The beginning of the season with the DSO brought some real interesting thoughts to my mind when it comes to playing and being an orchestral musician, and I was pushed (through more whispering ears) to play to be heard, instead of constantly trying to offer the supportive role musically. A large percentage of this music thing is swagger, and I really had to up my game these past several weeks to show people that I'm the real deal, and I think it paid off.
My first week back was filled with the music of John Williams, and with its brassy fanfares and loud percussion, there wasn't a lot for me to contribute on second bassoon. Even though performing the music often requires earplugs, it was a great time, as always. The following week contained a nice subscription concert which included the Britten Piano Concerto (quite challenging piece), Overture to the Flying Dutchman, and La Mer. Now on La Mer I was actually playing 3rd bassoon, and I decided to make sure I was nice and covered and wasn't getting in anyone's way. That approach led to comments of my not being heard, so from after the first show I played at a constant, steady, comfortable mf, which got a better reception. The DSO's Halloween concert was also that week, and I was assigned to play principal. After the first rehearsal, I had a conversation with the principal clarinetist, and he told me that everything I was playing was "correct" and "pretty", but there's nothing wrong with playing with a little "UMPH" (as he punched his music stand with his fist). He went on to talk about how many orchestras play that way - correct, and don't take the chance of getting in the way or doing something un-neutral musically. So in the good spirit of being the Orchestral Fellow, I followed instructions and played quite exaggerated on the concert, and the principal clarinet gave me a nice pat on the back after the show.
By this time I simply wasn't concerned about being polite with my bassoon anymore, and my next three principal assignments went well. I took that attitude down to Knoxville, TN yesterday, and I believe it was one of the contributing factors in my winning the audition, despite the fact that it was for second bassoon. When a musician wins an audition, it seems as if that musician magically knows everything. That certainly isn't the case for me, but I will offer what seemed to work for me in preparation for this:
1. As soon as the list was published a couple months ago, I went through and checked if there were any PIECES (not just excerpts) that I hadn't played before. If there is (and there was) I immediately go and listen to that entire work to become familiar.
2. Because playing for an orchestra makes practicing that much harder, I designated time everyday to only practice the audition list (instead of music for work), until each excerpt was so familiar that it was memorized.
3. Three days before the audition I did NOTHING but practice - and I mean NOTHING but practice (ask Andy). I missed Scandal, Walking Dead, AND Dancing with the Stars last week. I barely ate. I literally sat at my desk and practiced for sun up to sun down with 20 minute breaks in between the hours. This was basically to enshrine my interpretations of the excerpts into my whole being so that "messing up" was nearly impossible.
4. I brought the right equipment and left NO margin for anything to happen. I took on the road with me multiple reeds, and sh*t ton of blanks, and even another bocal that ensured my high C#'s for the last movement of Tchaikovsky 6. I also didn't change anything drastically as far as diet and other habits. :)
5. Dress to impress. You never know what a person can throw back at you, so don't let the way you look be one of them. I was serving independent musician realness in perfectly fitting (female) khaki's, an excellent checkered blazer, and I did my hair in a side-bun that slayed.
6. On stage, I get as nervous as anyone else, but all of the practice should have taken care of unexpected "bobbles". I always play my concerto memorized, as well as the excerpts. If the committee wants to hear something again, THAT'S when I go to the music just to make sure there is nothing wrong. I exaggerated louds, and REALLY exaggerated softs.
7. When waiting on results, I keep a positive attitude. As confident as I felt about my playing, I understand that there can always be someone to pull it out a little further. I'm always very friendly with other candidates, and try to keep the air in the waiting room clear of tension but throwing a couple jokes around. This doesn't work for everyone but it makes me feel better.
...this post is much longer than I anticipated. The point is, in everything you do, do it to the full extent and don't be afraid of someone else's reaction to your doing the right thing artistically. I'm still learning this too, so I'm constantly telling myself: PLAY TO BE HEARD!!!!!
I guess if you have any questions about auditions I didn't address, ask a professional. If you can't get a response from a professional, feel free to ask me. :)
Pictured below: Me and my bassoon soul sister, Maya Stone! (By this time of the evening my side-bun was coming a little loose, but honey it held together!)