I am wondering what you all might consider to be an appropriate amount of time to look over an excerpt prior to sight-reading in an audition. Is there any generally accepted guideline, such as "no more than 45 seconds per page of music," etc.?
An additional question--if more than one such excerpt is provided, should all music be "looked over" at the beginning, and then played through in sequence, or may one pause to "mentally rehearse" between excerpts?
Thanks, and my apologies if this topic has been covered in previous threads.
Is audition sight reading still done? One wonders how relevant it is.
45 seconds is almost enough time to play through a page.
Paul Deck: "Possible sight reading" still shows up on repertoire lists, so relevant or not, one must steel oneself for the possibility that it will occur :-).
You may not be so lucky to get any amount of time to look it over, when the auditioner beats out the tempo then away you must go...……….
If this is for professional auditions, I don't think I've heard of any orchestra actually asking people to sightread in the past decade or so... if it comes up, I think you have enough time to look through it thoroughly, check for key signature and time signature changes, check dynamics, character, composer / style, and pick a tempo that is reasonable but gives you enough space to think. So, I guess, the answer is however long that takes. I'd keep it under a minute but not rush into it - and if the committee is getting antsy, they'll say something. If you're sightreading more than one excerpt, the committee is masochistic and I'd prepare between each one, not all at once.
The best test I've ever seen was my old leader, Peter Mountain, auditioning new recruits. He produced a violin duet that the "auditionee" played with him. They had a bit of time to look over the piece, but that was it. Of course, he could tell virtually instantly whether someone could and would fit in. And it really was sight reading, so no amount of looking at excerpts would help.
I think it's important for orchestral musicians to be good sight readers (or at least learn music very quickly!) so can understand why they might ask this in the audition, although it's very rare.
Gemma - I am not sure why orch musicians need to be good sight readers as long as they can learn the music well in a decent period of time. Orchs tend to rehearse a significant amount before concerts, so, ....
I wish the audition was sight-reading. That's the one thing I'm okay at.
Professional orchestras in my country tend to rehearse like 1-3 times before a performance, and lots of them have families/other work to do. It's necessary to be able to learn entire programs in a relatively short space of time, and I can see why an orchestra panel would want to make sure their employees can keep up.
Thank you all for your replies.
1-3 rehearsals seems to be the norm for regional orchestras in Northern California too. For that matter, the strongest community orchestras may perform full-scale programs on 4-5 rehearsals, and pops programs or family concerts on a single rehearsal the day of the concert. Perhaps sight-reading is not as important when musicians get their parts in advance and have time to practice before the first rehearsal. But professional orchestras sometimes bring in substitutes on on one day's notice. And even in a mostly-amateur orchestra, I've received parts as late as 48 hours before a pops concert that was played on a single rehearsal. So it seems to me sight-reading is a critical skill to have.
"But professional orchestras sometimes bring in substitutes on on one day's notice." True, but generally subs are folks who have proven their skills by experience. If your sub is a section player in the Chicago Symphony, you probably don't need to make sure they can play.
"Gemma - I am not sure why orch musicians need to be good sight readers as long as they can learn the music well in a decent period of time."
Strong sight-readers save rehearsal time.
"True, but generally subs are folks who have proven their skills by experience. If your sub is a section player in the Chicago Symphony, you probably don't need to make sure they can play."
My experience playing freelance gigs was that when you're a sub, you tend not to get a lot of notice. A day is not unusual. Less than 24 hours is pretty common. That gets you one rehearsal and then the concert. Plus sometimes there will be an unannounced addition to the program. If it's a common work, there will be
A year or so back, I was playing Sibelius 1 with our amateur (community) orchestra. We were short on 1st violins, and had a guest - the Leader of the Ulster Orchestra. They were busy in the afternoon, so he READ the concert. Fabulous playing - and read all the bowings as well as the notes.
From (sight) reading this thread, I conclude that orchestras are poorly managed. Why don't they just decide what they're going to play a little sooner and send out the parts then? Perhaps with all the brilliant sight-reading pros they have, it's not absolutely necessary to do so, but wouldn't you expect the final product then to be of higher quality? To put a finer point on it, why do unions tolerate this?
A few stories from times gone by-- apparently, when Joseph Silverstein auditioned at the BSO (maybe for his promotion to concertmaster), they had to dig through the library for something to read that he had never seen.
"From (sight) reading this thread, I conclude that orchestras are poorly managed. Why don't they just decide what they're going to play a little sooner and send out the parts then?"
I think Paul was talking about the season construction. The
It's not unusual, here in the UK, (or wasn't) to have professional "stiffening" for amateur / community orchestras. It meant you had to go in ON THE DAY to play something they'd been working on - and play it all better than they did on one / no rehearsal. Helps the concentration!
I was once a "ringer" cellist for an university orchestra in Bristol on the opening night of Verdi's opera Nabucco - and I was sight-reading. No sign of the conductor in the run-up to the start so I assumed that he was one of those conductors who appear magically on the podium exactly on the dot and not before. I was wrong; a message arrived 15 minutes before curtain up to say that the gentleman was too ill to attend. Panic behind the scenes! Then someone spotted an elderly retired conductor in the audience, approached him and asked if he could help out. The conductor, who had conducted the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra years before, agreed but warned he had never conducted Nabucco or even seen the score.
Hi again Malcolm - no doubt it happens elsewhere too but (as you're surely aware) in the UK a lot of (I'd even suggest "most") amateur choral societies only meet their orchestra on the day of the performance. It helps when the band tends to be similar from one concert to the next, but complacency sets in and not many players (strings at least) take the opportunity of asking for parts to practise in advance. Even when time is too short to rehearse every note in every number the "standard" repertoire usually takes care of itself, but I recall one embarrassing occasion when the oboist thought she could busk her way through Tippett's A Child of Our Time
It's in our contract that parts must be available a specified length of time in advance of the first rehearsal.
Trevor, you've mentioned it before.And the conductor was Eric Wetherell.
Steve, Yes. I spent some of my career leading the orchestra for a number of local choral societies, G & S and shows. If we were lucky, there was a band call, but normally not! The first time we met them was the dress rehearsal, which was probably NOT a run-through, as most producers wanted to go through movement of the chorus etc. So our first performance was probably the first night of the show, where we found that what the singers did bore little relation to the score - they'd just had a piano previously. You really had to listen - we could fit. They wouldn't!
Malcolm, yes it was indeed Eric Wetherell. His name eluded me when I wrote my post, so I was hoping that someone (with the initials MT?) would come up with the goods. Many thanks!
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.