As we enter 2016, the NSO will hold a series of auditions for principal bassoon, principal librarian, section second violin and second trumpet in January, March and May.
Auditions details for 2016
Auditions generally follow a rather standard process: An ad appears in the International Musician, and usually 100-300 musicians fill out an application online. The audition list is sent to potential candidates, and those committing to take the audition send a check to reserve an audition time. Unless the candidate withdraws before the deadline, the check is returned at the time of the audition.
Sometimes, depending upon the number of applicants, the audition committee that is chosen by the orchestra committee, along with one or two members chosen by the music director, may review the resumes limiting the number of people invited to the audition. Those who have not been invited may submit a recording with specified excerpts for reconsideration by the committee. Once all the candidates have been invited and paid their audition deposit, they travel to Nashville for two or three days while the audition committee listens to candidates perform the same orchestral excerpts behind a screen for as many as 60-80 times. After each hour the committee votes — by simple majority — which candidates will be advanced to the next round.
There are semi-finals, super semi-finals, finals and super finals that finally reduce the numbers to (we hope) the best candidate, who will be offered a position in the orchestra. The committee controls all rounds of the audition until the finals, when the music director takes over and the committee serves from that point on in an advisory role.
Auditioning a new principal librarian
The NSO contract covers both librarian positions in addition to the musicians you see onstage during each concert. Interestingly, while our contract has covered both librarians since 2007, a number of orchestras — including 52-week orchestras such as National (Washington D.C.), San Francisco and Dallas — have recently succeeded in covering their librarians for the very first time. This means that librarians must also audition for an open position, but the audition process is far different. Since I’ve had so many raised eyebrows when I speak about our principal librarian audition, which was held Sept. 28-29, 2015, I thought I‘d share some observations from that process.
Our principal librarian won the Boston Symphony’s position more than a year ago, so this audition was to fill that position. The committee chosen included a broad cross-section of the orchestra: Jennifer Goldberg is current interim-principal librarian; concertmaster Jun Iwasaki and principal second violin Carrie Bailey, who work closely with the library to bow string parts; principal percussionist Sam Bacco, who works with the library when deciding how many percussionists are required; principal keyboard Bob Marler, who often obtains copies of his music in advance due to the intricacy and difficulty of certain works; principal trumpet Jeff Bailey, violist Clare Yang, cellist Keith Nicholas, and bass clarinet Dan Lochrie, who also brought personal experience to their roles as committee members. In addition, the music director was consulted about his requirements for the position when the test and interview questions were formulated.
For this audition, there were 41 applicants. Following the review of candidate applications and resumes, 16 candidates were invited and sent preliminary homework to submit prior to coming to Nashville. Only nine candidates submitted homework but two withdrew prior to the audition leaving us with seven candidates in the preliminary
round. Preliminary homework was sent to all candidates at the same time with a deadline of just under four weeks. Candidates were asked to complete various, real world orchestra library tasks to see how candidates performed when they had time to prepare or fix music.
None of the seven candidates who came to the audition had been part of a bargaining unit, but their collective experience included working in smaller regional orchestras, in larger ICSOM orchestras, and in university music libraries. On the day of the audition, each candidate had two hours to complete a written exam, which tested his or her general knowledge about instruments, music, musical terms and specific library issues. Candidates were then tested on their skills, familiarity with the orchestra’s software program, and ability to follow instructions working under pressure to complete three tasks in 30 minutes using all the resources of the library in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Finally, the committee questioned each preliminary candidate about what the role of
the principal librarian consisted of, to share work styles, and how they had or would handle specific issues that regularly occur in the library. After the homework, tests and skills materials were reviewed the committee compared notes and chose three candidates to move to the semi-finals. That evening the semi-finalists were asked to complete two assignments – tasks that commonly occur with a tight or strict deadline.
Interviews by the committee in the second round covered the materials and tests performed by each candidate as well as information garnered from the previous day’s interview. Following this round, the committee voted to forward two candidates to the finals. Maestro Guerrero met with each candidate individually to assess their skills and review the results of their work. Once he concluded his interviews, the committee and Guerrero met and agreed that no candidate displayed the skills and knowledge that Goldberg had already. A few days later a meeting and vote were held to offer the principal librarian position to Goldberg, if she was interested. After careful consideration, she recently turned it down. This May a new principal librarian audition has been added to hire a principal librarian.
By Laura Ross