Since the time this blog post was published, CBC Music has learned that the Victoria Symphony and the Victoria Musicians' Association Local 247 are involved in arbitration concerning the principal trumpet position of the Victoria Symphony.
Next month, some of the best trumpet players in this country will converge in Victoria to audition for the job of principal trumpet in the city’s biggest professional music ensemble, the Victoria Symphony. It’ a plum job in a fine orchestra in one of the most livable cities in Canada.
The job description outlines a 36-week season, with two weeks of paid holiday and annual remuneration of approximately $40,000. Typically, an orchestral musician also has a fair bit of free time to pursue other interests outside the concert hall. Landing this gig in Victoria would be like a dream come true for many trumpet players who have spent literally thousands of hours in the rehearsal studio preparing for a professional career.
So what does it take to win? Technical excellence and nerves of steel are an absolute must. But there’s also an art to auditioning, as I discovered when I spoke to two individuals with a wealth of experience in the blind audition process, the industry standard for auditions in North America.
Larry Knopp: mock auditions; lessons learned
Trumpeter Larry Knopp has built a strong track record of helping his students find work all over the continent, including positions in the trumpet sections of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the LA Phil and the mecca of orchestral brass playing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For Knopp, successful auditioning is all about preparing for and learning from the process.
“I always have students do mock auditions ahead of time," Knopp explains. "Starting about two weeks before the actual audition I always suggest to students and colleagues that they start playing orchestral excerpts every day for somebody. That tends to provide enough of the feeling of nervousness to get you aware of what your body is going to do under pressure. They can also ask for comments from the people they play for."
"Beyond that I have students keep a log of how they felt the morning of the audition, how they ate and warmed up, that kind of thing. Most students don’t win their first audition. It takes a lot of kicks at the can before that happens. I always say the only bad audition is one that you didn’t learn anything from.”
Clyde Mitchell: healthy lifestyle; play what you love
Clyde Mitchell is the conductor of the Lions Gate Sinfonia, a chamber orchestra based in North Vancouver, B.C. He is also the former associate principal French horn player of the acclaimed Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. For Mitchell, maintaining consistent routines and habits are the key to success.
“When I was actively auditioning, and flying across the country, I had to make sure to keep up the routine of healthy eating and exercise," he says. "It’s like being an athlete. You need to be aware of getting protein and a balanced diet and getting enough rest."
"It’s also really important to continue to play other music that you love to play. If you only focus on the little bits and pieces of music that are on the audition list you’ll lose sight of the whole reason you went into music in the first place, because you enjoy it so much.”
Audio inspiration for your next trumpet audition
Now that you’re equipped with some tips from a couple of audition pros, here are a couple pieces of audio inspiration. The iconic opening solo trumpet melody from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor is one of the top 10 excerpts trumpet players are called on to perform in auditions.
Phil Smith is the principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic. This clip demonstrates an ideal performance of the Mahler excerpt as it would be performed in an audition setting.
Bud Herseth is arguably the greatest principal trumpet player to ever lead a symphonic brass section. Here, he performs the Mahler in a live setting with full orchestra.
What’s your favourite orchestral solo for trumpet? Do you have an auditioning story to tell? Let us know your thoughts in our comments section.
London Olympics orders orchestra to mime
Gone but not forgotten: Lois Marshall, part 1
Royal Conservatory of Music piano exam primer
on Jun 11, 2012