The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is having a private audition for a one-year principal trumpet position. Is this even allowed anymore? They didn’t have any prior auditions, nor was this posted in the union papers.
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Seems to me like the argument here hinges on whether or not getting a one-year spot has bearing on whether that person gets the tenured job in the future. I think that obviously it does - let's say that the one-year spot is handed to the top sub, the one-year goes well, they auto-advance to an unscreened semi-final and are handed the position. Obviously they benefited the connections within the orchestra that got them the one-year in the first place. Even if they have to play a prelim and the entire thing is screened, wouldn't you assume that the experience of playing in the section would give that player invaluable intel? If the goal of auditions in general is to give all players a fair shot, this practice seems to subvert it.
I agree with OP that just because something is commonly done doesn't mean we should keep doing it. We should be in the habit of questioning the way our institutions run and make sure they align with our values as musicians.
On the flip side of the coin, if a 1 year contract proves to be a great addition to the orchestra, why are they hardly awarded tenure? In my opinion, playing with the orchestra for x amount of time is a much better measure of success within the orchestra
I don’t think just saying that this is better than not having an audition at all makes it okay.
My angle is that this is a wrong practice and bad for our industry. This gives way to excluding people who aren’t in privileged pipelines and doesn’t create or encourage equity. It allows the established to become more established and doesn’t give a chance to people who might not know all of the right people at the moment.
1-years are treated very casually compared to tenure-track positions and this is pretty much common practice. Different orchestras have wildly variable policies for 1-year contracts in their CBAs. These kinds of contracts are often awarded without holding an audition at all—the orchestra might simply appoint their first-call sub, the runner-up from their last audition, or some kid who played principal at a festival the music director guest conducted at the previous summer. A private audition isn’t about formalizing an informal appointment so much as it’s about the orchestra wanting to cast a slightly wider net (without being completely arbitrary and just hiring the principal’s favorite student or whatever).