audition season: worse than mating season?

this wk has been full of events, people, things to do, to organize, and to dream of.  minnow is visiting toronto for a week and it's the first time that he's flown into the chaos and the excitement known as life of a freelancer. it amazes me sometimes how many quick turns i need to make during one day to make things work. dont get me wrong, it wont take much to just get through the day. but it always leaves a rather unclean feelings in one's mouth- doing things for the sake of getting it done and no more. so what is about this freelancer life that is hectic? well, let me at least clarify that i am no the kind of person who takes all work that comes in my way.  mind you, i like to work, but you see, this freelancer world can be quite brutal: survival of... the aggressive?

one of the particularly funny thing is that because there is so many students who are experiencing something that is very new: audition, there are many questions that pops into the day that is a bit silly (from my point of view) yet incredibly valid if not heavy with concern (from their point of view).  i get questions such as: have i played with cello before?  the piano part is difficult, would i be able to learn it? and it goes on and on. never mind the discussion of the 'payment' schedule. this is where the survival of the aggressive comes in.

this is the way it goes: student apply for an audition spot. office sends them the date and the list of pianists who are 'recommended,' which means that we, at some point, all met the bottom line of 'acceptable' playing.  like dentists, we are 'qualified' by the school yet some are better, some are cheaper, some are difficult, etc etc.  freelancers need to reign in their personalities a bit, because the less 'strange' you are, or perhaps more 'agreeable' you are, the better off you are financially.  having your footings secured in particular instrumental studios also help quite a bit.  and yes, there's also that question of pay schedule.  it doesnt happen very often- the open bargaining, but it does happen. well, rather, the students will send out mass email to everyone on the list and then choose based on recommendation AND pay schedule.              

and you see, these kids dont necessarily understand what/who they are hiring, which can be quite amusing, if not flat out amazing.  but it's all in the learning process and i often remember how clueless i was- i remember calling up on a tonmeister for a recording session and had the gulls to ask him whether he's got an access to a real grand piano, not a honky-tonk.  i just didnt know! and knowing what i know now (there are many who fancy themselves as recording engineer and i think they are either largely delusional or just exemplary incompetents) (like kids who shows up having your next-door-karaoke-microphones set up on wire hangers kinda thing) so once again, self-reflection to take the edges off from the wanting of sending blatant emails ('you are hiring a pianist, no? i will be able to learn parts, yes...')

and why should they know anything about me? they have no clue nor given any clues about how i am or how i became who i am. yes, i played for many different things blah blah have been to festivals here there somewhere, but they dont know that. it's not a required knowledge. and if they do need to know my history to respect me as a person, well, then i suppose it's a lost cause anyways. one should be courteous to others for the simple value of respecting fellow citizen, nothing more/less.  so if they are to respect me just based on my banff-leipzig-pablo casals festival resume, well, it's the respect for the paper, not for me. hilarious, but true. same goes for this wonky 'dr' title. though i think i could probably save a life or two, given right tools and plenty of practice.

and then comes the audition itself: i remember having my first audition but coming in as a non-music major and no dashing hopes of becoming a soloist, i didnt really care, therefore had zero expectation or fear factors. i believe i went right after my chemistry midterm and left to go have a ball-play at a park with neighbour's dog.  walked in with jeans (which i would still do if i were a bit more ignorant. sigh), flopped down and played and answered questions. i remember this part:

piano prof 1: ... so you like schumann?
monkey: yes, very much so. i think he's awesome
*prof 2 buries head in score to laugh
prof 1: awesome- well, alright. what of schumann
*note: prof 1 was chopin lover/specialist
monkey: i think he's overrated.
*prof 1: drops eyeballs on ground in anger
*prof 2: heaving chest against the desk, muffled laughter
*monkey: has no clue
prof 1: so you auditioning for performance?
monkey: ooh no no no. that's not what i wrote? did you see it?
prof 1: (looks, frown) ... but why not?
monkey: i want a degree that can give some sort of income
*prof 2: dies on desk

and so on.

okay, so i was an a$$hole.  i didnt know. if i knew, well, i would be even more of an asshole, i tell you. knowing what i know now... i may even ask them questions:

what can you do for my learning? what's your expectations?
whats your career like? how about your students?
what do you plan to teach me? would i have to continue to master's to be independent?
is it worth it? are you happy?

oooh loaded questions. so may be these clueless happy audition students are better off than i ever was.  they usually have this huge goal theyve been nursing since they were itty children at the local music school. a superstar in making. ive seen a few, though, i havent seen a superstar yet, out of this self-imposed protege kiddies. though there's a girl cellist who is bloody close to it- and she is a superstar in her manners. which is... awesome.

anyways, am boarding the plane across the atlantic this eve and i will be away from the business of it all, just to return on the last day of february, at which point i expect this music-related madness will continue in full swing. just like the college basketball season. may students, teachers and freelancing musicians survive the month of march and april. and should i be pressure to become aggressive for the reasons of business, i hope that i will have enough sense left to leave it all behind, perhaps by choosing to move chairs at the hall instead of playing some obscure piano parts.  does it make less money? well, yes, just about a quarter of what i would make playing. but does it help to keep me sane? yes.  well, then- i dont have much choice do i? i havent made much wealth yet, so may as well continue to be a bit poor, i suppose. but it doesnt matter as my life is rich.

and i have no auditions to judge any parts of me- intellectual, playing, whatever.  im done with all of those things, i suppose. i recently started to sign my emails with 'dr. c' with all those expensive titles as email 'signature,' which seems to scare off the people who tends to be rather aggressive.  who knew- all i need to was to show off the gilded titles. haha.  and another small point is that auditions arent the place of criticism. sure they listen to you and make judgement, but i am sure most of the time, the audition panel wants nothing less than the auditioners to do their absolute best.  they arent there to watch people suffer. there's plenty of television shows for that, properly produced with all the sarcasm and schadenfreuden.  so let us continue with this audition business, with centered mind and the willingness to do one's best, no more or no less.  and that means i better practice all these obscure piano parts as well, haha.  love to all musicians and freelancers, keep your hopes high and dont let the world become the judge of you.

and pass on the word: monkey doesnt do discounts.


  1. 2nd read and still thumbbbs up!!!

  2. always a good read.. and congratulations on breaking 10,000 page hits! that's a lot of good reads, funny, thoughtful, sad, uplifting, daft and poetic by turns. You're never predictable or formulated, but you're consistently you at the same time. I have ached in sympathy and mirth in equal measures since the first post. "i have nothing like this to share" you said two years ago, talking of blogs. since then you've shared such a lot with so many- you do not do things half assed, do you?- (as they say in north America) Jolly good show, i say.