Thursday, January 18, 2007

exploratory committees

This morning I listened to a radio program, On Point from WGBH Boston, talking about the prospects for a Barack Obama presidential candidacy. It got me to thinking about the similarities between political and audition candidates. Just like in a political race, perceptions can determine reality: the momentum and confidence of previous victories can often carry a candidate over the top. The last two auditions I've taken, the Buffalo Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestra, were both won by Scott Dixon, and I don't think it's at all uncommon to see one person clean the slate like Scott has!

In Barack Obama's case, he's just announced the formation of a public exploratory committee, which I gather is the closest thing to an all-out declaration that he'll run - that announcement will probably come on February 10th. I'm not quite sure what a political exploratory committee does; probably it's a lot concerned with bringing in money and positive media coverage. But I wonder if an exploratory committee might be a good idea for a musician getting ready for an audition as well. Get together a group of people you trust and respect, and get their honest assessments of where you stand going into the audition.

Of course, the first person you need to convince is yourself. If there were an analogy to the primary system, I think it would be the daily process of building confidence, gaining small victories like successful mock auditions and recordings, and gathering supportive advice and comments. In this regard, my last audition felt a little like the candidacy of Dennis Kucinich (Cleveland's former mayor, I believe). Not even I believed I could win, or even carry my home state, and so I didn't. In this regard, I think what Don Greene calls "self talk" functions like media coverage - those voices in your head creating a constant swirl of spin and speculation. It can lift you and give you a great positive feeling, as recent coverage of Barack Obama has, or it can spin into negative and self-defeating thoughts. That was my experience in preparing for Cleveland, and before I knew it I had pretty much Swift-Boated myself.

Both politics and orchestra auditions seem to come down to managing perceptions and ideas: first your own, then those of a committee or electorate. They also involve huge investments of time and money, as well as emotional resources, hope and stress. (I can only imagine having to deal with audition attack ads!) I think it's worthwhile to consider an audition as a kind of campaign, with many of the same risks and rewards. Hopefully it won't be quite as expensive, but it's still a good idea to deliberate carefully before deciding to commit oneself.

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