large toll on the success of an ensemble. In this writer's opinion, those who ignore these possibilities allowing the sole determination of audition success to be musicianship/performance ability may be doing so to the detriment of their organization. In today's incredibly competitive musical profession, why not hire the most complete candidate possible? In a recent conversation with a colleague, I learned that the St. Louis Symphony is investigating these kinds of personnel issues prior to the audition. Interested parties might wish to contact that organization for more information.

    4. Are auditions fair?

    In the course of my interviews I talked with many, many individuals associated with (at least) ten different organizations. When the subject of fairness was broached, in every instance the intent of the organization and its audition committees to be fair was very intensely and vigorously defended. In some interviews, audition situations wherein lack of fairness either might have been perceived by some candidates were described. If another action had been taken in most of those situations, a different group of candidates would have likely perceived that action as being unfair. As in so many "real life" situations, sometimes there is no solution which will either have the appearance of being (or in fact be) fair to everyone. As an impartial outside observer, I must say that I strongly believe that each of the organizations I interviewed is going to the furthest lengths within its resources to be as fair as is humanly possible inside the procedures they have laid down for auditions - and I believe this is the case throughout the industry. I am certain that there are isolated instances of unfairness in auditions, but I am just as convinced that those instances are very rare.

    Auditionees must remember that professional auditions are not contests in the same sense as a solo competition. A performance organization's audition is an "interview" as well as a demonstration of performance ability. The organization must select an individual whose musical qualities match the needs of the ensemble most closely. Over many years I have listened to incredulous stories told by individuals who have played or heard an audition which they deemed to be absolutely fabulous, but the auditionee either was not advanced to a final round or was not selected as a winner in a final round. Generally the story teller has been outside the particular work environment where the audition has taken place. Before leveling accusations of unfairness against an organization, one must always remember that fairness in a job interview situation lies in being given the best opportunity to show one's wares to the best of one's abilities. I believe these organizations "bend over backwards" to provide that opportunity for every auditionee. The hiring decision is based on the organization's needs, musical philosophy, and character. Relative to this entire matter, auditionees should heed the advice of Gene Pokorny, principal tubist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: "Do not base your happiness on the decisions of an audition committee. Go for a much bigger goal: becoming a better musician. Judge yourself by the progress achieved, not the changeable winds of an audition committee." One can be a great musician and a great performer and maybe even be able to give the most perfect performance at an audition and still not win. This does not mean that the audition or the audition process is unfair. It simply means that a given individual is not the right person for a particular work situation, and that determination is one that only the potential employer can make. Perseverance is a very important quality on the audition circuit.

    Implications for Educators

    At the outset of this project, the primary intent was to gather information that would assist educators in preparing students who intend to audition for professional positions. The information presented thus far should certainly be of assistance to educators. The points that follow are in some cases simply a review and re-emphasis of previously stated information and in other cases information that could only be presented appropriately here.

    1) Be certain that students who are aspiring performers are fully aware of what the term "professional standard" means relative to an audition. The student should be aware that only spending time in a practice room (although this is a necessity) is not enough to qualify one for a professional audition. Getting ninety-eight percent (plus) of the notes, rhythms, intonation, etc. correct is a given for someone who is qualified to win a professional audition. One must also demonstrate outstanding musicianship, and that must be developed through listening to and observing live professional concerts, as well as through listening to recordings. The sounds one hears (both musically and technically speaking) in those settings represent the standard one must meet in order to be competitive. Students must understand that, although perfection is not usually attainable, audition winners are generally close to perfection while demonstrating outstanding musicianship. (Note: listening to and observing non-professional concerts of all kinds can be just as important in guiding an aspiring professional's development.)

    2) To the best of our ability as educators, we should inform students of the full responsibilities that go with a performance position. One of the consistently evident truths that came forth from interviews in all settings is that even those who are successful in auditions have virtually no idea of "the big picture" with regard to the position that has been won. Most young people hold a vision of professional band or orchestral performance that includes only practice, performance, and going home. Practice and excellence as a performer are simply the basic expectations. It is each musician's responsibility to make the work environment as productive as possible. Toward that end, conscious development of human relations skills and a sense of personal responsibility for "taking care of business" in all its aspects (always being prepared and on time, properly groomed, etc.) is crucial to success. As a profession, we need to impress upon future auditionees the fact that, in virtually any position, one is going to be asked to participate in the life of the larger organization. Most organizations have a governance structure in which musicians should take an active part. This might include volunteering to participate in committees, especially those wherein one has special interest, experience, or expertise. Explaining political awareness is a difficult task, however, we need to at least provide an introduction of the reality of the need for political awareness.

    To carry this issue one step further, aspiring performers should actively cultivate the ability to speak about music in general and about what they do (both broadly and specifically) with fluency. No organization told me that the ability to present oneself well verbally would (at this point in time, at least) "make or break" an audition. In orchestral situations, one doesn't even have the opportunity to demonstrate any verbal presentation abilities. However, in this time of declining budgets wherein fund raising has become tantamount to organizational success, the ability to present oneself well in public verbally as well as musically can literally double one's value to a musical organization. This may be a key "collateral responsibility" for the well- prepared musician of the future.

    3) Have students learn and prepare the repertoire expected for auditions. It seems that, in truth, many individuals come to auditions who do not even know all the "standard excerpts" for choral, band, or orchestral auditions, let alone actually having learned the repertoire. As expressed earlier in this presentation, "knowing the excerpts" is only a beginning. We must do a much better job of having our students "learn the repertoire" and be sure that our students truly understand the meaning of the phrase. This means more time spent in lessons, master classes, and outside assignments with scores and recordings doing intelligent, analytical listening. This should also imply the need to encourage our students to give much more serious and intent attention to their studies in music history and form and analysis courses. According to Eiji Oue of the Minnesota Orchestra, one should even know the movements of works wherein one is tacet!

    I am not advocating forsaking the study of technique or solo repertoire. The former develops and establishes command of the voice or instrument, and the latter develops and refines the musical skills that are necessary to performance in any setting. If we are educating students whose goal is performance in a professional choral or instrumental ensemble, however, we must provide a balance in the training that includes the repertoire for audition situations and work with that repertoire seriously and regularly.

    4) Inform and prepare students for audition peripherals: stage presence, appearance, and interviews. Although I chose not to include in this summary statement the numerous (quite humorous, unfortunately) stories regarding audition stage presence, appearance, and interviews I heard during my travels, the existence of such stories in impressive numbers holds an important message for educators. None of us want one of our students to be the main character in one of these tomes, but often the steps aren't taken to prevent it. I believe that most of us can accomplish the basics for our students with one master class per year (or even just part of a master class) on these topics.

    As implied in the description of common audition practice at the beginning of this presentation, not many people were willing to actually say that personal appearance is a factor in winning or losing an audition, however, one doesn't have to "listen between the lines" very intently to understand that we should be encouraging our students to have a thoroughly professional appearance, whether behind a screen or not.

    When there is no screen, candidates should project an air of polite confidence. One personnel manager told me that it is possible for a candidate to lose the audition between the stage door and sitting down at the stand - before a note is ever played. In one audition described to me, a candidate came on stage with such an air of obnoxious overconfidence that the committee virtually immediately and unanimously decided that this was a person with who they did not wish to work. "Pleasant confidence" was terminology that was presented more than once.

    Currently the military bands are the only place one can actually count on an interview, however, at least one orchestral music director I spoke with does like to interview final candidates before making the hiring decision. Interviewing skills in any of these settings are no different from interviewing skills in other job settings, but are we sure that our students are learning those basic job interview skills somewhere outside our studios? I fear that most university music curricula relegate mock interview situations only to music education majors. Exploring interview skills with performance majors or liberal arts majors interested in performance positions would seem to be as appropriate as setting up mock auditions and, in the case of preparation for military band auditions, simply complete the preparatory experience.

    5) Be certain that students understand the hardships of the audition circuit (time, money, inconvenience). Over the course of the past three months I had the opportunity to talk with people who are currently seeking positions. After describing my project to them, several requested that I include the following comments to educators.

    In dreaming the dream of winning a professional position while sitting in the practice room or learning scores while listening to recordings, it is very easy to romanticize and even to convince oneself that one will walk into the first audition that comes along and win the committee's ears and hearts. It has happened, but only very rarely. Many individuals who eventually win a position go through many auditions before meeting with success. I believe that, in our enthusiasm for the most talented of our students, we as educators are sometimes susceptible to being swallowed up by that dream, too. We need to be sure to keep a sense of practicality and infuse that sense in our students. Many people pursuing professional music careers must have a "day job" that allows for practice, study, and preparation. When auditions come up, often that means giving up work obligations and salary and adding plane fare and hotel bills to the budget. Those factors are always a strain on the pocketbook, but also can be a strain on family and personal relationships. As educators we are obligated to give as complete a picture of "the real world" as is possible, and the truth about the arduous audition trail is yet another part of the picture that unfortunately ends up being a bit of a surprise to many young people.

    Final Thoughts

    This presentation is most certainly not "the final word" on any of the topics covered. I hope that it does serve as a useful point of departure for discussion within and between professional musical organizations and among educators as the audition process continues to evolve. All opinions expressed here are just that, but they are indeed based upon the factual information that I have gathered over the past three months. Perhaps my comments and opinions can serve as a basis for further investigation by other members of our musical community.

    The articles I have prepared for the Journal of the National Association of Wind and Percussion Instructors, The American Choral Director's Association, and the ITEA Journal together with the summaries of my interviews are included in the appendices of this report. Hopefully, those items will provide answers to questions the reader may have.

    This project suggests (at a minimum) the following possible future projects for other researchers:

    1) Investigation of audition processes and procedures in orchestras on the east and west coasts of the U.S. with comparison and contrast to my findings.

    2) Deeper investigation of audition processes and procedures for the non-Washington, D.C. military bands.

    3) Investigation of audition processes and procedures internationally. Here I would recommend a series of studies focusing on geographic regions: continental Europe, England, Scandinavia, the Far East, etc.

    It is my sincere hope that this work has been meaningful to all concerned. I welcome questions, comments, and further input from all participants in the study, as well as from any readers of this document.
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