Orchestra Audition Question
I have seen many discussion posts on various websites where a person will ask "I want to play in an orchestra someday. Do I have a chance of making it as a pro violinist?" and they'll disclose what year they are in school and the piece they are learning at the moment. Someone always comments "Because you're learning X piece at this moment in your life, it is unlikely you will make it into a good orchestra." Why is this the case? Do we all have to be child prodigies playing difficult concertos early on in life to make it in a good orchestra these days?
I ask this because I wonder if the judges at orchestral auditions think this way. Say someone is playing the Bach Partita No. 2 Chaconne for an audition, and another is playing the Bach Partita No. 3 Preludio, and they both play it well. Are the judges really going to think "Because this person played the Bach Chaconne, an 'arguably' harder piece than the Preludio, let's hire them!" Maybe this is a bad example, but I hope this makes sense!
It's not so much what music you play at the audition. When Heifetz plays the easiest of the Bach movements, you can tell he is Heifetz.
Na'ilah no I don't think they would think that way---they will make an offer to the best candidate, plain and simple. Lots of good info on this site already, have a search.
I think it is as Stephen said - it's not so much what you play as how you play. And the way you can play will probably also determine what you choose to play. And then there will likely be a sight-reading challenge, don't forget about that.
It's mostly just a really competitive market, and audition panels really only have how someone plays to go by, presuming that the auditions are blind. So since they are going to hear many different people audition, they are trying to listen to the person they think plays best, because what other criterion would they use?
You are conflating two different issues. One is making a rough guess as to a student’s playing level based on their repertoire and age. The other is repertoire suitable for professional auditions.
It is true that a lot of teachers and judges tend to boil students down to the repertoire they currently play. Much of that comes from the competitive atmosphere that exists around competitions and auditions for orchestras and music schools. Just like with the SATs, large institutions that have to churn through hundreds or thousands of applications prefer to have formulas to use to make quick evaluations. This allows them to winnow out a lot of applicants immediately and focus on a narrower target group, where they can then look more closely when making decisions.
Professional orchestra auditions are nothing at all like conservatory auditions, summer music festival auditions, or youth orchestra auditions.
Thank you all for the answers! I figured auditions weren't like that, but I had to ask to make sure!
Best wishes for you, Na’ilah!
For a pro. orch. audition it is very common see requested the first movement of a Mozart concerto; #3,4,or 5, which are good things to work on no matter what your final goal. You can see a list of orchestral excerpts at any orchestra vacancy announcement web-site. The most common selection is R. Strauss, Don Juan. I think they include that one to avoid being overwhelmed with applicants that, like me, are almost good enough.
Most common requirements for pro orchestra auditions:
This is probably one of the best threads on this topic that I have ever seen, partly because I think the original question was framed particularly well.
That's a great link Mary Ellen - thanks.
Listen to Mary Ellen. At an average orchestra audition you will find up to 100 violinists auditioning for a single opening. This is after the preliminary cutoff of resume. You need to have every excerpt memorized and know exactly how to play every note in tune, in tempo, with appropriate sound, and with a knowledge of the score. After that you need to do a presentation which will give the audition committee and conductor that you will fit in musically with the orchestra.
Going back to the initial question about why playing level at a certain age tends to statistically correlate to the odds of a certain type of violinistic career:
"Do we all have to be child prodigies playing difficult concertos early on in life to make it in a good orchestra these days?"
Let's not forget that there are plenty of kids who aren't late starters who aren't playing difficult concertos by, say, early high school, but who nevertheless never manage to get into BM performance programs for college. They show up at college playing a "pretty good" Bruch, say, or for less competitive programs, a "pretty good" Kabalevsky or Mozart 3. In some ways they are of greater concern than the late starters, who worked their butts off getting to that level in a very short period of time.
"The situation is no different than other areas of life like sports. Kids don't start baseball at 15 and end up pitching in college or in the majors. They start at 5."
Going back to the original question, what you are playing at current age suggests ability, which can be useful if someone is predicting your success. Good Paganini Caprices at age 12? You may be in the fast lane.
Nine is a later start but not truly a
When I checked about a year ago, three of the major London orchestras (LSO, LPO, Philharmonia) each had a string player who started in their mid-teens without prior musical training, and LSO had another member who switched from traditional fiddle to classical in her late teens. A number of regional orchestra players around Northern California started at 11 or 12. I also know of some extreme outliers: I've met one adult starter who now occasionally subs in regional orchestras, and I'm pretty sure I saw Daniel Kurganov once mention knowing a professional concertmaster who started at 17. Of course late-starting pros are rare, they're just not as rare as most people think. (I'm estimating it's more like 1 in 50 orchestra pros, rather than one in thousands.)
Playing standards to get into a top orchestra two generations ago were not terribly different than they are now. People get that idea because they hear the older string players now and compare them with recent audition winners, but most people do not play as well in their 60s after 40 years of an orchestral career as they did in their 20s when they were taking auditions.
Hi OP, I also think this line of thinking is quite unreliable; certainly what I was told by members here turned out to be very far from the truth 3-4 yrs later. But really, that's my fault for asking people who had never heard me play. You would really need to ask this sort of question to a private teacher who knows your playing and has experience in this industry.
"I've also heard at least two professional orchestra string players in Northern California claim to be late starters who beat the odds because they started at 8."
8 is definitely not a late start for the violin... but it is late if you didn't have any other musical training before then. I think that if you had decent aural training, and were for example playing the piano since age 6, you could start at 10 and still become a professional violinist.
I would also note that these standards do vary by country, which I think is relevant in Gemma's case, for instance. And that's also why the trajectory of progression is important.
"Is that a typo, or are people really claiming that 8 is a late start?"
Eight is a late start in areas where people have the resources to start kids regularly at three and four. But it's not a singular factor at all in determining future success--there are too many other variables.
Following on to Gene's point: It is also true that many of the amazing players in high school will