1. APPLYING FOR AN AUDITION
“SOMETIMES WE PREFER TO HIRE YOUNGER PLAYERS AS THEY APPEAR MORE FLEXIBLE IN ADAPTING AND INCORPORATING THE ORCHESTRA'S STYLE OF PLAYING”
Applying for an audition is not only considering the actual written application itself. It is also important to consider, when, where and how to actually apply for an audition.
Being successful at an audition means also being invited to an audition! This chapter, written mostly from my own practice and experience, paves the way on application matters.
When to apply for an audition
In my experience, many students prefer to do a lot of freelance work once they have finished their studies. They would actually like to join an orchestra, but prefer to first gain experience playing in different orchestras. The problem with this trend is that it becomes more and more difficult to actually get through the audition experience as one gets older.
As a student, one is constantly involved in performance opportunities. This is often not the case anymore once the student days are over. One is taking part generally in orchestral performances, but not so much anymore as a soloist. Keeping up the habit of walking onto a podium to perform on your own is vital in my mind to successfully completing an audition. Of course it is very tempting to accept a lot of freelance work and not consider taking any auditions. Many orchestras now offer part-time jobs which will still give you a lot of opportunity to play chamber music and also take on some freelance work. It is easier to expand on your musical life, once you have something to expand upon. Remember that there is never an ideal moment to take an audition. There will always be some kind of obstacle-the travel, the timing and last but not least, not having enough time to practise. It is important to give yourself enough time to prepare properly even if it means missing out on some freelance work.
Start auditioning as soon as possible as opportunities arise. This, in my mind, should commence already when you are in the latter phase of your studies. At this time, you will be in the full throws of performing and you will still have the guidance of your teacher(s). There will never be a perfect moment to audition and your first job will not be your last.
Do not take part in auditions for professional orchestras just for the experience. If you audition, it is because you want the job. There are many occasions to audition just for the experience when one is a student. If you do not have this attitude, then you may possibly consider not attending the audition even if you are invited. Barring special circumstances, it is bad practice not to attend an audition when invited.
Where to apply for an audition
These days with the advent of the Internet, it is much easier to discover where there are violin openings than thirty years ago. There are some excellent sites online listing auditions around the world. Although some of these sites contain the same information, it is worth checking them all since there are slight differences in the audition announcements. For instance, the mag.numop.us site lists mainly vacancies in North America. One can also check “Das Orchester” magazine, which lists job openings worldwide. There is also a digital app version of the magazine. The following websites are current as of February 2017.
http://www.muv.ac/en/ (it is necessary to log in)
These are some of the sites listing orchestral violin vacancies. It is probably also a good idea to Google “where to apply for orchestra violin jobs” where you will also find sites from specific orchestras advertising vacancies.
How to apply for an audition
Your first contact with an orchestra for which you wish to audition is the application form. Although it is of course more important how you actually play, most orchestras look at application forms in a very critical way.
Make sure your cover letter is concise and polite and certainly not too familiar. Even if you know people in the orchestra for which you are applying, do not consider this a reason to strike a too familiar tone. Even though these examples to be found online are cover letters for business jobs, they give you a good feel for the tone to be set. It is easier for someone to read your resume starting with your current situation. That is what orchestras are most interested in: what is your present position? Make it very clear if you already have a secured orchestra position, as this will often determine in which round you shall be placed at the audition. List your experience in an easy to ready form. Be very to the point about where you have studied and with whom. Do not elaborate on how wonderful a certain experience had been-just list it. Include only vital information. Do not go back to when you were twelve years old and won a small junior competition. This gives the impression that you are looking for filler for your application. A good resume should be approximately one sheet of A4 paper. The Eastman School of Music has published a handbook on how to write a cover letter for a job application as a musician which includes much of the information which I have already mentioned here, but could help with some additional tips.
Many orchestras now ask for an audio recording as a pre-round to an actual live audition for candidates who have either just graduated or do not have much orchestral experience. Some orchestras also often use an audio recording as a blind preliminary round. Sometimes orchestras choose electronic auditions in a preliminary round to also help offset the travel and hotel costs. Make sure your audio recording is of high quality, and be very critical of mistakes. Although a mistake is in itself not a disaster, the fact that you left it in the recording and did not take the trouble to do it again, would be considered lazy and not completely serious. If there is even a hint of bad intonation, do the recording again. Leave enough time to make the recording properly and do not leave it to the last minute. Choose a proper place to make the recording, preferably a hall which is not too dry and not too close to external noise such as traffic. Be extremely critical of your performance before submitting. If a video recording is requested, be also very critical of the visual aspect as well. Small details as poor lighting could affect the effectiveness of your recording. Miscellaneous items in the background could distract the viewer and the listener. Make sure you are also dressed in a manner appropriate for a stage performance.
If letters of recommendations are required to accompany your application, make sure you ask for the letter well ahead of time. Incomplete applications are generally not accepted. Think carefully about whom you will ask. Your teacher is an obvious choice and possibly also the director of your school or Conservatoire. If you have also been playing as a substitute in a good orchestra, you could possibly ask the concertmaster of that orchestra to write you a letter of recommendation.
The trend now is also that orchestras ask you to write a letter of motivation to accompany your application. Besides saying it is your greatest dream to play in that particular orchestra, try and do some research to speak more specifically about why you would want to be a member of that ensemble. It is very easy to look up information about a particular orchestra. Mention something about specific activities of the orchestra that interest you. It could be something obvious, for instance, certain repertoire which they play. It could also be extra activities which the orchestra undertakes, such as chamber music concerts or educational activities. If the orchestra has its own chamber music series for members and you are interested in playing, you could mention that and then also state your chamber music experience in your resume.
In summary, reading the application form carefully, making a first-rate recording if required, submitting carefully constructed resumes and well thought-out motivation letters are the important first impressions you make towards an orchestra. Remember that orchestra committees will take all of this into account alongside your actual experience when selecting candidates for an audition. Consider that waiting a few years after graduating to start auditioning generally makes the process more difficult.
 Statement by C. Koncz, Principal Violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic, live interview on 10-12-2016
 This site helps you create a good cover letter https://www.cover-letter-now.com/builder/letters/edit.aspx
 Steven, S. & Borden, R. The Musicians’s Cover Letter Handbook www.esm.rochester.edu/iml/careers/documents/coverletter2005_000.pdf accessed 13-5-2017