Life in tubadom

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Posted by Daryl on October 27, 1999 at 21:30:38:

Hi gang,

I was driving home today from school, and I got to thinking (as I am fond of doing). I wanted to share my thoughts with the list for you guys to bounce around.

I was thinking about the realities of life in the world of professional music, particularly about tuba playing (oddly enough). I was thinking about the concept of "standards" as they currently stand, and how they affect us as players. On any given orchestral audition, whether it be for a 1st tier orchestra (like New York or Chicago) or thrid and fourth tier orchestras (more regionally known orchestras than nationally known), you always hear about the performance level of the players that appear at these auditions. Specifically, you hear that the players at the audition were ALL "phenomenal", all possessing alleged performance abilities that, by description, would rival the top professional players in the world. In fact, it probably surpasses some of them based on live performances that I've had the fortune to witness. I say this not to belittle the performances of established players, their performances were clearly outstanding examples of music making. I say this to question the perception of the level of playing one would face in a competition for a professional position.

Which got me to thinking....are we scaring the hell out of ourselves?? I honestly wonder whether or not the propensity for hyperbole that some people seem to have in this world is scaring people out of pursuing their dreams; whether or not people who play simply give up because they are afraid of failing against trumped-up anecdotal competition. Obviously, the only way to deal with this fear is to go out and see for yourself what the competition is really like. And, believe me, I'm not naive enough to think that it's not hard to get a job in the world today; not to mention the fact that one would be competing for jobs with highly skilled players with excellent musicianship. But how bad is it out there REALLY? Are we to believe that if one doesn't possess almost mythic playing ability that we may as well pack it in and give up? Or is this perception fueled by younger players who are easily impressed by seasoned veterans (my middle school students think I'M a great tuba soloist - not that I try to dissuade their opinion...) and by less developed players who have auditioned and chose to give up rather than try and develop more as a result of their experience?

And if it IS that hard to get a gig, what's the deal with all of us humans that are pursuing performance degrees? Think of the lapse in logic there - getting a degree and committing to a profession we'll never (barring great luck) be able to actively compete in. Think of your future - 4 (or more) years, a couple of degrees, and the best you can hope for is a poorly paying church gig when one of the mutants is busy doing something else (louder than you, higher than you, and on a Yorkbrunner or Nirschl York, no doubt). I don't know about you guys, but I doubt I will possess "superhuman" playing abilities any time in my life; I can make great music, but is that enough?? Should I be concerned for my future because I can't shake windows with my low register? Should I be paranoid for my ability to make a living for my family because I can't play a trumpet's high c at pianissimo? Is simply being a good musician enough???

It would be interesting to see the commentary of professional players out there who have recently won jobs, and their experiences with auditions (specifically, reputation vs. reality). Is it as hard as you thought it was going to be? How did you get over preconceived notions of auditions? What was your perception of your playing ability - did you think you were Mega-god, or were you simply a guy that had a pretty good day?


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