The Chicago Symphony doesn’t pre-screen audition candidates for their orchestra, allowing anyone who sends a resume and deposit check to get an audition time. While this is an extremely egalitarian approach to the audition process (anyone who wants a shot gets a shot at auditioning for the Chicago Symphony), it also makes for some amusing behind-the-screen moments.
I’ve heard dozens of great stories from members of the Chicago Symphony (and other orchestras as well) resulting from the audition process. Here’s one that always makes me smile!
While interesting characters come out of the woodwork for any unscreened audition percussion auditions at the Chicago Symphony often seem to draw a lot of, well, rock drummers who think that it would be ‘cool’ to audition for the Chicago Symphony. While many of these people are undoubtedly also excellent classical percussionists, if you hand the typical rock drummer the Gershwin Porgy & Bess xylophone excerpt (or other such classical warhorse) you’re likely to get…. interesting results.
I recall hearing about one particular percussion candidate who, coming out onstage for his audition (behind a screen, with the audition proctor next to him to answer any questions), stared in puzzlement at the cymbal part for the Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky.
He looked at the cymbal part.
He looked at the proctor.
He looked at the part again.
He looked back at the proctor.
"Hey man…. how does this tune go?"