Freeway Philharmonic auditions

September 1, 2016 at 02:42 PM · I thought I'd start a thread on auditioning for freeway philharmonics, especially when you're an adult amateur, since this has come up a few times in recent months by mid-life players wanting to turn pro.

I've been wanting to join one of the local freeway philharmonics. Locally, several of these orchestras got their start as community orchestras but sometime in the last 10 to 20 years, turned pro. They still have some amateur players who were grandfathered in, but have since been auditioned. They are all paid per-service but not all pay union scale. Some don't have auditions. Some auditions only for subs and then subs are eventually offered permanent positions; others audition for section violin openings but only on rare occasion.

This year, I heard about a sub audition too late to have enough time to prep for it, and I'm not sure that I'm ready, in any event. This particular orchestra holds auditions every year for string substitutes, so I have a year to go do something useful in preparation. Excerpts are extensive and released about 6 weeks prior to the audition. Standard concerto 1st movement in full required (not just the exposition).

So... what would you do? Especially with regard to the choice of concerto, general preparation, and excerpts that are most probable? (Don Juan is the one constant, I believe, but afaik the rest change.)

Replies (100)

September 1, 2016 at 09:23 PM · The natural first question for you is: which concertos have you already performed in your lifetime?

September 1, 2016 at 10:52 PM · Much of the standard concerto repertoire, minus Wieniawski No. 2, Sibelius, and Dvorak, basically.

From childhood: Mozart No. 3 and 4, Barber, Saint-Saens No. 3, Prokofiev No. 1, Tchaikovsky.

From adulthood: Mozart No. 5, Bruch No. 1, Mendelssohn (counts here because I didn't learn the 1st movement in childhood, only the 2nd and 3rd), Lalo Symphonie Espagnol, Khachaturian, Prokofiev No. 2, Glazunov, Brahms, Beethoven. (I'm now learning Paganini No. 1, but it's slow going.)

Childhood concertos are easier to pull out that adulthood concertos, despite the years of distance.

I played a bunch of auditions with the Tchaikovsky, previously, but it's been nearly 15 years since I've played the first movement. I did a community-orchestra audition three years ago with Prokofiev No. 1 because I can pretty much play it in my sleep (I had a week to prep the whole first movement after not having touched the violin at all in almost 10 years), but because it has a slow opening that requires a lot of control, it's not a great audition concerto especially when nervous. I did a more recent community-orchestra audition with Beethoven because it was what I was learning at the time, despite the general inadvisability of doing an audition with the Beethoven (everyone else seemed to be doing Tchaikovsky or Sibelius in that audition).

The disadvantage of the Tchaikovsky is that it's long, and when it's not restricted to exposition-only, it's dangerous. I remember panicking in an audition when I was 16 or so, because I was asked to start from the beginning of the cadenza. Also, my technique is not what it used to be, and I'm wary that the Tchaikovsky is actually now too difficult.

September 2, 2016 at 01:28 PM · Tchaikovsky and Sibelius are the most frequently played audition concertos for a reason. Avoid Mendelssohn unless you are absolutely secure in your intonation in those first-page octaves. Beethoven is a terrible choice; Brahms OK only if you are nailing it (and again, early octaves must be in tune). Lalo isn't hard enough. I don't like either of the Prokofievs because their openings require so much control but otherwise there's nothing wrong with them. Nobody ever plays Paganini. Hardly anyone ever plays Saint-Saens 3 either, but I don't know why it wouldn't work for a freeway philharmonic.

September 3, 2016 at 04:56 PM · So which of the concertos that you know do you think would be your best bet? I don't see the point in learning a new audition concerto (in other words, Sibelius...hah) because you already know so many. Even if you do decide to learn the Sibelius, I would still audition with one that you already know.

If you've already auditioned with Tchaikovsky, and you learned it in childhood, that would be my recommendation (with the standard caveat that I've never heard you play it). You do have a full year to get it back up to snuff.

September 4, 2016 at 02:31 PM · Thanks. I'd probably feel better about Tchaikovsky if it were exposition-only.

This particular orchestra also wants to hear a movement of solo Bach. For that, I'm completely at a loss for what gets played commonly.

September 4, 2016 at 03:21 PM · "excerpts that are most probable?"

One thing you can do is to look at the orchestra's coming season and see if there is a correlation between the concert repertoire and the audition excerpts. It would be logical for the orchestra to post material showing that new hires can play what's coming up.

However, the orchestra may just simply reshuffle the mix of usual excerpts, in which case you need to do what everyone else does: take a year and learn the core of audition material if you haven't already. Even the act of fingering and bowing everything and having a basic familiarity will put you far ahead when the list comes out

so that you're not starting from scratch. The list is large but generally finite, and a small number of excerpts occur with high probability. Learn the high-probability excerpts so that you can use the 6 weeks to learn anything new or uncommon.

When you get an audition list, works like Don Juan, Schumann 2, Prokofiev Classical, the 4 Brahms symphonies and a bunch of others--these should all be "old friends" and not something new. They should need refreshing, not serious learning.

September 4, 2016 at 04:32 PM · I think it's a reshuffle.

Of the 12 excerpts on this year's list, I've played five in an audition previously (Don Juan, Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo, Shostakovich 5, Mozart 39/II), and I've played all of those but the Mozart in previous orchestra concerts -- but more than a decade back. I sort of know the La Mer excerpt, from Nathan Cole's NYP Challenge. Everything else on the list I know from previously having encountered it in an orchestra season, but not necessarily well. There's a Brahms 1 and Beethoven 7 excerpt that are both common, but the remaining ones are oddities as far as I know.

By the way, parts were provided both fingered and bowed. I've seen excerpts bowed before, but I've never seen them fingered before -- and here they are fingered to the point where some excerpts have a fingering above most notes. These are not especially good fingerings, either; in some cases, they suck.

Some of the bowings are weird. That unfortunately includes both Don Juan and the Mendelssohn (extra weird in its switch back and forth between up-up and up-down at the end of each fragment). Ignore, or not?

September 4, 2016 at 08:59 PM · You have to just use your best musical judgement on bowings. There's no easy answer. I will change bowings and fingerings to suit my own judgement. But people don't get eliminated from gig orchestra auditions because the committee disagreed with a bowing or fingering (unless it's blatantly amateurish or inartistic..). It's usually the basics that get people, such as intonation, poor sound quality, rushing or dragging, spicatto/articulation issues, blatant counting mistakes, or being obviously unfamiliar with a work.

September 4, 2016 at 10:16 PM · I think Tchaikovsky, and hedge your bets. Obviously you do need to make sure you know the whole movement, but I would weight practicing more towards the exposition and the cadenza.

Solo Bach can be anything, really, though I'd stay away from the d minor partita--the first four movements aren't hard enough and Chaconne is insanity. I won my job playing the E major Preludio.

September 4, 2016 at 10:52 PM · The fact that there are provided fingerings at all makes me wonder if this gig is even worth it. The fact that they suck makes me wonder even more!

September 4, 2016 at 11:18 PM · It's one of the regional symphonies around here that have a budget of somewhere in the $1m to $2m range. The freeway phils mostly share a common pool of freelancers, I think, with some delta based on where they are in the dual-circle-of-suburbs-with-bleedover between DC and Baltimore.

The area has newly-arrived grad students and recent grads from multiple schools of music (Peabody, UMD, Catholic U, George Mason, Shenandoah Conservatory, Towson State), plus recently-posted military, all competing for openings.

I've noticed that people tend to use, in their bios / resumes, their presence on the sub list of this particular symphony, which I'm guessing is kind of a "yeah, I can pass a professional audition" claim. (I've also noticed that people tend to cite their youth-symphony experience as well -- even people for whom that was decades back -- which I remember Mary Ellen previously griped about as a no-no!)

September 4, 2016 at 11:57 PM · "The fact that there are provided fingerings at all makes me wonder if this gig is even worth it."

The excerpts are often just photocopied from the orchestra's own parts. It's not really an indication of whether a gig is "worth it," whatever that means.

September 5, 2016 at 12:13 AM · All of this is way out of my league, but I would guess that the E Major Preludio is better than a movement that features a lot of double stops because orchestra parts do not have a whole lot of that. The "doubles" in the B minor partita are great but I don't think they have the ability to grab the listener like the E Major Preludio. G Minor Presto is pretty impressive if played well too.

Out of curiosity, what's union scale in your area for freeway philharmonic gigs? For the kind of stuff I do (jazz gigs in bars, hotels, etc.), the union recommended minimum is $25 an hour. Not exactly fancy wages.

September 5, 2016 at 12:18 AM · Union scale around here is $75 per service, last I looked. That's the whole rehearsal or concert or whatever, though, not per-hour.

I'm pretty much indifferent to the money (I mean, rehearsals plus concert one-time probably wouldn't even cover the cost of violin lessons for the month, so it's a plus but not a big draw). This is solely for access to good occasional musical opportunities.

September 5, 2016 at 03:08 AM · "The excerpts are often just photocopied from the orchestra's own parts. It's not really an indication of whether a gig is "worth it," whatever that means."

I guarantee this is exactly where the fingerings came from. They just photocopied somebody's part. If the fingerings are bad, it's a strong suggestion that at least some of the personnel are not very good.

September 5, 2016 at 03:32 AM · On reflection looking through the entire set, Mary Ellen's almost certainly right.

For instance, the Don Juan part has a fingering over and under almost every single triplet (and a heck of a lot of the rest of the page), I assume from both inside and outside players marking up the part.

Most of these orchestras converted professional within the last 15 years, which means they still have holdovers from their community-orchestra days, and from earlier days of less-competitive auditions while they were making the switchover.

September 5, 2016 at 03:49 AM · To be fair, Scott is the first person who pointed out the likely source of the fingerings.

September 5, 2016 at 12:45 PM · Personally I think fingerings on parts (especially above and below) are rather unprofessional. Occasionally a desk partner might ask if it's OK to put in one fingering - that was always fine by me as I ignore fingerings anyway (on orchestral parts).

As for bowings, these often come from the front desk of the firsts - or sometimes in collaboration with another section. They are often reasonable, sometimes crazy. Think of that joke orchestral leaders and terrorists wreck bowings ...

September 5, 2016 at 12:58 PM · No audition I've ever taken, or even looked at, has provided a part with fingerings. Bowings, maybe, but not fingerings. I thought it was strange, that's all. If the fingerings were really heinous, that would be even stranger.

September 5, 2016 at 01:04 PM · Ooh, fingerings over every note? Ouch. A personal pet peeve!

If I were doing the hiring for an orchestra and I were going to provide photocopies of parts (they often don't), I would make sure to provide clean copies. I've never seen it any other way, actually.

September 5, 2016 at 03:02 PM · I think we have to be careful about judging fingerings in an audition part. For one thing, fingerings can be subjective. For another, rental parts (let's say the audition decides to use an excerpt of the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra or some other rental-only work) often arrive with fingerings that have not been erased, sometimes obviously from a college orchestra. Rental agencies are supposed to erase them, as are librarians. But it doesn't always happen.

Professional full-time orchestras should, and generally do, send out clean parts. But if I have the part (I have 90%) of them, I use mine anyway.

Which leads me to this: people who are relying on audition excerpts sent out by an orchestra are likely not to be prepared for that audition in the first place. If you don't already have fingered and bowed parts for the core material in your library, you're likely not ready and won't have the time either. You should just need the list, not the parts, except for the occasional oddball or rental-only. The only time I've seen lots of excerpts I didn't already have were from the operatic repertoire. I would even go so far as to suggest that most of the core excerpts should be memorized, maybe not on purpose but just from slaving away on them. If you have to rely on the music for Don Juan at tempo, you probably don't really know it. This is why people wanting to win a job typically find an audition guru and just study excerpts for a year.

September 5, 2016 at 03:09 PM · I can never figure out what fingerings over every note are supposed to accomplish, especially in something that goes by as fast as Don Juan. I suppose maybe when you're first working out the passage...

I've seen plenty of parts from the Baltimore Symphony's library and the NYP's archives with fingerings marked in. If I recall correctly there are orchestras where not marking the parts with fingerings is practically a fetish, though (Chicago, if I recall correctly, is among them).

September 5, 2016 at 03:14 PM · I agree with all that. I still think it's bizarre to send something out with a fingering over every note. I understand that happening with one part out of the dozens that are actually used in the orchestra--as you said, sometimes things don't get erased properly, especially in a freeway phil where the librarian is probably also a musician in that orchestra plus a few others and has either another full time job or a million gigs to juggle. I wouldn't expect it to happen in a copy sent out for auditions, though. But I completely agree that most people will already have their own copies anyway.

September 5, 2016 at 03:41 PM · Yes, and I agree it's really not quite professional. The librarian should have erased the parts. More reason to have memorized your part, especially while actually performing the piece. All it takes is for the light to change, rendering pencil marks invisible (I've seen this a lot) or a crabby psycho stand partner that keeps pushing the stand to an unreadable angle...

September 5, 2016 at 08:42 PM · Oh god ... fingerings over and under every note? All the more reason for all of this to be electronic.

A chicken in every pot, an iPad on every stand, and gear pegs in every scroll. LOL!!

September 6, 2016 at 01:30 AM · Judicious fingerings are not at all unprofessional, and above and below just means each standpartner marked some--outside player marks above and inside player marks below.

A fingering over every note in a 16th-note run is silly, though.

September 6, 2016 at 06:30 AM · If it's agreeable to both desk partners I suppose it's just about OK, but most players I know frown on it if it's used to any extent. It's a different thing if it's on a concerto part or solo piece, but when others (and often the music ends up on other desks) are using the same part it is not helpful, even if one ignores the fingerings.

Can someone say what a "freeway philharmonic" is as it's not a term used over here in the UK. (I think odd dates with some scratch band were called "bucket dates" over here - can't think why though).

EDIT: "Judicious fingerings" may be so for one player, and crazy ones for another ...

September 6, 2016 at 12:56 PM · A freeway philharmonic is an orchestra, usually in a small city, where the majority of players commute from somewhere else, usually a larger city. There are often many of them around large urban areas and the same freelancers play most or all of them. They might perform anything from a few concerts a year to one or two a month.

September 6, 2016 at 01:11 PM · see the documentary:

Freeway Philharmonic | Season 3 | Truly CA | KQED Arts

September 6, 2016 at 02:21 PM · Jean

Thank you so much for that documentary link. It was really quite wonderful. (And Sarah for the info as well).

September 6, 2016 at 02:58 PM · "If it's agreeable to both desk partners I suppose it's just about OK, but most players I know frown on it if it's used to any extent. It's a different thing if it's on a concerto part or solo piece, but when others (and often the music ends up on other desks) are using the same part it is not helpful, even if one ignores the fingerings."

Perhaps things are different in the UK, but here in the US, using over/under fingerings are pretty standard, and stand partners don't generally ask for permission to put them in (although it is considered polite to check before you erase fingerings, which the other person may be using). If my stand partner needs a fingering on every single note in a difficult passage, I don't care. As long everyone is playing well and together, do what you need to do. Not everyone in an orchestra is experienced, or has a photographic memory.

September 7, 2016 at 04:57 AM · One of the best and most experienced concertmasters I have ever worked with writes an impressive number of fingerings in every part. I can't imagine putting in nearly that many fingerings but he sounds great, so who cares?

I'm boggled at the idea that marking in a fingering somehow lowers one's professional credibility. When there are a lot of programs to prepare in a very short time (occasionally three different programs in a week)including some very difficult music, marking in a few fingerings is a much more efficient use of my practice time than repetitions to the point of memorization.

September 7, 2016 at 01:11 PM · I don't think fingerings are unprofessional. I do think leaving fingerings over every note in a part you send out to auditionees is unprofessional, though.

September 8, 2016 at 02:50 AM · I didn't think this was enough to start a new thread but it's somewhat relevant so I figured I'd ask here:

Out of bored curiosity (I definitely don't intend to audition!) I looked at the audition requirements for a pro orchestra that had an open concertmaster audition. It said for the first round several movements of solo Bach. The next round it said this:

2nd Round:

Bartok, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Sibelius concertos,

first movement with cadenza, second and third movement with cadenza.

Does this mean they would want the applicants to have all of those prepared and audition ready, or the applicant can just choose one? It seems crazy that they need to have all of them ready at a pro audition level, even though I'm sure every violinist looking at pro orchestras has studied them all.

September 8, 2016 at 03:22 AM · Just one of those choices.

Actually, you'll find that many people haven't studied all of those (especially the two Bartok concertos).

I was idly looking at the websites of violinists in the local freeway philharmonics. A fair chunk of them list the repertoire that the player has studied. In many cases, there are no concertos listed above the Mendelssohn level (i.e., none of the concertos in the 2nd round list above).

September 8, 2016 at 10:57 PM · I must be a throw-back. This emphasis on technical ability (prepared concertos) and preparing "standard" excerpts that you've worked on for a year???

I've come across any number of technically excellent players who can't fit with a section - for me, that's the prime attribute needed. One leader I worked for used to get applicants to play a duet with him after a few minutes looking at it. And his sections played TOGETHER.

If I was starting out now, I probably wouldn't even get a job with a community orchestra.

A couple of days ago, in our community orchestra, we started on the Elgar String Serenade (I was in the hot seat) and other orchestra members commented how good we SOUNDED. That's important to me.

September 8, 2016 at 11:42 PM · People who can't play in a section usually get weeded out during their first trial year (or aren't called again after being given a chance to sub, as is often the case with freeway phils).

September 9, 2016 at 12:20 AM · Just don't play your Tchaikovsky to warm up in rehearsal once you're hired. :) (Just kidding; I know you know better than that!)

September 9, 2016 at 02:37 AM · Haha.

I do play Mozart 5 to warm up, though. :-)

(My teacher is an advocate of the Oistrakh warm-up of a Mozart concerto exposition played at slow tempo without vibrato. I find it a really useful pre-rehearsal warm-up, more for acclimatizing my ears than for my hands.)

September 9, 2016 at 02:37 PM · "This emphasis on technical ability (prepared concertos) and preparing "standard" excerpts that you've worked on for a year???"

Yes, if you wish to support yourself.

Being able to best 50 or sometimes even 100 other players for a full-time job requires a very high level of preparation--not luck. There are many standard excerpts, and many are quite difficult. More difficult than much of the standard concerto repertoire. It's like passing the bar exam or medical boards--you lock yourself away like a monk.

This can even be true for gig orchestras in competitive areas.

September 9, 2016 at 03:18 PM · The question is WHY they ask for all that technical prowess when even "hard" orchestra parts are not as hard as any of those concertos (perhaps a few of them are). it's kind of like faculty positions where you need 10 or 20 published papers in top journals if you expect to get an interview.

Why do they do this?

Because they can.

September 9, 2016 at 05:56 PM · Paul: because they are hiring for themselves, not their audience; because most classical music isn't supported by the market but by subsidies, the incentive structure is distorted. I view it as similar to companies where management runs it for the benefit of themselves, not the shareholders. They are not hiring based on the standards of the audience, but the standards of violin technique, forgetting that the latter is merely one of the means to the ends of the former.

Despite how much I love classical music, I must admit that it is dead as an economically feasible art form (and this destruction was partly self-induced, but high culture dying overall contributed as well). And not just on the revenue side (and on that, the Denver Symphony charges 60 dollars a seat--insane and no way to build an audience who values regular live performance), but the cost side as well--orchestral players who are hired today are clearly over-trained for what is needed to satisfy the audience (as you said, virtuosi who can play flawless Paganini aren't needed for most sectional positions), an audience that already has access to flawless recordings anyway but yet choose to go hear live music anyway. This leads to unrealistic compensation demands by professional musicians (unrealistic compared to the revenue available); this over-training at all costs combined with the poor pay for hour worked also leads to self-selection by incumbents who value violin technique above all else to perverse levels making the selection decisions for new personnel, which is a self-reinforcing cycle.

Similar reasons are why classical composition died as well, although I think this is a more interesting historical case not explained as well by pure economics, since recorded music doesn't punish composers like it does instrumentalists.

A related question to ponder on how we got to this sadly debased state of the culture: why did conspicuous consumption of live music and original composition die out?

September 9, 2016 at 07:19 PM · The average concert-goer can't tell the difference between a community orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, as far as I can tell. Concertgoers with more refined tastes care, though. Ultimately it's why in many areas you have stratified ticket prices. If you don't care, you can go hear your community orchestras for cheap or free. If you do care, you'll pay top dollar for a world-class symphony.

The question of overtraining is a debatable one. The best players can win auditions right out of college. The less good ones end up continuing on to study for a master's or a PhD in order to try to build up their skills to a competitive level. It's not that they are overtrained; it's that they didn't master the necessary skills early enough.

You do not need virtuosic technique to manage a major Romantic concerto plus excerpts. Nothing is demanded there that you don't come across in actual orchestra music. What you do need is basically flawless fundamentals. That's not an unreasonable expectation, since you are expected to function as a well-controlled cog in a machine.

September 9, 2016 at 07:41 PM · Jason, I think you pretty much answered your own pondering. Increased costs to see a live performance vs the cheap alternative you can listen to at home - the dvd. Its probably even less appealing these days for most because of HD products.

Its the same reasons the movie industry is slowly bleeding out.

September 10, 2016 at 12:44 AM · "The best players can win auditions right out of college. The less good ones end up continuing on to study for a master's or a PhD in order to try to build up their skills to a competitive level. It's not that they are overtrained; it's that they didn't master the necessary skills early enough"

I don't think you meant to imply that orchestral musicians with MMs are lesser than those who won their jobs straight out of college (or were lesser upon college graduation), because that certainly is not the case.

There are reasons to pursue the MM beyond not being "good enough;" in fact, the great majority of my colleagues including our very young concertmaster have master's degrees. For one thing, it's valuable to study with more than one person at the near-professional or professional level even with all the "necessary skills," and also gaining experience with additional conductors (most people don't do their master's at the same school as their bachelor's). For another, it's not as if there's a finish line that one reaches and then stops. It's always possible to get better on the violin and graduate school is a great place for that. And for a third thing, anyone with ambitions to teach at the college level even as an adjunct is most likely going to need that master's degree.

September 10, 2016 at 05:06 AM · Some of this discussion is touching on the difference between what's needed to win an audition and what's needed day-to-day on the job. Think about this: top-tier orchestras and "freeway philharmonics" play basically the same difficult repertoire, but the top-tier groups have to change every week all year long.

Since that's the case, is there any part of the audition that takes this into account? Not really. That's why you have the same intense competition for both categories of orchestra. Granted, you will get more applicants for a higher-paying job, but the same fundamentals still apply, as Lydia mentions.

That's why auditions used to be run without lists... just sight-read a bunch of stuff that we think you'll play during the season. Of course, only men were hired, generally those who knew or studied with people in the orchestra! Not ideal.

Someday we'll have a system that allows us to see how someone plays with others... without having to do a complete "do-over" if the original pick goes wrong!

September 10, 2016 at 05:26 AM · "The question is WHY they ask for all that technical prowess when even "hard" orchestra parts are not as hard as any of those concertos"

Paul, I don't know what your training or level of orchestral experience, but this statement is simply incorrect. There are any number of extraordinarily difficult works that exceed the concertos in sheer difficulty. I can assure you that all that technical prowess is actually utilized.

September 10, 2016 at 05:31 AM · "You do not need virtuosic technique to manage a major Romantic concerto plus excerpts. Nothing is demanded there that you don't come across in actual orchestra music. What you do need is basically flawless fundamentals. "

Sorry Lydia, but this statement does not reflect reality, at least for full-time jobs. Maybe for low-paying gig orchestras. But these days, yes, you DO have to exhibit virtuosic playing even for third-tier orchestras. You can't wow anyone with just flawless fundamentals, not when 50-100 or more show up for a position.

September 10, 2016 at 03:50 PM · Mary Ellen: So clearly, based on your statement, getting the master's is not "overtraining", per the earlier discussion. Do you think that the PhD might be, though?

Scott: This might depend on what you consider virtuosic technique. I think the level of technique that is required to play the common audition concertos and excerpts without technical issues is different than the level of technique that is required to play, say, Last Rose of Summer. I'm thinking of virtuosic technique as the set of tricks above and beyond what you typically find in the orchestral literature. (I'm also curious what you think are the most difficult orchestral works.)

September 10, 2016 at 04:06 PM · "Mary Ellen: So clearly, based on your statement, getting the master's is not "overtraining", per the earlier discussion. Do you think that the PhD might be, though?"

Well, usually it's a DMA, not a PhD, and yes, that is a different discussion. The joke in the orchestral world is that DMA stands for "Doesn't Mean Anything." And it doesn't unless you want a tenure-track university teaching position. The difference is that the MM is still focused on performance while the DMA is quite a bit more academic--research, lecture recitals, etc--it goes down a totally different road. Often (not always), the people going for a DMA really do want a university job and really don't want an orchestral job, or realize that the latter isn't in the cards for them so they capitalize on their academic skills.

September 10, 2016 at 04:11 PM · Scott, I definitely don't have enough training to have made the claim that I made. So thank you for correcting that. I remember my very first community orchestra rehearsal. I was 13 years old. The first words out of the conductor's mouth, after tapping his baton on his stand to command attention, were "Let's start with the Glinka." I was sight reading. At that time I was probably struggling with the Accolay A Minor. So you can imagine my horror.

Jason wrote, "Denver Symphony charges 60 dollars a seat insane..."

For two hours of top-level entertainment I think $60 is quite fair. That's what a ONE hour violin lesson costs! A steak dinner in a decent restaurant is $30. Perspective? That's what I think is mostly lacking in the minds of the general public.

September 10, 2016 at 05:08 PM · Don't tickets to rock/pop groups usually go for *at least* $60 each? Not to mention that most symphony orchestras have student discounts, or make rush tickets available to students, or have open dress rehearsals, etc.

$60 is on the low end for a one-hour violin lesson, in my opinion.

September 10, 2016 at 06:29 PM · Yes I agree, Mary Ellen. Whether $60 is on the low end, that's a function of where one lives. My lessons are actually a little less than that. We also pay about half of what our friends "back east" are paying for services like day care and landscaping. Not to mention real estate. And gigs that pay $100 per person for three hours are sought after.

September 10, 2016 at 08:06 PM · You're a jazzer, though, Paul. Insert joke about jazz musician pay here. :)

Otherwise, I live in the Midwest and I agree; virtually everything is cheaper here.

September 10, 2016 at 10:45 PM · Paul, if you can get a steak dinner for $30, the cost of living down in Blacksburg must be crazily less than it is near DC!

September 10, 2016 at 11:13 PM · This is a clip taken from the first-round taped audition of someone who recently won a seat in one of the local freeway phils, and who was auditioning for a full-time symphony: Brahms exposition.

I'm curious what you think of the playing level relative to typical winners of freeway phil auditions, and then versus the tier above.

September 11, 2016 at 01:28 AM · Yikes.

I can't compare with a typical freeway phil audition winner because I've never heard those auditions, and it's been nearly 30 years since I was listening to auditions at the tier above, which I would define as a ROPA orchestra with a small full-time core, adding extras for masterworks concerts maybe once a month. An A/B orchestra in a smaller city, in other words.

I can tell you that that playing would not get past the first round where I am. Way too many intonation issues and the sound is very pressed.

September 11, 2016 at 02:33 AM · That player (a full-time pro) has been a community-orchestra concertmaster and a freeway-phil principal second, and plays in a few freeway phils around here, so I figure a pretty good reference as to expected level. The audition was for a ROPA orchestra. (This clip was publicly on the Internet on the player's page, but I decided it would be better to anonymize it.)

September 11, 2016 at 07:32 PM · I guess thats plenty good for a community orchestra and probably for many freeway phils. What I dont know is how many others play like that, probably a lot.

The 12 oz ribeye at 622 North on Wednesday was $27. Of course that doesnt include apps, wine, or tips. But when I see 27 for a steak, my immidiate thought woould be, "I can feed my whole family the same exact meal for less and probably make it even a little better." But it wasnt on my dime.

September 11, 2016 at 07:49 PM · Man. I think the 16 oz. ribeye I had yesterday at Fleming's was $60 (just for the meat, without sides, drinks, tip, tax, etc.).

September 11, 2016 at 08:36 PM · @Lydia I think your first mistake was dining in the inner city

September 11, 2016 at 10:18 PM · At a franchise no less. :)

September 11, 2016 at 10:31 PM · This was the 'burbs. :-)

Actually, the best non-franchise (even if it's a small one, like BLT) steakhouse around here is Ray's, where a ribeye is still $45. Joy of a high cost of living.

September 13, 2016 at 01:15 PM · woh Mary Ellen, you are correct about non-perfect intonation and pressed sound, but "Yikes" is a bit harsh I would say, even if I am a nobody.

by the way Lydia keep us posted when you are ready and decide to audition! we will all be rooting for you!

September 13, 2016 at 03:08 PM · Nobody is a nobody, and I agree too about the intonation and sound. But how many do better? The trouble with classical orchestral music is often that it is a bit snobby. I'm pleased I don't have to live in that world anymore.

September 13, 2016 at 04:54 PM · Presumably someone would need to have great intonation, tone, etc., to gain admission into a top conservatory even as a teenager. Then, why don't the orchestras just announce that if you want to apply for a permanent seat, you have to have this or that degree from a fixed list of, say, ten places? There are lots of companies, consulting firms, and the like, that only recruit at a fixed list of universities. Presumably then Mr. Yikes would have been excluded by the coarse filter.

September 13, 2016 at 09:12 PM · "I think the level of technique that is required to play the common audition concertos and excerpts without technical issues is different than the level of technique that is required to play, say, Last Rose of Summer."

I'm not sure it's necessary to define virtuosic playing by using Last Rose as an absolute benchmark. For one thing, there are more ridiculously difficult works. Ever seen Cage's Freeman Etudes? Yes, Last Rose is difficult, but actually I think pulling off the opening adagio of the Bach C major Sonata is more impressive. I would instead argue that a someone who can play Don Juan on a high level is indeed playing as a virtuoso.

September 13, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Paul, top orchestras likely do already have a bias towards top conservatories. But they realize that great players may also be found at the 11th or 12th schools as well...

Much of it seems (as an outsider to top orchestras) to have much to do with student-faculty relationships. For example, I've heard that many Cleveland Orchestra personnel were the students of orchestra players teaching at CIM, with similar things happening for Curtis students studying with Philadelphia Orchestra players. So while they effectively do what you're suggesting, they just don't codify the practice or do it rigidly.

September 13, 2016 at 10:20 PM · Those kinds of biases certainly exist once you get to the finals and (depending on the orchestra) committees can see faces and resumés. The trouble is getting past the first round or other screened rounds, where it's possible to get a pretty different impression of someone's playing than you would get face-to-face.

September 14, 2016 at 05:26 AM · "Nobody is a nobody, and I agree too about the intonation and sound. But how many do better?"

Plenty of people do better. Those are the people winning jobs or at least making it into semifinal or final rounds. As for "yikes" being a bit harsh, let me put it this way: if a high school student played at that level for me, I would be impressed and would compliment the student before moving ahead into things to be improved (intonation and sound). If a conservatory student played at that level for me, I would be less impressed but would still be pointing out the good things in the performance along with areas needing improvement. I'd be blown away by an amateur at that level. But someone auditioning for a professional orchestra sounding like that, I'm sorry, that's a "yikes." It is so far below the standard needed to win a job at the level of my orchestra or above that I would probably stop taking notes during that audition.

Context is everything.

Incidentally, there are some excellent players coming out of schools other than the top ten or twelve and sometimes they win jobs. Plus the point of going to any music school is that one plays better upon graduation than upon matriculation.

Also, at my orchestra we are absolutely forbidden to discuss resumes at any stage of the audition including possibly unscreened finals. This includes mentioning that one recognizes a candidate.

September 14, 2016 at 12:41 PM · "I'd be blown away by an amateur at that level."

Yikes, strong language! The bar is lower for amateurs than for high school students? What about amateur high school students?

September 14, 2016 at 01:54 PM · In comparing an adult amateur to a serious high school student, yes, the bar is lower in my opinion. The reason is that a serious high school student is taking weekly lessons, likely practicing for an hour a day at the absolute minimum, maybe two or three if they have ambitions, playing in their youth orchestra, school orchestra, participating in competitions, going to summer programs, and so on. The typical adult amateur has a day job, may or may not be taking lessons and not necessarily on a weekly basis if they do so, might have a community orchestra available, is doing really well to get in an hour a day after working eight hours and taking care of family obligations, and so on. It isn't a slam against adult amateurs to point out the obvious, that they have different demands on their time.

September 14, 2016 at 01:58 PM · "The bar is lower for amateurs than for high school students? What about amateur high school students?"

Apparently it's a question of age only. A 15yo and a 40yo may both study privately and play at the same level, but the 15yo is a "student" and the 40yo is an "amateur". And never the twain shall meet.

September 14, 2016 at 02:10 PM · It is a question of how much time the violinist most likely has per day, per week, per month, to devote to practicing. The typical student can devote more time to practicing that the typical adult (assuming gainful employment and a family) can, and has an entire support system of youth orchestras, competitions, etc., that is not usually available to adults. Therefore, if they are playing at the same level, the adult has usually achieved that with more distractions and less time. I don't understand why this is so controversial.

Editing to add that "students" have not yet finalized life choices and have several possible paths ahead of them, while "amateurs" are usually (except on this board, apparently) understood to be adults who have completed their education and are employed in a field other than professional music but who continue to play music for the enjoyment of themselves and others.

September 14, 2016 at 03:59 PM · I agree complete with Mary Ellen here.

Like most amateurs I know, I don't practice daily. Now, I know there are plenty of amateurs on this forum who are really dedicated to practicing, but most of you are unusual -- and those of you who are in your first year or two of playing are still in that stage where practicing pays huge immediate rewards in terms of advancement, which makes you eager to go pick up the instrument daily. It's still fresh and new. But for many of the people that I play with in community orchestras or play chamber music with, they're at a plateau in their playing where improvement would take a lot of additional dedication. So they practice enough to enjoy the playing that they do, but not enough to improve materially.

As someone with a demanding professional life and an infant, I'm lucky if I can muster an hour a day to practice -- and that generally means about 40 minutes of useful practice. And I can't manage that every day -- orchestra and chamber music take 2 nights of my week, and some days I'm just tired, and so it works out to about 20 minutes a day. (I practice-journal using an app, and for about the last 2 years, that's precisely what it tells me I average per day.)

I try to use that practice time as well as possible, but I'm spreading the peanut-butter of practice-time really, really thinly across a lot of stuff. That's fine for me; I enjoy having a lot of things to work on, because I can do whatever my brain latches onto at the time. But I might very well be fitting into 4 hours a week, what a serious student would do in 4 hours in a single day.

There are rare occasions when I have the time and energy to spend 2 hours practicing. During the run-up to a concerto performance, I needed to make practicing my top non-work priority, but even then, it was more like "try to eke out two 40-minute sessions a day", not "devote 2 hours of prime time to practice". In the end, total time on that (the Glazunov) was 100 hours of practice spread out over nearly a year.

I just did a performance of two movements Schnittke's Suite in the Old Style on what my practice app says is 3 hours, 16 minutes of practice on a roughly 17-minute work, plus three 15-minute piano rehearsals (spent on the roughly 7 minutes of the two movements) -- so a total of about 4 hours of investment. You can have fun on not a lot of practice time. You can even fool some listeners into thinking that you're a pro. But the flaws will be dramatically apparent to, say, Mary Ellen's educated ears. (I'll put up a video if anyone wants to see.)

I can tell you that I don't play anywhere near as well as I did as a teenager (and even though I insisted always that I did not want to be a pro, my teachers believed that I should keep my options open, and so I was taught accordingly). There are some specific things I've been taught that I do better now (and arguably, I am a much better performer than I was), but you won't hear the same kind of precision and control and agility.

Now, I believe that at least a portion of that is reclaimable if I want to put in the very patient and very dull work to make it happen. I probably will end up having to do so if I want to do this audition, in fact, and this is a motivator to force myself to do it. For students who play competitively or who are on pre-professional paths, or if you're a pro, there is no room for sloppiness. As an amateur, you can get away with a certain degree of sloppiness. So you focus your practice time a bit differently if you're an amateur.

September 14, 2016 at 04:39 PM · The fact that it's the Brahms concerto is a distinction. The only amateurs I have heard who can play the Brahms sound in the ballpark of that recording or much better. They were either able to play it as high schoolers or college students, or they were almost there. I don't know any late starters or people who were not that advanced in high school who later played Brahms as an adult amateur. Very few high schoolers are able to reach the Brahms level in the first place. The ones who were already on track for it as teenagers seem to the be the ones who are able to play it as amateurs.

I agree that high school students who are trying to become professionals should be held to a higher standard. I would be more forgiving of amateurs, so I would applaud someone who could pull together a Brahms concerto despite a busy schedule. I would think, that's admirable, but I would not be blown away.

September 14, 2016 at 08:14 PM · "I would be more forgiving of amateurs, so I would applaud someone who could pull together a Brahms concerto despite a busy schedule."

That's exactly what I've been saying.

"I would think, that's admirable, but I would not be blown away."

You must know a higher average level of amateur players than I do. Lydia is not typical in my experience; the amateurs I run into--and I do run into them, at churches and at pro-am concerts-are Bruch level at best. Brahms would be way beyond them. Those amateurs that I know of who could pull off a non-cringeworthy Brahms tend to be people who are conservatory trained but who decided to go in a different direction.

September 14, 2016 at 08:50 PM · The violinists I've played with in better community orchestras can do a competent Mendelssohn/Bruch/Lalo type of level. (They will generally be first violinists, as community orchestras are much more likely to put technically adept players in the 1st violins out of sheer necessity. A community-orchestra 2nd violinist is much more likely to be at Accolay level.) But the best such players can manage a competent Tchaikovsky or Sibelius -- but probably learned those concertos as high schoolers. (For that matter, the ones at the Mendelssohn level also reached that level as high schoolers.)

Importantly, though, practically none of those amateurs is likely to be performing a concerto in public, although they might reach back to one of those high-school concertos for an orchestra audition or the like. You'll certainly see people who got to be Mendelssohn-level good as a teenager eventually tackle the Brahms as adult amateurs, but whether or not their playing of it qualifies as non-cringeworthy on the Mary Ellen scale is probably open to question. :-)

Then again, not very many "everyday" pros end up performing the Brahms in public either, even if they burnished it to perfection during audition prep.

(But my teacher has another adult-amateur student -- a career scientist -- who's prepping seriously for a major international competition where the age limit is 30, with the Sibelius. I'm going to be very curious how she does.)

September 15, 2016 at 03:55 AM · I think there is a blend of ageism and practicality. I know talented kids who also are too busy with other stuff to practice heavily, and who might not be envisioning violin careers. So when they perform something, it's not super polished like you'd expect for a conservatory-bound kid. But they're performing it and they're moving on to the next thing, because 9 months on the same concerto movement is enough. And that's okay. They've improved, and isn't that what matters? But the grown-ups (some of them) are very critical ("why are they performing Bruch when Bar 35 is not perfect?") whereas nobody expects an adult amateur to play very well at all.

September 15, 2016 at 04:01 AM · "The typical student can devote more time to practicing that the typical adult"

Ha! If only that were the case. Personally I have 8 hours of school and anywhere from 3-5 hours of homework easily with the classes I'm taking. Aside from standardized test prep, college applications, extracurriculars, chores, etc. Of course this is only the case if the student strives to legitimately challenge him/herself education wise. I still manage to fit 1.5-2 hours of practice in, mostly because I need it, but I'm really pushing the clock doing it. No free time in my life this year.

September 15, 2016 at 05:20 AM · 1.5 to 2 hours of daily practice is far more than a typical adult amateur is likely to be able to manage, or did you not read Lydia's comment?

For what it's worth, it's also very typical for the best high school music students to be taking a challenging course load stacked with lots of AP classes. I've never actually met one who wasn't "legitimately challenging" him or herself.

September 15, 2016 at 11:43 AM · I manage that much and often more. I don't think it is about "cant." I think it is about prioritizing. I have a strong interest in learning the violin so the life I lead reflects that. For most adult learners this probably not true. Not their Interest in learning but the priority level they set for practice.


September 15, 2016 at 11:56 AM · I think there is a great difference between the amount of time one does practice and the amount of time one can practice. I will agree that many high school music students do push themselves pretty hard. Aside from those that are simply focused on music, but they are usually the ones who have extreme determination and potential. However, there are also people in my school orchestra that I wonder how they can function well enough to get out of bed...

September 15, 2016 at 11:57 AM · The concept of "prioritizing" makes it sounds so easy, but many of us just face a high volume of other responsibilities. If you have the kind of career that demands 60- and 70-hour workweeks, and if you have kids and you actually contribute to their parenting, and so on, then it's very very hard. Sure, those are all the result of individual choice made long ago. But for most people these things are not considered something that you can re-prioritize. And if you want your kids to do well, then THEY have a lot of activities which means more time and effort are diverted toward those. When I read Bailey's post just above, I thought, sure she's busy, just like lots of kids her age, but I bet her parents are plenty busy too, helping her accomplish all that.

There have been a few times when I've picked up my violin to practice starting at around 10:30 PM and I just cannot play, or I can't concentrate because my laptop is staring at me with work that still needs done, or I'm so exhausted that I literally fall asleep playing Mozart. Couple of times I almost dropped my violin.

September 15, 2016 at 12:38 PM · Paul hits the nail on the head.

When I was younger, single, no kids, and for a brief, glorious time, had a 40-hour-a-week work-from-home job, I could manage an hour a day, sometimes two -- averaging about 1 hour 20 minutes a day. I often could practice in the morning before work, take a brief afternoon nap, and practice in the evening, which is pretty optimal for solidifying things in your brain.

For the last few years, though, I'd been traveling so much on business that I was spending almost a third of my nights away from home -- no practice on those days -- and frequently working 80+ hours a week. The only reason I stopped traveling this year and cut back my working hours is that I now have an infant, who is like a cutely-beaming black hole of energy drain. I typically end up practicing after my husband goes to bed, often after midnight.

I'm cognizant of the fact that the two evenings a week that I spend doing music are two evenings in which I'm abandoning my husband to solo-wrangle a baby, and similarly, the practice time I try to steal on weekends has to fit into the baby's unpredictable nap-times so I minimize how much extra time he's having to spend in solo parenting. Yes, there's prioritization involved there, but most of us are obliged to prioritize "don't be a jerk to your partner" pretty high on the list. (And in return, my husband is fine dealing with the fact that sometimes my violin-lessons are scheduled at odd times, I have to go rehearse, I have to get a session of focused practice to prep for something, etc. Not to mention that I basically robbed savings mentally marked as the future college fund in order to fund the purchase of a better violin and bow.)

September 15, 2016 at 12:54 PM · Preach it, Lydia.

I know high schoolers are busy these days. However, it's not possible for most of them to understand what "busy" means to an adult, and that's okay. They shouldn't. Still, when I was teaching lessons and had a 3-month-old baby, I basically wanted to give them fifty lashes with the wet noodle when I heard the old "didn't have time to practice" excuse! Of course, I had to exercise great self-restraint not to throttle anyone who complained about lack of sleep or time during that period. :) (My baby was unbelievably colicky.)

September 15, 2016 at 01:02 PM · A key thing to remember here is that violin-playing is not linear. The better you get, the more time is required to get better. The delta between sounding like a competent amateur and sounding like a well-rehearsed pro is extremely large, because the devil is in the details.

Tying this back a little bit more to my original query: I am reasonably certain that I can manage the notes for the Tchaikovsky, at a performance tempo, played stylistically. That gets you "competent amateur". But to win an audition, it also needs to be artistic and near-perfect.

That means that every note needs to be as dead-on in-tune as possible (and intonation needs to be expressive, i.e., built around the chord, not merely in the general vicinity of correct, plus totally consistent, so that if you, say, play 3 Ds in 3 octaves on a run, or across four measures, they are identical).

That means that there has to be clarity throughout -- the notes in runs have to pop, no blurred articulation. That means clean starts and clean arrivals on every shift -- no smearing at the ends of shifts. Expressive shifts have to be tasteful and the timing properly controlled.

That means that bow-strokes have to be precise -- part of what you are demonstrating in an audition is control, so no sloppy attacks, no audible bow changes in legato, no wavering in the tone, no over-pressing or wispiness.

That means that it needs to be shaped to be musically expressive -- but because it's an orchestra audition, it also needs not to be overly personal, and there has to be a conscious awareness of rhythmic integrity throughout. Players sometimes can get away with distorting rhythms when playing solo -- and they often do on that opening solo of the Tchaikovsky. You can lose neither the correct rhythm nor the sense of pulse when playing a concerto for an audition (which may involve having to break your mental hearing of a passage because "X violinist has always played it this way on his recording"). No game of recording telephone on hearing rhythms!

A good third of your practice time might end up getting burned on just a handful of measures that are really difficult and will scare you every time, but you can't afford not to spend that time, as tedious as it probably will be, because these are the measures that will betray your limits.

No player learns to do these things overnight. You have to build that foundation of control (this is why you play scales, exercises and etudes), along with the awareness of whenever that control slips -- the hypercritical monitor in your head. Then you have to maintain the playing condition that prevents you from being sloppy, which is your baseline to go attempt to perfect actual repertoire. The kind of focused practice this requires demands an incredible amount of mental energy.

This kind of practice can also feel soul-killing, because your input of time, versus your output of how much something improves, can be extremely tiny. It will be tiny in ways that can be heard by, and are important to, an audition committee. To anyone else, it would probably go completely unnoticed (which ties back to an earlier discussion in this thread about whether or not we are expecting overtrained players).

September 15, 2016 at 01:54 PM · I meant to say this earlier, but congratulations to Lydia on your baby! How wonderful.

Sometimes I miss my little ones--mine are 21, 19 and 15 now--but then I think back to those sleepless nights and stressful days and wonder how it was I managed to stay employed. The year when I had a two-year-old and an infant was a particular black hole. Totally worth it but at the time my husband and I would look at each other and ask ourselves how we could have ever thought we were busy before.

And to get back (sort of) on topic, it was not at all coincidental that my audition-taking days ended with the arrival of children. I could be a good mother/competent teacher/cog in the orchestral wheel, or I could do the sort of practicing that makes one competitive for auditions, but I couldn't do both.

September 15, 2016 at 02:16 PM · Thanks!

Someone who doesn't want to post publicly emailed me to ask: "If you audition once and don't get hired, do you think they let you audition again to the same place next year if you feel you improved? or have they labeled you forever a bad player, so to speak?"

I know that people do take auditions for the same orchestras repeatedly, but I don't know to what degree previous failure is prejudicial.

September 15, 2016 at 02:24 PM · Previous failure is not prejudicial where I am for the simple reason that once we have gone through the resumes to invite people, we are not permitted to use the resumes for anything else. And since auditions are completely anonymous, we have no idea who we have or have not passed on, unless it's someone who was in an unscreened finals previously. So if your resume got you into our audition once, it will get you in again.

I know of a few people who have auditioned here repeatedly.

This may be of interest:

September 15, 2016 at 02:25 PM · Because of the blind audition system in the first round, they typically don't know who was eliminated. If you've made it past the first round, then you've already done pretty well. So in my experience, which is admittedly not vast, players are not blacklisted--at least, not on the basis of the audition. I think you would have to do something truly inappropriate for that to happen.

September 15, 2016 at 02:28 PM · "Sometimes I miss my little ones--mine are 21, 19 and 15 now--but then I think back to those sleepless nights and stressful days and wonder how it was I managed to stay employed."

I think you meant to say "alive." Haha! I'm still knee deep in the toddler days, with a lot left to go.

September 15, 2016 at 04:31 PM · "Someone who doesn't want to post publicly emailed me to ask: "If you audition once and don't get hired, do you think they let you audition again to the same place next year if you feel you improved? or have they labeled you forever a bad player, so to speak?""

Lydia, it may depend on the orchestra. Are we still talking freeway orchestras?

When I moved to Cleveland to freelance, I auditioned for two of the best freeway orchestras in the area. In one, it took me 2 auditions to win, and 3 in the other. There was a lot of competition in the area, especially from CIM, but I kept at it.

I think it depends on how close to being competitive you are perceived. If you audition at an orchestra and you rushed just a little, or blew a lick here or there, that's one thing. But if you show up and are clearly lacking in classical training or played a very inappropriate solo, or seem to have no idea what an excerpt sounds like, then yes, you could be flagged and not invited back again.

Am I the only one thinking the whole thing about playing behind a screen in the first round a big joke? If orchestras are truly going by sheer playing and not looks, then shouldn't the entire audition be blind?

September 15, 2016 at 05:28 PM · I'll chime in and agree with Jessy, though apparently we do not really exist :-)

September 15, 2016 at 05:59 PM · Scott, the Met is the only orchestra I know that does it that way. Of course, they also perform largely "unseen", though not always.

I'm not sure how comfortable I would be making a hire totally blind. If I'm going to sit with someone on a daily basis, and if our mutual "product" is going to be seen and heard several times a week, I'd like to know how they physically play.

It's possible it would make more sense to just do the whole thing screened (Met) or unscreened (every orchestra until the 70s or 80s, Cleveland until relatively recently). The question might be, is it possible to achieve two things at the same time: the most fair and unbiased audition process; and the audition process that results in the best selection?

September 15, 2016 at 07:16 PM · Karen and Jessy, I think the question at hand is: Are you going to keep it up to the point where you could play a credible Brahms, per Mary Ellen's tiering of what's expected? The real question here is whether you should be held to the same standard as pros, eventually, or if you get credit for getting a reasonable amount accomplished considering that you don't have the same time or learning support structure as pre-professional students.

September 15, 2016 at 07:38 PM · I think part of the reason why I like music, and classical music in particular, is that I don't feel like I can fool someone who is paying attention, which allows me to have a goal that is pretty far out, but in my mind, is worth striving for. If I keep going, then I want to put together a performance that would satisfy me as a listener. Although, I also have different standards for different levels of performer, and I guess I want people to cut me a little slack, in the sense that it's not torture for them to have me perform. But eventually, I want to play like my violin heroes. Otherwise, I think I'd pack it up and go out in the world and make money or something.

I think as long as you can keep listening critically to yourself and keep yourself on the path to improvement, then you go wherever will let you play, until you are playing for more and more "sophisticated" audiences. I like to think that ultimately, there is more truth and objectivity in music performance than in almost any activity, although, I've been sitting down shaking my head while everyone around me is giving the standing ovation of their lives too many times to count. At the very least, when I put videos up on my Youtube, I'm not fooling myself that they're perfect, but it's all part of the process of getting better.

TLDR - I guess what I'm saying is that I really appreciate when people take me and my playing seriously and hold me to their personal high standard.

Sorry Mary Ellen below - I wasn't targeting anyone with my rambling, especially not your post. I agree with what you just posted, and that's essentially how I treat the distinction between students and pros. I guess I only mean that while as an amateur, my playing is going to be understood in a certain, my ideal is to play so that no one in the audience is grading on a curve, as it were.

September 15, 2016 at 08:48 PM · I don't listen to students or amateurs with the same ears that I listen to professionals with. I don't mean that I don't hear the flaws--of course I do--but it's unfair to hold everyone to the same set of expectations when circumstances and goals are so different. Similarly, I will read an advanced student the riot act over the same playing that might garner praise from me for a less accomplished student. Context, again, is everything.

This doesn't mean I don't take an amateur's playing seriously. On the contrary, I take it very seriously within the context of the rest of that player's life. But you really don't want me responding to the performance of the Brahms that Lydia linked in the same way to an amateur that I responded considering it was for a pro audition. In that context, my response would indeed have been harsh, and inappropriately so.

September 15, 2016 at 09:28 PM · Lydia, I have every intention of continuing to study for as long as I am physically able, but I'll never be capable of a credible Brahms (I'm a violist, for one thing).

Of course I don't think that amateurs or students should be held to the same standard as pros, nor do I think they should be given special consideration just because they're not pros. Amateurs (and students, for that matter) should not be auditioning for positions beyond their abilities, period.

I do, however, think that musicians should be judged on merit and not on status, It's depressing to see amateurs painted with such a broad brush. There are all kinds of people who play music, and even though it's easy and convenient to generalize, the generalizations don't always apply.

I did not intend to derail your thread with this, by the way. I have enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts about auditioning for freeway philharmonics, and I wish you the best of luck in your audition prep.

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