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andreitparrish
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Trombone vacancies

Post by andreitparrish »

It seems as of lately some major orchestras (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland) have had auditions where nobody won. This seems absurd to me since there are no shortage of great players who could fill in the vacancies very well. Why is this, and on a related note, what’s the longest period of time a trombone position has gone infilled?
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Burgerbob
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by Burgerbob »

I can't speak for Cleveland (that's an MD issue, I think), but I do have information on the others.

Simply put, the committees, sections, and MDs of these orchestras KNOW there are players capable of the job in the auditions. But that doesn't matter if those people don't put their best foot forward on the audition day. Someone auditioning doesn't get a pass because they've played well in the past- it's about that particular moment, for good or worse.
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BrianJohnston
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by BrianJohnston »

Not really a problem of "lately" as it's been a problem for decades.

For the majority of the no-hires, it's usually one of the following reasons:
• The committee and or the MD have mixed ideas of who they want
• The 'winner' was someone younger that they thought didn't have enough experience yet
• Bad orchestra committee/don't really know what they want or what's good (Primarily non trombonists)
• Players in finals weren't exactly a fit (In terms of sound, musicality, dynamics)
• The screen comes down in finals, and the person they wanted to win wasn't there
• The committee cannot pick between 4+ capable players in super finals
• Overly picky committee
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WilliamLang
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by WilliamLang »

I like the Met Opera's audition protocols.

1) Every round is blind, and the audition panel votes anonymously, even from each other.

2) They always select a winner.

That's it! It works - the Met Opera Orchestra is one of the best sounding orchestras in the world consistently. I believe that there are 20-30 people at every audition at a minimum for every single trombone job that can do the job well, and a handful that can do the job exceptionally well.

Heck there are at least 5-10 people at every audition for a full time orchestra that could sub in for any orchestra in the world and the audience would never know. The pool of players has gotten so good (and backed up by no-hire auditions!!!!) in the last two decades, that in my mind, there's no good excuse to not take someone.
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by LeTromboniste »

There can also be situations where some high profile orchestras, for principal positions, don't just want a really good player that can definitely do the job, they want an already famous "big name" player that will contribute to the prestige of the orchestra, and be a marketable figure even when musically, for section playing, the difference might be virtually imperceptible.

I do think orchestras should have a must-hire or must-go-to-trial policy. It's just ludicrous given the number of extremely high level players that are churned out by universities and conservatories each year, to imagine that the field for any audition could contain nobody good enough for the job, or at least to get the probation year.

I also think orchestras should have/give themselves more flexibility for untitled/section hires (so mostly section string players). Most orchestras even high up the food chain, rely on extra players hired as independent contractors to fill the string sections while saving on salary and benefits. Some of these people can play every concert of every season of an orchestra for years, decades even. Clearly, when that's the case, the player is good enough to play with the orchestra. They do the same job, day in day out, and the same level. Occasionally, they do get the perk of advancing directly, but really it should be possible to hire them without audition at all. And this is sometimes combined with no-hires. An extra section player of 10 years might make it to the final for a section opening (often not for the first time), committee decides on no-hire, and the very next day the player is back in their chair playing with the orchestra as an extra. It just makes no sense.
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robcat2075
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by robcat2075 »

It will be very tiny fraction of the ticket-buying audience of a symphony orchestra for whom the identity of a trombone player will be a marketing-useful factoid.

Wanting a big name doesn't explain why they hold auditions of non-big names and then don't hire anyone.

If there is a big name they want I presume they don't just hope he will show up, I presume they send him an invite to audition or to outright offer him the job. If he accepts either of those there's no reason to hold wider auditions yet.

If he declines either of those then they know he's not an option to hold out for and that they need to hire someone from the non-big names.
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CalgaryTbone
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by CalgaryTbone »

I'm going to try this again - had a long reply a day or so ago, and the forum "ate my homework"!

1. Orchestras and their managements always want to hire someone. Auditions cost the organization money, and time, and every committee that I've served on shows up really hoping to find a great new colleague. As many good players as there are out there, it isn't always reflected in the playing on the audition day. There are always some players that stand out, but as Aiden said in his post, it is important that those players really show their stuff on THAT day. I'm going into my 42nd year as Principal Trombone here - Jay Friedman has over 60 years. Whoever gets hired at an audition could be there for a very long time, and that means that the committee is looking for someone that will be inspiring to work with for the long term.

2. In auditions, it's not small single mistakes that eliminate someone, but rather, repeated instances of the same mistake (usually pitch or rhythm are the major culprits). With most orchestras trying to give all applicants for the job the chance to audition, that means that the individual auditions are rather short. A candidate that shows the same flaw a few times will likely be eliminated. It could just be an off day, but you have to unfortunately assume that this is the best that the player can do. You can't risk having 40 years of someone having a negative impact on their colleagues ability to play at the highest standards.

3. I am in favour of keeping the screen up as long as possible to maintain the anonymity, but I am in favour of holding the finals without a screen, because I believe strongly in having section playing. Hearing someone interact with the section - how good do they sound in a real life situation is often a game changer, particularly if you have a couple of promising candidates. I also like having trial weeks where one or more finalists come in and play with the orchestra for the same reason.

4. As frustrating as it can be for everyone involved for an audition to not produce a winner, it is still preferable to an orchestra discovering that the person they hired has not worked out and denying them tenure. Orchestras anywhere seldom end up hiring locally (it does happen though), and most players come from long distances, including internationally. For someone to move to a new place with all of the expense, and for friendships to be made, etc., and then have it not work out is difficult for all involved. As much as I dislike the occasional audition that doesn't produce a winner, having to make that decision a year or two later is heartbreaking.

5. Just to acknowledge the other side of the argument, sometimes committees aren't all of the same mind. Not everyone is a brass player on a brass audition committee, and sometimes a player with a big sound gets a less positive reaction from say a woodwind player than from a trombonist. Less than you might think, however. Also, depending on each orchestra's contract, the conductor might have more say than the rest - maybe a veto, or a vote that is worth the same as 2 or 3 players. In some instances, the musicians might have wanted to hire someone, but the conductor felt differently. The bottom line however, is that anyone that is hired is going to have to make all of those people feel good about their choice - it is their orchestra, and they want to hire the best. The unwritten rule is that the new hire should be as good or better than the person they are replacing.

6. As far as wanting big names, I think that more often people become big names after winning that big job. The orchestra's management does appreciate when their star players are recognized, not because it affects ticket sales usually, but because it can be helpful in certain fund raising (endowed chairs) and might attract some other strong players for auditions for that section or other nearby chairs.

My $.02 on this matter.

Jim Scott
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by Mikebmiller »

I have no expertise to add to this discussion, but if you listen to the Trombone Retreat podcast that was released recently, Richard Stout (Cleveland Orch.) had some observations regarding the situation in Cleveland.
CalgaryTbone
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by CalgaryTbone »

Thanks for recommending the podcast - really great info! I also liked what he said about working through things to have audition success again after winning his first job - 45 auditions! And the way he worked his way back after some accidents that could have derailed his career - inspiring!

JS
2bobone
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by 2bobone »

I have known of players to be hired on a probationary basis when audition committees simply cannot decide on a clear winner. Then it essentially turns into a six month audition ! I have also known players to be hired based on those few precious minutes allotted to audition and have the end result being that the player never plays as well, ever again, once installed in the position. With so many well-qualified players available today, a roll of the dice might be as good a solution as any.
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robcat2075
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by robcat2075 »

Ya know what must be really grating?

Being the sub who is filling the position entirely adequately, week in and week out, knowing there's some other golden boy out there they're going to keep looking for instead of him.
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CalgaryTbone
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by CalgaryTbone »

robcat2075 wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 12:51 pm Ya know what must be really grating?

Being the sub who is filling the position entirely adequately, week in and week out, knowing there's some other golden boy out there they're going to keep looking for instead of him.
It may be grating, but it's real life. With so many players going to expensive schools, studying their a... off and practicing 4 hours a day, every day - they expect there to be an audition for the job. Then the orchestra feels obligated to hire the best player they can get.

In the old days, many orchestras hired the top students of the Principal players - there were many examples of that in several of what we call the Big 5 these days. Players complained that it was unfair, and orchestras responded by having national-based auditions (even international) and gradually adding the use of screens, etc. All of this has made it more fair, and yes, that sometimes means a very qualified local player isn't going to be the best that day. You can't open it up to all and maintain anonymity and play favourites.

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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by Mikebmiller »

My local small time orchestra (4 concerts a year) had an opening for 2nd bone a few years ago. There was a lady who had been filling in and was a regular sub and they just handed the job to her with no audition, which kinda ticked me off. She is a fine player and a friend of mine and quite likely would have whooped me in the audition, but I would have at least liked the chance to see what I could do. Then again, this orchestra seems to think that you have to be from out of town to be any good.
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robcat2075
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by robcat2075 »

CalgaryTbone wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 2:23 pm In the old days, many orchestras hired the top students of the Principal players...
I suspect that made practical sense in an age (I'm thinking up through WWII and early fifties) when crossing the country for an audition would take days, not hours, and be impossibly expensive for a not-yet-employed musician to consider when there was no guarantee a job would be had.

The principal player's students might be an adequate pool to choose from.
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mbarbier
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by mbarbier »

CalgaryTbone wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 9:49 am Thanks for recommending the podcast - really great info! I also liked what he said about working through things to have audition success again after winning his first job - 45 auditions! And the way he worked his way back after some accidents that could have derailed his career - inspiring!

JS
That podcast is really great! I feel really lucky to have gotten to study with him and the focus on just staying the course and staying patient with your goals. He kinda undersells how hard that shoulder recovery was for him. If anyone doesn't know the CD he and Tina (Dahl, his wife who is an amazing pianist) made together, y'all should check it out. Made almost exactly a year after he was able to return to the horn. Really inspiring.

I agree with what a few people have written about someone just has to show up and play at the needed level on the needed day. From being around them during the process, I know it was a huge source of frustration for members of the Cleveland and LA Phil sections to feel like they just wasted a huge amount of time and resources for a bunch of people they know are good enough to not show up and play at the expected level. In some ways it's also a real sign of the orchestras being devoted to a fair audition when they get to the place where the screen is down and it's a bunch of people everyone knows and knows can do the job (and with multiple ones being the person who is already there doing the job as a long term sub) but doesn't show it that day.

When someone does they do- like the LA Phil's recent tuba audition when their new hire (whole name I'm spacing on) came out of the first round and the second go for second trombone was the same deal. I *think* Cleveland hired both a concertmaster and principal viola on one audition (though I know TCO situation is more complicated cause of the music director and some differing opinions on the sound that's wanted for the principal trombone spot). It does feel like sometimes after a few unsuccessful auditions it feels like the orchestra gets painted into a corner after turning down so many good people.

All that said, it's unfortunate cause it just kinda sucks for everyone involved. I really love the way the Met does it and how successful that model is.
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CalgaryTbone
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Re: Trombone vacancies

Post by CalgaryTbone »

I would say that small local orchestras that only produce a handful of concerts a year are in a slightly different category. If there's only a few weeks of work, then obviously they will only draw from players that are within driving distance from them. I always like it when they at least have an audition, and encouraged that sort of thing when I was on the Executive committee of the union local. If it's not a union gig, not much anyone can do.

Full time professional orchestras really should hold auditions. I'm sure the Chicago Symphony could have hired a very good player on 2nd trombone from their sub list (years ago) but aren't we glad the they found Michael Mulcahy (all the way from Australia)? He is not only one of the greatest orchestral trombonists working worldwide, but is one of the most successful trombone teachers - producing many of the players that are winning orchestral positions everywhere.

Jim Scott
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