Your orchestra has an opening for a titled position in a wind/brass/perc section. Let's call this 'Section A'. Assume the position is open because the previous player didn't get tenure. Your CBA requires that nationally advertised, blind auditions be held for any position that is open for longer than a year. An audition is scheduled.
The players from Section A (all three of them) write to the Orchestra Committee and Audition Committee and notify them that they would like permission to completely bypass the audition and appoint the person who has been subbing with them regularly over the past year. Let's call this 'Player A'. Player A has a very strong resume, having won a position in a top orchestra 15 years ago, but the committee says they need to hold a national audition anyway.
Your CBA says all rounds shall be behind a screen and only tenured members of your orchestra are allowed to go directly to the finals. Section A, disappointed they cannot appoint outright, then asks for a waiver to allow Player A to go directly to the finals. The waiver is granted through a loophole in your CBA previously only used to move rehearsals by a few hours. Many musicians in your orchestra begin to raise questions about the integrity of this particular audition. Some express outrage at the use of the loophole, but the audition proceeds.
All resumes are invited to the prelims. Two players are pre-advanced to semis. Player A is the only candidate pre-advanced to finals. The audition committee is aware that all three of Section A's players want to hire Player A -enough that they asked to bypass the audition process and appoint Player A.
The two-day audition begins. Prelims are heard on Day 1, with the semi-final and final on Day 2.
On the evening of Day 1, after the prelims, but before the semi-final and final, a member of Section A, let's call them Player X, is discovered coaching Player A through their excerpts onstage. (Player A also played excerpts for other audition committee members in the week immediately proceeding the audition, there are technically no rules against this, but the contract makes it clear there should be no discussion about any candidate until the final round vote.) On Day 2, four semi-finalists are heard and two finalists are heard, all behind a screen. Player A is the only finalist to receive a majority vote in the finals.
Your CBA allows your music director to give the job (or award a trial) to any candidate who receives a majority vote, or, the MD can declare a no-hire if they choose. The MD raises concerns about Player A's performance. Player X tells the audition committee and the MD (paraphrased)"I have no idea who this person is, they are a terrific player, I'm sure the problems you are hearing are just nerves." The MD is unmoved and declares a no-hire. Section A can continue to hire Player A as a sub. Another audition will be scheduled for the position.
What, if anything, could have been done better in this situation to ensure the fairest outcome?
What, if anything, should be done differently at the next audition for Section A?
Should Player X face any repercussions?
What if Player X also happens to be the union steward? Does that change things?
Should Player A have done anything differently?
Was the winner predetermined?
A fascinating peek behind the screen, thanks for sharing and kudos for protecting the (hypothetical)identities of those involved!
I would say that the section and particularly Player X have behaved rather inappropriately, even if technically no rules have been broken. Other orchestra members were right to raise concerns and not allow the candidate to be appointed without an audition. Kudos to the orchestra as well for keeping the screen up for all rounds, but perhaps other orchestra members ought to have pushed back harder against the idea of this candidate (who is not a tenured member) being allowed to progress directly to finals. In this circumstance, it certainly sounds to me like a no-hire was indeed the best outcome because the process had become so tainted. Although since no rules are broken, I doubt it possible to inflict any repercussions on the committee. The union would not allow it unless rules were shown to have been broken.
All that aside, I think it’s never good when a committee qualifies just 1 candidate and offers this scenario to a Music Director. Many orchestras’ CBAs give the MD total hiring power, but by giving them only 1 qualified candidate to consider, what decision does the MD really have? The committee may think they can strongarm an MD into doing what they want but it almost always backfires and they have to start over. It’s a sure sign of a dysfunctional relationship between the section and conductor, and personally I’d hesitate to even apply to the next audition unless I knew the process had been changed in a positive direction (eliminate auto-advances, change committee chair, change committee makeup, new music director. etc)
As for the candidate, Player A, it’s hard to blame this person for their role in it. As a regular sub and audition candidate, they are simply following the process set out by the section. Who would say “no thanks” to an auto-to-finals and personalized coaching from the committee members, who so clearly want to hire them? But this candidate should be glad the screen remained up, because if the MD had seen their face in finals and then decided not to hire, there wouldn’t be much point in them coming back for the subsequent audition.
This scenario serves to highlight an important fact that students and auditioners often forget: auditions are run by people. And people are endlessly complicated and flawed. Every committee member has a different set of values, tastes, and natural biases. Auditions should be run as efficiently and as fairly as possible, no doubt. But expecting them to be run completely perfectly, every time, in every group across the country, is not exactly realistic.