Winnipeg

One of the things that I didn't mention in my last post was my audition for the Winnipeg Symphony, which I played during the first day off from NYO (and made it back in time for madrigals the next morning!) Obviously, I didn't win the job, or I probably would have mentioned it. However, I am enormously glad that I did the audition. The main reason is that my low playing and tuning in that register improved enormously from the preparation I did for the audition. For some reason, when I got back from India and started preparing for Winnipeg, I suddenly got fed up with always having to worry about whether I was gonna be able to play a low D, for example, low enough, and decided to just learn how to do it already. Easier said than done, of course, but at some point you do have to say it! The first thing I did was play a huge number of long tones in that area, and experiment until I figured out what to do with my mouth in order to manipulate the pitch while keeping the note stable. (I lowered my teeth. Which isn't exactly an earth-shattering revelation, I know, but sometimes you just need to think about it and practice it the right way for it to actually click...) I also had a few lessons with Sam Banks, the second bassoonist of the Toronto Symphony, who encouraged me to start making reeds specifically for low, soft playing and let me play some of his in order to understand what that could actually feel like. By the time I got to the audition, I could play the excerpt from Brahms violin concerto, for example, without being worried that the notes wouldn't speak, which was--embarrassingly-- a huge revelation! It also came in handy when I got back to NYO, where I was playing 2nd on the Sibelius violin concerto.

Anyway, besides improving at that specific aspect of my playing, it was also a huge challenge to prepare for the audition in less time than I had to prepare for KW (a month as opposed to three months) and continue my preparation the week before the audition while taking part in NYO. Although it was difficult to find time to practice during the week I was doing both, it was also enormously helpful to be surrounded by so many faculty members willing to volunteer their time above and beyond the regular coachings. Gabe Radford, the 3rd horn of the Toronto Symphony, was particularly helpful-- he always leads a discussion/lecture with the faculty on auditioning, which all of the wind and brass students attend and can ask questions at, and after that I asked him to listen to some of my excerpt in a mock audition style. I ended up playing three "rounds" for him, each one beginning with me waiting a few minutes outside the door to his office, as in a real audition, and practicing thinking the kinds of thoughts I would want to be thinking before walking into the audition room. He was even able to tell me some things about how the setup of the audition would be, having played in that orchestra himself.

The audition itself went really well for me. Almost everyone there knew each other from various places (and most were from Ontario) so it was a very friendly atmosphere. I was very calm and played everything exactly as I had practiced it, which is really all you can ever ask for! I have to admit, although before I played I didn't let my thoughts get away from me and concentrated only on playing well, in the time between when I finished playing and when they announced the second round I allowed myself to get my hopes up and thus was slightly disappointed when they only took one person (not me) into the second round. Luckily all the rest of us were friends, went out for lunch and had a pleasant day in Winnipeg anyway. (We later found out that they had stopped after the second round and didn't end up hiring.) As per the advice from Gabe's audition seminar, I emailed the personnel manager asking for comments on my audition and got some very helpful comments from the principal bassoon, as well as finding out that I had been short just one vote to advance.

All in all it was an excellent experience. I don't think I would want to do an audition in the middle of a summer program like that again, but I'm certainly glad I did this time. My next audition (after the ensemble placement audition at school) will be for the Niagara Symphony in mid-September!