Friday, February 6, 2015

San Diego Symphony Audition Personal Report for HPAC (Reflection on the Audition Process)

Because Japan is far away from the country where I am trying to take auditions, HPAC has a benefit as part of its contract which gives core members audition grants to help pay for international travel.  And part of getting that audition grant is to fill out a form and write a personal report about the audition.  The form asks for information about one's age as of the first day of the audition, how long one has been at HPAC, the audition date and venue, when results will be given, and a line where one has to circle "Pass" or "Fail."  It's like those notes in middle school, "Do you like me?  Circle Yes or No."  (Or so I've heard.)  After one has "Failed" an audition it can feel a little harsh to have to circle it.  There's no "Failed, but I killed it," or "Failed, but hey I learned a lot."  Nor is there a "Pass, woohoo it's about time!"  It's just "Pass," or "Fail."

I assume the rest is fodder for the personal report which is supposed to accompany the form.  No one is really sure what this is supposed to be.  It seems open to interpretation.  It could be short and simple such as, "I ate a hot dog right before.  Not gonna do that again!" And maybe this is what they would prefer, since no one reading this report is a native English speaker.  But I happened to meet a good friend of mine at the audition, and it prompted us to get in touch over Skype this morning, and it was great to talk with him about the process of taking auditions.  He has taken several more than I and having some great experiences and thoughts in the process, ones that I have been reflecting on for myself.  It was a stark contrast from Japan's stark contrasts.   I had been wanting to reflect on this past experience and HPAC's personal report just happened to coincide with the timing.  Perhaps not what they were looking for, but it's what I have to give.  And here it is: 

San Diego Symphony Audition Personal Report

When we are faced with a goal, it is easy to become obsessed with conquering it. The outcome becomes the sole focus of our endeavor and the measure of success is diminished to two possibilities: success or failure. Along these lines, when taking auditions, musicians often find themselves in a mentality of singular purpose: to win. Most certainly, to be awarded the honor of playing in an orchestra, of synthesizing one's love with one's livelihood, is a dream most people cannot imagine, nor dare to do so. Work is work. Play is play. Certainly it cannot be possible to escape the reality that life must be filled with passionless hours in order to fuel the meat of living.

As musicians face the possibility of overcoming this barrier, it is easy to become greedy, to hoard the outcome. To be sure, in order to enjoy a life of financial security as an orchestral musician one must appeal to an audition committee and be offered a position. One must win. This is the goal.

Or is it?

With this audition I absorbed a new perspective of the process. While one does not take auditions to not win them, winning need not be the only focus; such a mentality can even be detrimental to the desired outcome. When one approaches an audition with such a singular focus, one forfeits one of the greatest privilege of musicians: to love what we do.

There are a lot of talented musicians and cellists in America. It is often a long process of subbing in major orchestras, taking lessons with symphony musicians, networking, and taking many, many auditions before one is ready and ripe to win. Many people look at such a process as grueling, stressful, and sacrificial, yet there is a benefit to the seeming impossibility of the endeavor: the process itself becomes elevated. To focus solely on the outcome is to be crushed many times. To enjoy the process is to walk the path of fulfillment.

Certainly, one must work towards winning. One must become the best instrumentalist and musician that they are capable of being, must go down many paths of internal and external growth to cultivate themselves, to walk up to that gate and ask again and again, “Is it time? Am I ready?” It is a practice of respect to do the best, and be the best that one can be. And this is one of the beautiful things about this process. How often do we have the opportunity in life to reach out towards perfection? To live with the cultivation of it for month and years? It is a never ending process, and it is a privilege to be able to embark upon it through these auditions.

Every audition committee is different. Certainly it is a requirement that everything one plays be in tune and in time. But committees differ in their preferences. I think that to play to what one thinks a committee will want to hear, to play to the goal of winning, will only hamper the process. At least this is true for me. To play towards the goal of winning is to open oneself to self-doubt and the unknowns of the committee's preferences. However, the more that I can prepare for an audition with the intrinsic goals of discovery in the music and growth in my capabilities of that expression, the more the fear of failure turns into the desire to search for more.

My goal in future auditions is to develop this outlook. The San Diego audition was a new level of success for me in the process and the way that I played, even though I didn't advance. I look forward to continuing on the path.  

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