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Auditioning Application Process

There are three steps to gaining a position in an orchestra or ensemble. Each one is a crucial move towards the goal of making music your career.

Last updated: 30 July 2021

There are three steps to gaining a position in an orchestra or ensemble. Each one is a crucial move towards the goal of making music your career.

Step 1: The application

A good CV is essential and you must tailor it for each prospective group. A one-page CV that packs a punch will be far more impressive than reams of information.

Some ensembles will have an application form that spells out exactly what type of information you are required to include. However, many ensembles do not and if this is the case, then call or email the relevant staff for advice on the best format for your CV, or details of what information they want to see on an application form.

Some orchestras will want you to include a CD of your recordings; whereas others may only want to hear you play in front of them — find out as much as you can, as they all differ.

For example, the Southbank Sinfonia uses a detailed application form which makes it clear exactly what information you will need to include, such as referees, education, photo and CV. In fact, the lack of guidance on an institution’s application form may be part of the process itself, to weed out inexperienced players when there are vast numbers applying, as Claire Mera-Nelson’s experience bears out.

‘One London orchestra wanted to see things such as music qualifications, education work, prizes or scholarships, teaching experience, professional experience, solo or chamber music, recording, etc,’ explains Claire, ‘but didn’t want to see college orchestras, pieces played or conductors worked with.’

Step 2: The audition

Audition requirements can also vary wildly, with some groups leaving it up to the player to choose repertoire, while others give general guidelines, and some may specify set pieces for each instrument.

Whichever set pieces you choose to play, make sure you know them inside out so that you will feel confident. If you are asked to sight-read cold, it may be a sign that you have caught the interest of the audition panel, rather than having displeased them.

The BBC Concert Orchestra’s audition process combines set pieces with unseen sight-reading.

Step 3: The trial

If your audition has been successful, it’s likely you will then be invited to play a series of trial dates. The orchestra will try a selection of musicians and, after a period of time that could be a year or more in length, decide which players to offer positions to.

‘We would try to bring the players in for a block of time, and hopefully give them contrasting work,’ says Alex. ‘As the diet of music in this orchestra is so widely varied, we might give them something classical, something that’s light; we might give them a concert and a recording — a mixture of things.’

As with all occupations, someone with well developed communication skills who is pleasant to work with has a much better chance of gaining a permanent place following any trial period, as Claire Mera-Nelson’s experience attests.

‘You’ve got a lot of talent out there, and when you bring someone in on their first day, if they get on with it and muck in, they’ll get invited back,’ she says. ‘It’s not necessarily the people who are technically the stars.’