|Someone get a hose... or actually, maybe just let it burn.|
Taking auditions might be one of my least favorite activities. I find it to be the antithesis of what we aim to do as musicians. It is a completely sterile process – playing a chunk of a piece of music, without any of the other players, behind a screen where you can’t engage with the listener in any way other than telekinesis, and all after you’ve spent an interminable amount of time alone in a room worrying about the five minutes you are going to spend doing what I’ve just described (to the soundtrack of other jerks in other rooms playing their bits as loud and high as possible in an effort to let you know they're better than you), and how those five minutes will determine the course of the rest of your life. No – no pressure. None at all. Just hope that you have worked as hard as you possibly could and picked up a few leprechauns and pots o’ gold on the way to the audition. (Make sure you hide those pots o’ gold under the mattress for when your orchestra goes bankrupt (if you do win the job).So, I got to do this again this week. I’m a glutton for punishment. I keep trying. Why? If you figure it out, let me know. Some of us just don’t give up. You do get better at taking auditions, at least, even if you don’t like the process. One of the excerpts I had to play in this audition was from Ein Heldenleben. For those of you not privy to the trivia of the classical music world, I have just mentioned a tone poem by Richard Strauss titled “A Hero’s Life.” The horn parts are really hard (and a lot of fun) and show up on most audition lists. When I play things like this, that so obviously have an image in place, I find that it’s a good idea to put that image in your head before/while you play. IE if you're supposed to be playing music about The Blue Danube, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about Bob Barker. Right?
I get ready to play this excerpt. I’m excited because I’ve just played the best version of the Brahms 3 excerpt I’ve ever played in my life. I am excited to continue. I’m thinking HERO. THIS is what immediately comes to mind. On July 4th we have a longstanding tradition of spending the day across the street at my other family’s house for a barbeque. It was a REALLY hot day this year – maybe 90 out at least. So the young girls were in the kiddy pool staying cool and the grownups were all sitting in lawn chairs melting. It was very low key. We had eaten our grilled foods and we had eaten our desserts. No one was moving. All of a sudden, flames were shooting up from the table with the desserts on it - fallen citronella torch. Uncle Bob and George got up and rushed over to the table and were taking a smother-like approach to it (although, I must say it looked more like bemusement than an actual firefighting “approach”). There was a lot of hand patting and disconcerted grimacing going on. The fire wasn’t actually going away. I would say it was growing. Rose, our six-year old wonder girl, looked over from the kiddy pool, where she was playing with the hose, and jumped up and ran over to the table and calmly yelled, “I got it!” She pointed the hose towards the flames and quite efficiently put out the fire without assistance, while the melting adults in the peanut gallery watched in amazement.
The rest of the afternoon Rose could be heard whispering things like, “I’m a hero. I saved the day. I saved my dad. That sure was risky what I did. Boy, I’m really a hero.” So, yes, when I got ready to play the opening to Ein Heldenleben, I thought of little Rose putting out a fire. And boy did that excerpt start off going better than I’d EVER played it in an audition. And then I got to the rest in the middle, and I went to come in on the high B flat and it was like I was fat kid on roller skates, carrying a tray of milk shakes, who happened upon a slick of banana peels when I tried to play that note – shit went EVERYWHERE. I finished the excerpt, but all I wanted to do was laugh, and really hard. And I think that the reason I wanted to laugh is because my idea of a hero is a six-year old girl and six year olds fall down! THIS is progress. THIS is having priorities in the right place. Why? Because that note DIDN’T MATTER! It’s just a note, and it was just an audition. What matters is that six-year old girls can put out fires and that we can laugh when we make mistakes. I’m glad that Rose is my hero, a little girl with her whole life ahead of her and the ability to do anything she wants with it.
On a somber note, my colleague Rick Menaul passed away suddenly this week. I almost feel disrespectful calling him a colleague, as I have nowhere near his wisdom or experience. I never once saw Rick doing anything but smiling. He had a great attitude about horn playing. He once told me that he thought you should be able to get all of your practicing done in an hour a day. At that point, I was still in high school, we weren’t yet colleagues, and I thought he was crazy. Looking back, I was crazy. He’d already figured it out – there’s more to life than just practicing. HE would have laughed at my audition. I loved playing with him and while it didn’t happen enough, I will still miss him terribly. Today I dedicate my thoughts on living life to its fullest to you, Rick. You weren’t just a great musician; you were a truly kind guy. A rare bird indeed. Such a loss.