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CAPTAIN SENSIBLE | What Is The Point Of Going To An Audition You Know You Won’t Win?

By Michela Comparey on October 24, 2015

Illustration: Michael Vincent
The Music Audition: While it’s true that the more you take, the easier it gets, but it goes deeper than that.

Last weekend I drove six hours to a smallish town in upstate New York to audition for a small orchestra that pays about $140 (US) per service. I didn’t win. I didn’t expect to win, and even if I had won, chances are I wouldn’t have taken the job. So why bother?

To chalk it up to ‘gaining the experience’ is a little naïve. While it’s true that the more auditions you take, the easier it gets to play for a screen, I think it goes deeper than that. In what other profession would you apply for almost any and every job that comes up, just for the experience of going through the selection process, regardless of your expected outcome? Of course interview skills are important, but the time and resources that go into auditioning are far beyond what an analyst or manager would commit to improving their job application skills.

Auditions are kind of like the lottery. If you have a really good day, and the panel is looking for exactly your unique sound, maybe you’ll get lucky. It’s that tiny possibility that you just might get to the next level, you might just win the lottery, that keeps you trying.

Of course, more skill and preparation is involved in winning an audition than in winning the lottery. The imminence of whatever audition is next can be very motivating for some people to keep striving to improve. Competitiveness is a necessary attribute for many musicians, whether against other people or themselves. But even the most prepared candidate can have a bad day, or the panel could just decide that they prefer someone else’s sound better.

The one side of auditioning that many people don’t mention is the potential for networking. Though it shouldn’t be the prime motive for attending an audition, chatting in the warm up room or after you’ve done playing can be a great way to make contacts and new friends on your instrument. Especially when musicians travel from all over to attend an audition, meeting new people can be useful to gain insight into the industry in another part of the country or get inspiration for projects that are new where you live, but have been done before elsewhere. The music world is small, and being well connected has advantages.

You also can’t help but wonder if the drive to audition for almost any position is fueled by their rarity (at least for my instrument). Music schools graduate far more musicians than positions in professional ensembles, leading to an oversupply of qualified musicians who are desperate for any chance to break in.

As I drove home from the audition last weekend, I couldn’t help but think of that quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I wondered if the other applicants (including those from as far away as Texas) felt the same way? Then I looked over to my passenger seat and the several bags of mint dark chocolate M&Ms that are only available in the States and decided it was a worthwhile trip after all.


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Michela Comparey

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