Professional Orchestral Players - Audition questions

April 15, 2020, 11:54 AM · Hello, I am working on my Professional Portfolio for my final year in Guildhall School of Music & Drama. For the purpose of this portfolio, I am discussing a career goal of playing in a tutti position in an orchestra.
In order to evidence and support the information that came out of my research I would like to interview as many orchestral players as possible. Is there any professional orchestral player who would be so kind and answer my question?
Thank you!

1)What did/do you find as the hardest thing when it comes to auditioning?

2)What advice would you give to someone for their preparation for auditions?

3)Is it necessary to have contacts/to know someone in the orchestra where would you like to apply for a job? Does it make any differences for being accepted?

4)How many auditions have you made before you’ve been offered your first orchestral position?

5)Where was it and for how long have you stayed there?

6)How many times did you audition for your current position and where are you playing at the moment?

7)How did the audition/auditions go? And do you remember how long did you wait for the results?

8)For how long have you been playing with the current orchestra now?

9)What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

10)What is the most difficult part of being a member of orchestra?

11)Is it possible to have a family and be an orchestral player? Do you have enough free time? Enough time for your family?

12)Do you travel with the orchestra a lot?

13)What was the longest tour and how did you feel about being for so many days with the same people every day?

14)Did you have any injuries cause by playing? Do you think being an orchestral player is a healthy job?

15)What do you do for staying fit?

16)How is the salary? (You do not have to be specific if you don’t wish to say)

17)Is there any career growth? Does the salary change if you are in the orchestra for couple of years or does it stay the same?

18)Do you have to do other things like teaching, playing various gigs, organising your own projects to have sufficient income?

19)If not – would you have time if you’d simply like to do those extra musical activities or orchestra takes all of your time?

20)Any wisdom note, quote, advice for the end of our interview?

Thank you very much!

Replies (14)

April 15, 2020, 12:36 PM · I suggest that you consider doing this using a survey tool.
April 15, 2020, 12:39 PM · I would be happy to respond but not all of those questions are subjects that I want to discuss in public. Agree with Lydia about the survey tool.
April 15, 2020, 1:36 PM · Thank you very much for your suggestions! I will try to find a survey tool which allows me to ask so many questions. Meanwhile, if anyone would feel comfortable to answer my questions in private, here is my email:
I will be forever grateful.

Thank you.
Best wishes,

Edited: April 15, 2020, 3:47 PM · Leona, since you have a gmail address, you can use Google Forms (under Google Drive) to make a form that will let you collect the information privately. You can also make multiple choice questions for items such as salary and years in current position (in ranges) and Google will tabulate the answers for you in chart form., which might make the data you collect easier to interpret. Just a suggestion.
April 16, 2020, 12:02 AM · You know, the prof for any course that ends with a survey-based research project ought to provide basic guidance about the proper conduct of such research. Anything else is academic malpractice, really.
April 16, 2020, 7:43 AM · Lydia makes a good point. Not everyone knows how to survey properly, not saying you don't, but some help from the school would be good
April 16, 2020, 7:53 AM · At my institution we'd need to get IRB approval to collect this kind of survey data.
April 16, 2020, 8:02 AM · Also be aware of the Data Protection legislation in the UK.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 8:13 AM · My reading of the OP's request was that she is doing this "research" to help her make a private decision about an orchestral career, not that she is conducting research to contribute to science (reports, publications, even a school project). If her motive is the former, she should ask current and former orchestral musicians to speak with her on the phone for an informal interview, and make purpose absolutely clear (i.e. that this is not a "research project," but she is seeking advice from people with more experience and she will keep their identities private). In this case, her ethics are those of any job seeker who might conduct an informational interview with a seasoned professional in her field of interest: she should not record discussions, but a few notes jotted down for her private use would be fine.

On the other hand, if this is part of a school project, she'll need approval from her institution's Institutional Review Board for research with human subjects. Faculty should be able to help her apply for and obtain that approval. This is a universal requirement for conducting research in nearly every country. Without IRB approval for scientific research, she and her institution are liable for lawsuits if a research subject feels mistreated. In any case, the proper instrument for addressing the questions she wants answered is an in-depth interview protocol (i.e. semi-structured interview), not a survey tool. Indeed, some of the questions she wants answered (i.e. "how long have you been playing with your current orchestra?" or salary disclosures could be multiple choice, but she'll need to be able to ask follow up questions to get good answers to many of the other questions, such as, "What is the most difficult part of being an orchestra member?" Again, she should use the phone for data collection, possibly recording (only with the subjects' consent!) and transcribing the discussion.

Edited to add: I am a social scientist who does this kind of research professionally.

April 16, 2020, 8:50 AM · Thank you very much for all the suggestion mentioned above. It is very helpful.

Jocelyn got me right! I am not doing a scientific research but those questions were meant to be of an interview character. I was hoping to interview musicians in person in the UK but unfortunately because of the COVID-19 situation it is not possible at the moment. All of those interviews can stay anonymous and as Jocelyn said, the purpose of it is to help me make a private decision about an orchestral career, I will just have to attach notes from those discussion in my appendix. But I believe for this kind of 'research' I do not need any approval.

Also thank you very much to everyone who answered my questions and sent me an email! I very much appreciate your help!

April 16, 2020, 8:55 AM · This is what my Concise Guide says:
- Documentation (compulsory): research showing that you can get useful information about realistically pursuing the identified goal. Talk to those who do what you want to do, ask them tough, practical questions. Look in professional magazines (Strad, Das Orchester, Strings, Ensemble) and on websites (schools, training programmes, foundations, Musicians’ Union, ISM, ensembles, orchestras, opera companies, managers, studios). 

Those interviews are going to be used only for my documentation.

April 17, 2020, 10:53 AM · If you're appending notes from your interviews to a document that is getting submitted to your school, it is research and it would be unethical not to tell your interviewees you are conducting research for a school project. You also need to go through the IRB process for legal reasons.
April 17, 2020, 1:57 PM · Yep. In this context you'll need informed consent from the interviewees.

I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt and suggest that as it's part of an undergraduate assignment that several/all Guildhall students are submitting then whoever's in charge of setting the assignment has block ethical clearance from the Guildhall Ethics Committee for the data collection.(Guildhall has some well established researchers alongside its conservatoire function; so will have an ethics committee/IRB).

However, check with the module leader. Collecting data without ethical clearance is academic malpractice.

April 17, 2020, 3:51 PM · One answer: Learn R. Strauss Don Juan, 1st violin. It is the most common item on audition lists and is hard enough to discourage less-qualified violinists (like me) from applying.

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