6. SURVIVING YOUR TRIAL PERIOD
“WATCH MOVEMENT OF PRINCIPALS FOR CLUES FOR TIMING AND CHARACTER”
So now you have been lucky enough to be successful at an audition, but how can you survive those months on trial? Although this chapter is not directly related to audition preparation, it seemed appropriate to mention a few thoughts on this subject here. After undergoing intense preparation and managing to be successful at an audition, it would be quite devastating not to manage to survive your trial period.
There are certainly aspects to consider concerning general orchestra etiquette.
There are also aspects to consider on how to fit into an orchestra, which has been playing together for years and has their own sound and own sense of timing. Certainly, you want to blend in as well as possible, without losing your sense of musicianship and the reason you were hired in the first place.
If you are new in the orchestra, you will probably be introduced. Try and make a point of introducing yourself to at least the members of your section, if they do not come to you. This is an easy way to meet new people and best to do it in the first few rehearsals.
It goes without saying that you should be present at the rehearsal at least fifteen minutes ahead of the beginning of the rehearsal. As a newcomer, it would be better to arrive closer to thirty minutes ahead of time and be in your seat ready to play at least ten minutes before the rehearsal actually starts.
Try to have a good and pleasant posture in the orchestra and sit comfortably. Do not cross your legs while playing! Some orchestras frown on this habit also while not playing, so look around you and follow suit.
Position your chair in such a way that you have the leader of your section and the conductor in your line of vision.
Do not chew gum in the rehearsals. Although you would not mean it as such, many people regard it as a sign of nonchalance and disrespect.
Do not talk during rehearsals. If your stand partner asks you something, reply with as few words as possible. Make sure you do not continue playing when the conductor stops conducting. Do not in any way act in a way which could disturb your colleagues.
This could possibly be your first job. Most of the repertoire will be new for you. Be incredibly well prepared at the rehearsals. Listen to the music ahead of time with your part.
Treat your new colleagues with the utmost respect. Even though you may think that some of the older members have “old-fashioned” ways, remember that they have a vast amount of experience from which you can learn a lot.
Keep your ears open. Keep your eyes open. Try to be very observant of what is going on around you. Try to fit in without asking too many questions.
Be meticulously dressed at concerts. Read the dress code of the orchestra well and follow it to the letter. The orchestras have their own dress code for a reason.
Do not forget to bring your own pencil to the rehearsal. If you would like to write fingerings in the part, ask your stand partner if you should write the fingerings above or below the notes. Try not to fill up the part with too many fingerings in any case.
Do not make a habit of pointing out where the conductor asks the orchestra to start with your bow. Some colleagues may find this very irritating. It is alright if a long-standing member of the orchestra does it.
Be observant of how the concertmaster tunes the orchestra. Tune only when the concertmaster indicates, and stop playing once you have tuned. Also, refrain from playing or speaking when the concertmaster stands up to tune the orchestra. This is the sign to be quiet.
At a concert, before intermission, or once the concert is finished, always wait for the concertmaster to start to leave the stage, before you do. If the orchestra is seated when the clapping stops, wait for the concertmaster to stand up to leave, before you start to leave your chair.
Finding your way in an established violin section playing-wise can take a bit of time. The best and fastest way to blend in is to be slightly laid back at the start of your time in the orchestra. Try not to play at all aggressively. Hold back a bit on your sound. You can always play out more as time goes on. If you are a bit more quiet and observant at the beginning of your trial period, you will be more open as to what is going on around you. If you do not play too loudly yourself, you will hear your colleagues better and it will be easier to try and blend into their sound. It is always better to hear from someone that you could play more. If you play too loud and aggressively, this will be a great source of irritation. Also, if you play too loudly, chances are you will also start to rush, and this is one of the main sources of irritation in a group.
Try to adjust your volume to the sound of your stand partner. Match your sound in a way that you would play just very slightly softer at all dynamic levels. Do not in any way have the feeling that you are leading on the stand. Try to emulate a feeling of chamber music while playing. Gradually, you will be able to play more and take slightly more initiative.
Be very attentive to bow division. Sit in a way that you can see the leader of your section and the conductor in one flowing line. Try to match the leader’s bow division at all times. Try to also match the speed of the leader’s bow. Harmonious bow division is what really makes a section sound wonderful together, so make sure you are contributing to this!
Many established sections have a certain timing as far as their movements go. They will take up their instruments to play at approximately the same time after rests. There is no virtue in sitting ready to play bars ahead of time, with your bow on the string, when the rest of the section is still sitting with their instruments down.
Every orchestra has their own sense of timing, as far as entrances go. Some orchestras play incredibly on the conductor’s beat, and others play slightly behind. If you are relatively new to professional orchestra life, you will probably have the tendency to be too early on entrances. Be aware of this, and try to be very alert to the timing of the orchestra. Being slightly laid-back, as previously mentioned, and not too eager, will help you to adjust to this aspect more quickly.
Be attentive to use of vibrato in the orchestra. Once again, look ahead to the leader for information in this regard. Some orchestras adjust the use of vibrato very much, and so use less vibrato in baroque and classical period music.
In summary, it is easier to observe the ways of an orchestra, both in playing and behavior, if you are not trying to impose yourself too much. Try to keep a broad prospective, with your eyes and ears open, and this will give you the most information on how best you can blend in smoothly as a person and a player.
 Green, B. with Gallwey, W.T. (2015) The Inner Game Of Music. Pan Books