Saturday, April 28, 2007

Letters to a young(ish) bassist

One of the happiest aspects of audition success is sharing the news with friends and teachers, past and current, and all the reconnections and exchanges that can result. Lately I have been in touch with Michael Hovnanian, Chicago Symphony bassist and my teacher at Northwestern. These days, Michael is teaching at Roosevelt and blogging at CSO Bass Blog. His writing really gives a flavor for his thoughtfulness on all subjects, his dry wit, and his delight in unexpected analogies.

Now that I am employed, and Michael is blogging, he suggested we start a dialogue about transitioning to life in a professional orchestra. With his typical self-deprecating humor, he described it as an exchange between "the young and enthusiastic vs... the old and jaded perspectives." I happily agreed and came up with a couple of questions about the qualities that make for a good orchestral colleague - you can read the result at the CSO Bass Blog today: Letter From Matt Heller.
Matt Heller recently emailed me with the good news that he had won the bass audition in Calgary. I had also read about it on his blog. Anyone who hasn’t checked out Matt’s blog should do so. I hope he keeps it up and chronicles the transition into the next phase of his career.

Perhaps in a fit of blog envy – Matt writes well, and with insight – I suggested we might compare notes. His perspective from near the beginning of a career and mine somewhere in the middle might make for an interesting counterpoint. (...)
Now that we've started the conversation, I am excited - even enthusiastic! - to explore this topic and others that come up. I hope readers here and at the CSO Bass Blog will feel free to offer your own questions and thoughts on the subject of joining a new orchestra and bass section.

And I haven't forgotten my promise, I am still going to write a full account of my audition experience in Calgary. My apologies for taking so long with this! The first part, which I hope to post this weekend, will cover some of the pre-audition stages: how I decided to take this audition, what my preparation was like, etc.

Thanks for reading, and thanks so much to Michael for his entertaining and insightful take on orchestral oarsmanship!


Spot said...

I think this is a great idea, in part because it is so rarely explored in detail.

When I was back in the U.S. in January, I met with the horn players at UW-Madison, my alma mater, to speak with them about the challenges of adjusting to professional life.

They get lots of high-profile names for masterclasses and whatnot, people who've had jobs for a long time and are great artists, and for whom the gig often seems second nature.

But those veteran performers often don't explore a lot of the issues that new professionals face. What exactly *do* you do with all that free time you get? How do you create structure in your life when you only work 20 hours a week and get your summers off - especially if you're single and don't have a family or other similar obligations? How do you remain motivated to improve musically when the paycheck keeps rolling in?

It's funny that we spend our whole musical lives training so intensely to win a job, but hardly spend any time at all figuring out what to do once we've got it. And yet anyone who's been in the profession for a number of years has obviously made the transition, including all of our teachers.

Michael Hovnanian said...

Matt, thanks again for undertaking this dialogue. I have a question or two for you, but I should probably wait and read your audition story posts when you get to those. First things first.