Sunday, May 20, 2007

Calgary audition odyssey, part VIII

...this is a continuation - the last! - of Calgary audition odyssey, part VII...

After Tim announced the committee's decision, they all congratulated me, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. They asked me how long I had been down at New World, where I had gone to school, etc... It was kind of strange - I had spent months preparing for this day, deliberating over all the musical details, and issues of how I wanted to present myself to these people. And now here they were, introducing themselves, and I couldn't think of anything to say, except "Thank you!" I wished I had a speech prepared, because I thought if I tried to express what was on my mind it might sound like a ecstatic Howard Dean scream!

That night I came back to the hall to hear the orchestra's concert, with Music Director Minczuk conducting Dvorak 9, the Gershwin Piano Concerto in F with soloist Stewart Goodyear, and a piece by Canadian composer Harry Freedman. It seemed like a relatively adventurous program, with the jazz influence tying into the symphony's 'New World' subtitle, and the orchestra sounded fantastic - I may have been biased, but I was really impressed!

I was sitting in the stage left choral risers behind, looking down directly over the bass section. The second movement of Dvorak 9 begins and ends with a chorale for the bass section soli, and they had a beautiful sound and intonation. They all play French bow, and I had been told that 4 of the 5 studied with Lawrence Hurst at Indiana - all of which seems to make me the odd duck in the section! Still, I liked their sound and energy so much, and I hoped I'd find a way to mesh.

I spent a lot of the concert trying to attach names to faces and get to know the musicians before I met them personally. I think you can get a sense of musicians' personalities by watching them perform, though in an orchestra there's a certain amount of melding and blurring of personalities. The next day as my connecting flight was about to land in Houston, I struck up a conversation with the people next to me, asking them about Calgary, and the man behind us overheard - it turned out he was the principal trumpet in the Calgary Phil! I had been sitting in front of him the whole flight without even recognizing him. He was very nice, a Houston native who has lived in Calgary for 30 years, and he described the orchestra as a big family, with all the fun and closeness and dysfunction that implies.

It occurred to me that joining a new family isn't something to be taken lightly - we can't help but change the group, and it changes us as well. Still all flushed with audition victory, I started thinking, what could I contribute to this orchestra, and to this city? Those questions have always been there, and I like to think I've made a slight positive impact on New World and Miami. We're so focused and driven on advancing our careers, though, that the larger purpose can get lost.

I sort of feel like a guy who has been lost at sea, trying to swim to any ship he could find. And now I've found one, and it's pulled me on deck - but who knows how seaworthy the ship is, whether the navigator has a map, or if anyone on board knows how to cook? And where are we all headed, and how are we going to keep the cargo from getting moldy? Of course I have the highest hopes, and I feel like I'm joining an awesome group of people - but still there's a sense that I won't have done my job unless I can make it even better.

My other analogy - I promised some analogies in this post! - is that an audition is a bit like the process of conception, at least the part that takes place in the Fallopian tube (I'll leave the nudity and the groping for another time). There are all these sperm, focused on a single goal. Some of them get lost or sidetracked on the way, others do everything right but just come up a bit short - and an incredible amount seem to get wasted. They all go on to other goals and victories though (unlike actual sperm) - and even the one that does reach the goal has lots more work to do. In some ways the real work hasn't even started. There's a whole lot of combining, sorting, dividing, and developing yet to come, and all our training and preparation are like the genetic code: they might determine our eye color, but they won't teach us how to look and see and understand.

To get philosophical for a second: the real work, that of becoming good musicians and good people, has been going on all along. I think it's important to have a larger mission in preparing for an audition, but that mission didn't begin when the list came in the mail. It began before we picked up the instrument, maybe before we even existed - not in our zygotes and chromosomes, but in ideas and insights that we've learned and absorbed, from our teachers and our lives. We're just passing on the ideas and the habits we've learned from others - always trying to refine and renew them, through the filters of our own experience - and that work keeps going, long after the audition odyssey ends.

2 comments:

LR said...

Hi Matt-

I enjoyed the analogies. :-) Congrats on your new job, and welcome to the CPO. I'm actually out of here in a few weeks (my contract was only a year) but I just found out that you practice Ashtanga and wanted to recommend a studio here: The Yoga Shala on 19th St. NW. Its a great studio with lots of traditional led Primary series and mysore style classes. The instructors are great and the energy is just fantastic. There are a few other studios in town but I'm not sure that they are strictly ashtantga, which the Shala is. Just thought I'd give you a heads up! Namaste--

Lauren

Matt Heller said...

Thanks so much! I'll definitely check that place out, and it was nice to meet you briefly - I'm sure our paths will cross again, online if not in actual life!