Well, I am sitting in the Unicorn Cafe again, enjoying the beautiful Chicago fall. Yesterday, I auditioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! Obviously, I was not in any way qualified for the job, but since it's relatively easy for me to stay in Chicago, I thought I should take the audition, and I'm really glad I did. It had a huge list, probably to discourage too many people from taking the audition. It worked. I've only taken four auditions so far, all of them for orchestras not as prestigious as the CSO, and three of them had around 70 people in the prelims. For this audition, "only" 51 people participated in the prelims, as far as I can tell (I was in the last round, and the last person to play was #51). However, from what I could tell from my round, these people were all older, more experienced, and more serious players, whereas at my other auditions, there was a wider variety in age and ability. I had to work really hard to prepare the list, and in a way the audition was exponentially harder for me than for people who already had orchestral English horn jobs and who would have therefore already performed most of the listed material with an orchestra. But now I've seriously prepared a bulk of the major English horn rep, so I can start preparing my next audition at a higher level. Plus I doubt there will be many other auditions I take in my life that will be as difficult as that one.
The CSO was relatively organized and friendly for the audition, which I appreciated. I was happy with my playing. It wasn't perfect, but I didn't mess up (I nailed Nocturnes, which I was anxious about since I miffed it at my last audition), and I was able to play with a decent sound, relatively musically, and I didn't have any funny embouchure problems. The biggest problem was dry mouth, which I find sometimes makes it harder for me to make proper attacks or tongue clearly. I actually sipped my reed water, it was that bad (I know, GROSS, but it was clean water and it helped! Supposedly you can also bite your tongue to combat it, but that freaked me out to much to try). I played three excerpts before they said "thank you," and I was grateful for that. My last excerpt was 3-Cornered Hat, and my articulation wasn't clear enough for it (plus I think I might have played an extra beat of that D-Eb-C#, oops. I don't feel too bad about that, though--my recording leaves out a beat of that!). I was able to stay relatively calm and focused, and oddly enough, I think I owe part of that to the audition monitor! He was a very sweet older gentleman who seemed intent on putting me at ease. He told me to relax and enjoy it, he complimented me on my playing, and he had a calming tone of voice and smile. So thank you, audition monitor, whoever you are! You helped. I am proud of myself for taking the audition, and for improving my audition-playing. I still need a lot more maturity in my playing, and to really own the excerpts instead of just playing them correctly, but that will only come with time. I still have so much work to do, as the playing of candidate #47 reminded me. He played beautifully (and he got to play Rite of Spring and New World in addition to Roman Carnival, Nocturnes, and 3-Cornered Hat), but even he didn't advance (no one in my round did). I recognized one other person in my round, a lovely player from LA. She said she didn't play well, and that might have to do with the fact that my audition number and hers got mixed up, so I ended up going before her even though she was brought to a private warm-up room before me. So she ended up waiting for 50 minutes in her warm-up room, even though it was only supposed to be 15-20 (I think I waited about 30). That would have freaked me out.
Anyway, audition's over. I am enjoying the weekend in Chicago despite the fact that I have a midterm for Stravinsky on Tuesday. I get to see some friends here and appreciate Chicago, what a fantastic city and a welcome relief from LA. Plus my parents happened to be here for a conference, so I get to see them (it's been since May, overdue). I decided to pop up to Evanston for a few hours today, but I didn't realize what bad shape the CTA is in. It took an hour and a half to get here, when it used to take 45-55 minutes on a Saturday. There's lots of construction, and the trains move slowly, and of course mine had technical difficulties. It's almost as bad as driving in LA, but not quite. And I bought Alex Ross's new book as a post-audition present, so I'll have something to read for the trip back. So I will enjoy my Unicorn (and internet access) and walk around Evanston, before heading back to hear MAHLER 6 at the CSO tonight ($10 student tickets, score!)!!!