Be careful what you bring into an audition—you may end up getting yourself into an embarrassing situation. A friend of mine once told me about an embarrassing experience he had auditioning for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
This friend of mine (I did not do this, I swear) had heard about the benefits of bringing a Mini Disc recorder into an audition and recording your playing for future playback. This was in the late 1990s when Mini Discs were the hippest thing since sliced bread. Nowadays people can use their iPod, iRiver, or other such MP3 player to do this, but in the 1990s the Mini Disc was an easy way to get a decent portable digital recording.
I often did this type of recording for auditions and found it to be very beneficial. I would put the Mini Disc player in my pocket and attach a lapel microphone to my belt. Nobody would notice that I was bringing a recording device in with me, and I learned a lot about my playing in auditions.
The biggest problem with bringing in a recording device is that it is yet another thing to think about during the audition process. Remembering to turn it on and deciding when to turn it on may not seem like a major detail, but it is one more thing to deal with in the auditionee’s already cluttered and nervous brain.
Anyway, this friend of mine didn’t own a Mini Disc player but still wanted to try recording his audition, so he bought a microcassette recorder (the kind that were popular in the 1980s—I always messed around with the one my dad owned) and some tapes. These recorders have pretty terrible playback, but they still give you a reasonable indication of your playing. Also, many are small enough to fit in a person’s pocket and be fairly unobtrusive.
The day before the audition he made sure that the microcassette recorder had fresh batteries and said a few things into the recorder to make sure that it was working. He then rewound the tape so that it would be ready to go for the audition.
He went in to the audition, which was held behind a screen. Joe Guastefeste, the Chicago Symphony principal bass, was the person who listened to all of the Civic Orchestra bass auditions, and he was behind that screen. My friend started by playing his solo Bach movement. Partway through the movement he realized that he had forgotten to turn on the tape recorder. He finished the movement and reached into his pocket to turn it on.
Unfortunately, the play button was right next to the record button on this microcassette recorder, and he hit play instead. The recorder started to play the test he had done the day before, and what came out was:
“Hoooooow’s it going??”
He frantically hit stop but then hit the rewind button, which resulted in some high-pitched tape rewinding sound.
Imagine for a second what Joe Guastefeste must be thinking. The candidate plays his solo, and then a strange digital voice suddenly says, “How’s it going?” followed by some frantic weird sounds.
This sort of thing doesn’t do wonders for an auditionee’s mental focus, and the rest of the audition kind of went downhill from there. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that audition!