I have another audition story I’d like to share. If you like this story, you may want to check out my stories about what to never bring into an audition, my disastrous audition for the San Jose Symphony, or any of my other gig tales.
A certain bassist (who shall remain nameless) in a major symphony orchestra also taught at a prominent university in that urban area. Auditions were held for a double bass vacancy in this orchestra, and The Prof (which is what I’ll call this guy) decided that all of his students needed to take this audition. He also happened to be on the audition committee, so he would be hearing all of the audition candidates.
A few days after the audition one of his students asked The Prof for some comments. It is common for audition committee members to jot down comments about each particular candidate, both to help remember how that person played and to offer advice to people who may want comments.
When I served on the audition committee for a double bass vacancy for the Elgin Symphony I made sure to take notes for each of the 25 candidates who auditioned. About eight people contacted me after the audition for comments, which I happily provided. Without those written comments I would never have remembered how candidate number 17 played Mozart or whether candidate number 11 rushed in the Brahms excerpt.
I noticed when reading my comments back to people that in the light of day they usually seemed harsh. What one writes in the middle of listening to hours of audition candidates can seem really snarky later. For example, my comments for one candidate were:
- bad sound
- bad pitch
This seems extremely unhelpful and mean, but when one is on a committee and hearing the same excerpts over and over one tends to write like that. I’m sure that the above person didn’t ask for comments, but if he had I probably would have said:
“Well, your sound was a bit rough at times, and I’m pretty sure that I heard some intonation problems.”
Anyway, this student asked The Prof if he had any comments for him. The Prof asked what candidate number the student was, and the student told him. The Prof flipped open his notes to show the student any comments he had made. When he got to his student’s number the only thing The Prof had written was:
- MR. LAME
Ouch! It’s easy to write curt comments when listening to auditions, but “Mr. Lame”? That’s worse than writing “musical disaster”, “crippling rhythm problems”, “massive intonation problems”, or anything like that. This poor student! Apparently he wasn’t just bad, he was “Mr. Lame” bad. It would be bad enough to get that comment from anyone, but think about getting it from your private teacher! I wonder how his next lesson went knowing that he was “Mr. Lame” to his teacher. I would want to crawl in a hole and die.