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Laurie Niles

The right notes aren't always enough

May 3, 2006 at 5:52 AM

Well, once again I have to report that I'm NOT the newest member of the LA Philharmonic...

What a process we musicians go through to get a job. While I was waiting for a practice room, I chatted with a woman who had flown to LA the previous day from Chicago, via Phoenix. Her advice: never fly American West! Some very bureaucratic gate agent actually forced her to put her violin in the belly of the plane.

"I was crying," she said, "I thought, it will be smashed to smithereens!"

Then, a steward intervened, and made them bring the violin back up into cabin, but the bureaucrat "wrote up" the steward! I had not heard of such things happening in quite some time.

Again, the auditions were run quite professionally, at the beautiful Disney Hall, a place that softens the edges of even a very hard audition. We were each given a practice room, where we could warm up, and the required rep was posted inside on the mirror, as well as instructions for stage decorum. As I walked into the room, the friend I'd practiced excerpts with was walking out! Small world, very small.

And yet there were quite a number of violinists there, from all over. As I overheard this excerpt and that, I thought, not one person here is a slouch. Depending on levels of performance anxiety, there must not be too radical a difference between one person's Schumann 2 and another's.

I saw a few local people I knew, but I also met people who'd flown in from New York, Boston and Chicago.

I was really happy that I'd brought my tuner and been tuning to 442 for some time: they actually had a 442 bell right outside the stage area so people could tune up to pitch!

I walked onto the the stage, being careful to stay on the carpet (they do this so that jury members won't hear the click of high heels. Of course I wore something akin to slippers!). I felt a little more comfortable all alone in the middle of Disney Hall than I had two years ago for the same occasion, but nonetheless I had that shot of adrenaline as I walked out. I took a few deep breaths, and though my heart was still pounded pretty heavily, I knew I had to play. It went okay. I had some moments where I reminded myself that I could control things. And yet I was still a bit shaky, a bit hesitant. I felt this slight hesitation killed my chance, that I didn't really get to make my case before I was dismissed.

I went to the Green Room knowing that I hadn't played long enough; I was definitely getting the boot. After the nine people in my group had all made it back to the green room, they came in and announced those who would go on, and I was not among them.

Yet I really didn't feel bad for having tried so hard. I got to know my Italian, which I almost certainly will buy. I gave this audition my full respect and prepared seriously. My playing improved, my outlook grew, I feel slightly wiser. Even though I'd rather have advanced at least one round and made my way closer to a sub list!

I picked up my kids from school later in the day, after a nice lunch with my hubby and also the obligatory vanilla latte, which I didn't finish. It just didn't taste that great.

I told my kids that I did my best, but it was over, I really didn't get too far. My five-year-old son, who has been playing the piano for more than a year and knows just a bit about performance, tried to make sense of it. He asked earnestly, "Did you play any wrong notes, Mommy?"

"No sweetie," I laughed, "Everybody played all the right notes. They just wanted something different, I think some other people just played all those notes better!"

From Karin Lin
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 7:06 AM
Aw, Laurie, I'm sorry the audition didn't go quite as well as you'd hoped, but once again, your attitude is inspiring. I think it's so important for children to see their parents try things that they might not succeed at, to understand how it's not just about the final result. You go, girl! And congratulations on the Italian....
From Sydney Menees
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 12:55 PM
I agree with Karin! You are amazing!
From Ray Randall
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 1:08 PM
I auditioned three times before I made the Tulsa Philharmonic way back when.
I was turned down as a pilot for TWA three times before they finally relented on the fourth try. You have a good chance of eventually making it. Never give up for something you want badly. Accept disappointment for a day or two, then dig your heels in and keep going.
Like a previous poster said, your attitide is something we all should, but don't, have.
From Raphael Klayman
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 1:44 PM
Hi Laurie. I applaud your honesty and courage for candidly sharing your story with us!
From Erin Rushforth
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 3:16 PM
Thanks, Laurie, for sharing all these details. Now I have a question. Why did you all tune to 442?
From Ray Randall
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 3:38 PM
The St Louis Symphony Orch. tunes to 442 also. It gives the strings a hare brighter sound and in the head on humidity with all the folks at a concert by the time the program is halfway through the strings have stretched back out to 440 to match everything else. So I have been told.
From bill _
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 6:13 PM
They tune to 442 because the music director is a motorhead and his favorite car of all time is an Olds Cutlass 442.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 6:37 PM
All the orchestras do, really. I had not thought about it, but a few years ago someone pointed this out when I was preparing for another audition. I was tuning to 440 at home, because that's what my metronome had, not thinking about the fact that it was always a bit lower than orchestra. So I got one of those Evil Chromatic Tuners, so I can tune anywhere from 436 to 445...Nowadays I usually just go with 442, though I think my new friend the Italian would probably be quite content around 438. That would remind him of his youth maybe, back when the world was lower and slower!
From Christina C.
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 7:55 PM
Sorry that this didn’t turn out to be your shot… but I’m SO glad to hear that the Italian will be sticking around! Speaking as someone who’s just fallen in love with someone else’s Italian, it’s so wonderful to find an instrument that you love AND is available. Congratulations.
From bill _
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 8:57 PM
I usually let the "a" go wherever it feels good. Sometimes that might be a semitone or more flat of 440. Then I just play in 2nd position ;-)
From John Chew
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 9:02 PM
What a wonderful post. Thanks!
From Jasmine Lewis
Posted on May 3, 2006 at 9:47 PM
I'm sorry you didn't get in! You seem to be taking it very well. I'm sure you played wonderfully anyway!
From Neil Cameron
Posted on May 4, 2006 at 2:40 AM

At least you gave it your best shot Laurie and you seem happier within yourself than after the last time. It also yet again gave you another chance to regale us with your lovely prose. Thank you.

Glad to hear the Italian is sticking around. So how much did you get for Robert?



From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 4, 2006 at 3:51 AM
Robert is priceless! I'm keeping him, too. :)
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 4, 2006 at 9:19 AM
Laurie, I think you're very brave to audition. I like your positive attitude, too. You have become a better musician by preparing for your audition. I, too, know people who have auditioned several times in order to get in, and that may happen to you. I love your attitude. Keep it up.
From Gabriel Kastelle
Posted on May 5, 2006 at 2:57 AM
Laurie-- enjoy your coffee again. I was really hoping for you to get the position for many reasons, but maybe especially to make it easier financially and reasoning-wise to get your Italian! I'm very glad to hear that you expect anyway all your prized relationships to continue! I share others' appreciation of your bravery and morale in sharing the whole process with us. My own audition record has been spotty enough that I've developed a habit with most people of not saying much unless and until after there's the best news. Easier on me. That's just a general social habit-- I'm always glad and feel better and stronger from all auditions. Thank you! Enjoy Guad!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 5, 2006 at 4:14 AM
So very interesting to read. Congrats on the solid effort and good attitude - you're a real inspiration. And glad to hear the Italian will stay in your life!
From Rick Floress
Posted on May 6, 2006 at 1:06 PM
Way to swing for the fence! Thanks for giving a glimpse into this experience for those of us who will never even make it to the dance. FYI....I checked with my son, and you still qualify for "Batman" status! Also, bigtime congrats on the new "significant other".
From Louise Pallet
Posted on May 6, 2006 at 5:10 PM
I'm so sorry for you but to me it means you are destined to even bigger things. What a lovely attitude you have. One day they will be sorry they did not get you. And you will be doing bigger and better. At least you have the Italian to comfort you apart from husband kids and lots more Thanks for sharing with us. Next time !! Louise

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