"You just keep doing it and doing it, collecting more and more experience, and then one day it all just comes together." That was one of the many things that David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, had to say about auditions, today.
HPAC hosted screened mock auditions this morning with a panel consisting of Mr.Kim, his colleagues in the Philadelphia Orchestra violist Che-Hung Chen and trombonist Matthew Vaughn, cellist Luigi Piovano (my amazing stand partner–an active soloist, chamber musician, and conductor), percussionist Michael Vladar from the Vienna Symphony, and Mizushima Aiko, a former violinist of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The crew at HPAC created a huge screen to block the view of the stage from the audience and put down carpet leading to a chair behind it. These are a part of every major audition, at least in America, making it completely anonymous–even high heels can't give away your gender. We were given a number and a proctor controlled our entrance and exit from the stage. Almost everything about the experience was like a normal audition.
One major difference, though, was that we were to sit with the panelist afterwards and hear comments about our playing and about the audition process. And then were able–if we wished–to go back into the hall and listen to the next group of mock auditions from the house.
We spend so much time trying to become the musician that will win an audition. What does it take? What do we need to do? Who do we need to be? To those of us not yet in a major orchestra, it seems like a mystery. But the panelists made it sound very simple: play in tune and in time, have a good sound, keep it simple. They spoke about playing for the hall, being a soloist in the space. They gave our group so many wonderful comments, but it was not until I went back into the audience to listen that I really understood what they were saying.
Intonation. Every single note counts, and it really counts. It cannot be out of tune. There is nothing to hide it. When we play in the practice room with no one listening, it is possible to lose such heightened awareness of it. It's similar to the way that thoughts can wander when one is alone, but when one gives a speech, everything counts.
And playing for the hall. It's incredible how different the sound is from the audience, how long it takes for a single note to reach the space. And how much the performer must accomodate, must take more time and make musical ideas really large and explicit. It's like playing for Paul Bunyan.
I could hear my colleagues playing beautifully and yet understood how it still wasn't enough. It was possible to get a glimpse of just how much it takes, the goal towards which we are training. And yes, it takes a lot. But perhaps there needn't be such mystery to it, other than to do it. To train for it, to gain experience. A long way to go, but going the way.