Appendix 2 of Mastering the Trombone by Edward Kleinhammer and Douglas Yeo
as it appeared in
The publication of Mastering the Trombone in 1997 represented the culmination of years of friendship between me and my teacher/mentor, Edward Kleinhammer. Working with him to bring the book from concept to publication was a gift of rare value. The first edition of Mastering the Trombone was printed by a publisher who wanted to have the book translated into German. The book was published as Meisterhaft Posaune spielen. Due to difficulties with the original publisher of the book, Mastering the Trombone is now published solely by EMKO Publications (Edward Kleinhammer's publishing company) and the German translation of the book is now out of print.
The task of the making the translation fell to Carl Lenthe, an American trombonist who at that time was Solo Trombonist of the Bamberg Symphony in Germany. I had met Carl for the first time in 1984 when on a tour of Europe with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We were in need of a substitute second trombonist and Carl was available to fill in. That he was asked to do the translation of Mastering the Trombone therefore was not only a logical but a serendipitous choice as well.
In the course of making the translation, Carl was confronted with attempting to make Appendix 2 of the book (which unlike the rest of the book, was written entirely by me rather than incollaboration with Edward Kleinhammer), which deals with taking symphony orchestra auditions, relevant for readers of the book who lived in Germany. The German audition system has considerable differences than that which is used in the United States. Hence, Carl, with my permission, adapted the Appendix to reflect the audition experience in Germany while working from the framework of topics I covered in the original chapter of the book.
Thus, Mastering the Trombone became Meisterhaft Posaune spielen.
It occurred to me that there would be players who spoke and read only English who would be interested in reading Carl's comments about the German audition system and his thoughts on being an American living and working overseas. When he left Germany in 1998 to return to the United States to take a position as Professor of Trombones and Euphonium at Indiana University, I asked Carl if he would translate his German text into English as well as elaborate on it to reflect some of his personal experience as an American working in Germany so I could post it on my web site for the benefit of many players. This he agreed to do, and what follows is the happy result. I am grateful for Carl for his original collaboration on Meisterhaft Posaune spielen and appreciate his extra effort in adapting Appendix 2 so it can appear here. For those considering a career in orchestra music overseas, and in Germany in particular, this article provides a wealth of valuable information.
Curiously enough, I find myself prompted to translate my adaptation into English, as the English language readers desire to learn about these procedures in Germany. This is fully legitimate, of course, and I would like to offer a few words about the document before you.
This adaptation contains information or adaptations of information from the sections: The Audition System, Getting Invited to the Audition - part one, While on Stage, and Section Playing. It is to be understood in the context of the original, as contained in Kleinhammer and Yeo's book. I am thankful to Doug for putting into print a philosophy of disciplined, uncompromising thoroughness in these matters and recommend it to all who have not yet read it.
Since this format only addresses the specifics mentioned above, I have added some general comments at the end to paint a larger picture of the orchestral audition situation in Germany, especially as it may effect an American considering the possibility of employment abroad.
Hoping to have provided information useful to trombonists, I remain
Professor of Trombone
You have decided to pursue a career in orchestral music! You are listening to performances and recordings, studying scores, practicing, attending a good school and working with an inspirational teacher. What now?
In Germany, orchestras advertise their vacancies in Das Orchester, a monthly publication of the German orchestra musicians' union, which can be found in libraries and music stores. Normally, members of the orchestra section with a vacancy review applications and decide who shall be invited. What exactly are they looking for?
Quite simply, they are looking for someone who will be able to perform the expected duties at the very highest professional level. So far, so good. They quite likely are looking at previous experience, and may often have a certain age in mind, with the goal of keeping a good age balance in the section. Generally, 35 is the oldest applicant age considered, but there are exceptions, and this long adhered to rule may slowly be changing. Perhaps they are looking for a young, talented but inexperienced player whom they hope to mold and form into their special tradition and style. The orchestra may already know a few candidates whom they hope to "lure" out of their current employment situation.
The available time for auditions automatically sets a limit on the number of candidates who can be invited. A number of auditions may be necessary, and the pool of possible candidates expanded - somewhat like a police search case!
The actual audition can follow a number of different patterns. In Germany, the first round of a tenor trombone audition usually consists of Ferdinand David's Konzertino in E-flat major, opus 4. This romantic concerto was composed by Ferdinand David, who was Felix Mendelssohn's concertmaster in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The piece was premiered by the solo bass trombonist of the same orchestra, Carl Traugott Queisser.
For bass trombone the Konzertino from Ernst Sachse in the F-major transposition is used. This piece, originally in b-flat major for tenor trombone, contains variations of a well-known theme from Bellini's opera, Norma. I recommend learning not only these two concerti, but also getting to know others in this German romantic genre. These could include pieces from Eugen Reiche, Serafin Alschausky, Ernst Paudert, Robert Jehmlich and others. This pursuit will enhance your sense of style for this period and thereby benefit your David and Sachse.
An accompanist is normally supplied, and you may have 5 minutes of rehearsal time with him or her - but maybe not! The candidate is sometimes allowed to bring his or her own accompanist. Inform yourself ahead of time. I have, however, never experienced that an accompanist, whether staff or privately supplied, has made a difference in an audition decision.
Sometimes a second obligatory piece is required. Frank Martin's Ballade or the Albrechtsberger Concerto for alto trombone are perhaps most frequently requested in this case. For bass trombone, New Orleans from Eugene Bozza or the Concerto in One Movement from Lebedev are often requested.
Those who play convincingly in the concerto round(s) will advance to the orchestral excerpt rounds. These rounds take place on the same day as the concerto rounds. In recent times almost all orchestras announce the orchestral excerpts in the letter of invitation. This was not always the case, and there was a time when it was simply assumed that a candidate knew what excerpts to expect, and also that they would be played by memory!
Opera orchestras have their own specific excerpts in addition to the standard symphonic excerpts. For tenor trombone, one should know the important motifs from Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. These should include different examples of, among others, the contract- or spear motif, curse motif, sword motif, Walhall motif, and the Valkyrie motif, especially in the famous "Ride" version. Further, one should know pertinent excerpts from the operas Arabella (Richard Strauss), Othello (Verdi), Wozzeck (Berg), Palestrina (Pfitzner), Magic Flute (Mozart) and the fight scene from Wagner's Lohengrin.
The Ring motifs are equally important for bass trombone along with the "craze" (Wahn) motif from Wagner's Meistersinger. In addition to Othello, Wozzeck and Lohengrin mentioned above, bass trombonists should know Der Rosenkavalier and Salome (Richard Strauss), The Barber from Bagdad (Peter Cornelius), Pagliacci (Leoncavallo). While it is impossible to supply an exhaustive list, these suggestions for both tenor and bass trombone certainly represent the mainstream opera excerpts. Opera lovers know these pieces well. Any trombonist interested in a career in the opera should consider it a privilege to learn them.
Certain radio orchestras are dedicated to the cultivation of modern music, and will also have specific excerpts for audition purposes. These will be made known in advance, and copies often sent with the invitation.
The most important advice for all of these excerpts is to learn the entire pieces, not just the trombone parts!
Many auditions are performed behind a screen to insure anonymity. Sometimes only the concerto round is behind the screen, while some orchestras will hold the entire audition in an open manner with no anonymity. While no dress code exists, candidates may appreciate knowing that dress for orchestra auditions is often casual. Jacket and tie are not required or expected. Concert attire is out of place.
Rarely, in the final round of an audition, the remaining candidates may be asked to appear simultaneously on stage and perform the individual excerpts one candidate after the other. Be prepared - and this unusual but not unheard of practice will not disturb you!
More often, selected finalists will be asked to perform in the orchestra for a concert program or opera performance. Unlike the concert program, which will be rehearsed in customary fashion, it is quite possible that an opera performance will take place with no rehearsal, since most standard pieces are "in the book", and no longer rehearsed for repertoire performances. This, of course, is where the study of recordings and scores is invaluable. The wisdom of knowing the orchestra's schedule around the time of audition should also be apparent here - enabling you to know what pieces are of current concern to the orchestra.
Whatever audition system is used, a natural and inevitable subjectivity remains in the procedure. While the idea of a "Great Trombone Playoff" is fascinating, it is clear that the art of trombone playing will always be a subjective call, judged by diverse and personal standards and ideals, and subject to a myriad of outside factors. Trombone players aren't measured by batting averages; players are simply judged by whether or not the listeners like the way they play.
Every audition has its own dynamic, and many factors can play a role in the decision. It is in the orchestras' own best interest to make and keep the procedures as fair as possible. Since an audition alone cannot give a complete picture of the candidate as an orchestral musician, orchestras implement a probationary year to further test the qualities of the candidate in practice.
However the procedures are structured, it is useless for you, as candidate, to pass judgement on the validity of the system. You only have to perform your best under the given circumstances and leave the decision up to the committee.
Although the goal of any audition is to find the best player for the job, the preliminaries are basically structured to eliminate players as quickly as possible - to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will. In this phase, the players are measured against each other. All you have to do here is play better than the others. In the finals only a select few remain, and they are measured against the "ideal". Every audition has only one winner.
Now you have a rough picture of how an audition can proceed. To even be considered for an invitation you must submit an application. Here also there are certain procedures and structures to which you should adhere. For starts, you will need a cover letter and a resume. The cover letter should be sent to the address listed in the vacancy announcement and needn't contain more than:
re: Your announcement from (date) in "Das Orchester" - Solo trombone
Ladies and gentlemen,
I hereby submit my application for the position in your orchestra as listed above. I would be pleased to receive an invitation to the audition, and remain
Enc.: resume with picture
The resume is the part of your application that makes a statement. It should be neat, easily understandable, and contain true, unexaggerated and relevant facts. The days when a resume was handwritten with fountain pen in text form are past, this tradition having given way to the practicality of computer generated documents that make the vital facts readily accessible. With your resume on computer file, it is also easily updated and adapted for different needs.
The contents of the resume should fit on a single page and include:
-Name, address and telephone number
-Year of birth or birth date
-Current employment status
-Degrees, diplomas, completed courses and programs
-Important prizes, awards or solo appearances
-Important chamber music activities
-Relevant extra instruments, such as contrabass trombone, bass trumpet, etc.
Beyond this, you can use your own judgment and include items such as:
-Further musical activities, such as published compositions, arrangements
-Further instruments played, such as organ, guitar, etc.
-Experience in organizational fields, such as music management, orchestra representative, artistic policy committee, etc.
Restrict yourself to important facts, letting them speak for themselves. If you are a student and simply don't have 15 years of experience, then filling out your resume with non-professional activities and accomplishments will fool no one.
It is customary in Germany to enclose a photo with your resume. This needn't be a professional studio portrait. A small, passport sized photo attached to the upper right hand corner of the resume is perfectly adequate. Experience shows the wisdom of writing your name on the back of the photo, should it become unattached.
Copies of transcripts are rarely enclosed anymore. In the cover letter you could offer to send these and other information upon request. Recommendations or newspaper reviews don't play a role, and need not be included. Do not send a recording unless specifically requested.
Not only the content can make an impression - also the appearance of your application can make a statement about you as a person. Check for spelling and other errors. Give regard to layout and readability, avoiding opulent or distracting fonts and styles. And finally - try to see your application from the perspective of the recipients, who have a large stack of applications to process and want to garner the important facts quickly.
Thus ends the translation of my adaptation of sections from Douglas Yeo's chapter on Symphony Auditions: Preparation and Execution. While German orchestras do not use audition tapes as a preliminary selection process, I did translate and include Getting Invited to the Audition - Part Two in the German edition, as I feel that the information on preparing and making a tape included therein is of benefit beyond audition use.
While I have applied my best experience and knowledge in compiling and adapting the above, it only addresses a small range of procedures in the application and audition process.
Considering long term employment abroad is a large step, and many people would rather consider a change in profession than the change involved in pursuing their profession in a different country and culture. This is a personal decision, of course. It is my hope that the information contained in these writings may supply the reader with at least a framework on which to base his or her decision making process.
From consideration to implementation is another large step, and one that will require courage (or love of adventure), flexibility, and the ability to adapt and improvise in new situations. The rewards to be garnered, should a career in a foreign land become reality, are great. There are also potential drawbacks to be considered. Further, there are factors over which you will likely have no control or influence. I will try to address all of these factors, drawing upon my own experiences as well as observations from over 20 years as an expatriate American working as a professional musician in Germany.
Obviously an undertaking of this nature is subjective, and my experiences and observations will not apply universally. I am reminded here of an anecdote, where an aspiring composer approached Mozart with the question, "Master, what must I do to become a great composer?" Mozart answered that only hours, weeks and years of hardest work, relentless study and forbearance would lead to that goal, to which the aspiring composer noted, "But you yourself have spent much of your time in idle pursuits and pleasure!" "Ah yes", replied Mozart, "but then, I never asked anyone how to become a great composer!"
In retrospect, my own experiences of leaving America for a career in Germany seem to be, as can so often be the case in life, a case of being in the right place at the right time. It certainly helped to be in the right frame of mind and play in the right manner too.
At age twenty my strongest desire was to play in an orchestra, and having recently immersed myself in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, a job opening at the Bavarian State opera in Munich was quite appealing. Before too long, I was on a plane to Germany where I played an audition for the solo trombone job at the Bavarian State Opera. After presenting my skills on both the trombone and the bass trumpet, I was offered the opportunity to play a performance the following evening, as a further audition. The performance was Verdi's Il Trovatore, and while there are pieces with much more difficult trombone parts, this opera was adequate to prove that I could stick with a conductor, lead a section, and generally maintain my composure. At the conclusion of the performance, I was offered the job.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play in this setting. The Munich opera, for those who don't know it, is one of the very top European companies, and one which to this day upholds the strongest tradition of the repertoire system, in which operas and ballets are rehearsed and premiered and can then stay in the repertoire, sometimes for years. This is a great cultural asset to any city, and the opera schedule in any given week will contain a wide variety of choices.
Stepping into repertoire performances with no rehearsal is quite a challenge even to a seasoned veteran, and the Munich repertoire at that time contained upward of 60 pieces, among them most of the Strauss and Wagner operas. As a professional beginner, however well trained, it is an enormous challenge, which can only be met with diligent study, quick reflexes, help from the colleagues, good fortune, and the ability to recover from mistakes quickly. Obviously, I had my hands full, even with generous portions of the above qualities on my side.
It took many months of concentrating on my own little part in the opera before I had the mental energy to put my antenna up for the goings-on around me. In the ensuing years, I developed a great love of opera, filled as it is with tremendous drama (both onstage and off!), world class singing, great interpretive conducting and a very highly refined school of orchestral playing.
I couldn't imagine a place where I would rather be, especially considering the beauty of Munich and the outlying Bavarian countryside. Despite this, I was frequently asked if I planned to "go back" to the states for one job or another, but really felt no inclination at all, being fully satisfied with the life of a musician in Germany.
A musician established in an orchestral position will often have opportunities to play in other orchestras, and being versed in opera as well as symphonic music enhanced those chances. Thus in my years there, I was able to play in most of the major orchestras in Germany, getting to know countless musicians and enjoying the unique differences that make each orchestra special in some way. It was through just such an encounter with the Bamberg Symphony that I was eventually enticed to switch to that orchestra.
At this point I should also add, that I never felt it my duty to show "them over there" how the trombone should be played. On the contrary, although I was a section leader, I was quite enthralled with adapting to the style and manner of playing which I heard around me. This was not only "the German school of playing" (such a broad, sweeping generalization must be in quotation marks) but also the operatic school of orchestral playing, which is greatly influenced by the great lyricism on stage along with the dramatic elements contained in the stories. Believe me, if there really is a dragon being killed on stage, the orchestra will not be playing shyly.
But I digress. In my years overseas I observed many foreigners come and go. The word "foreigner" is an issue in itself that must be addressed in this context. When I arrived in Germany in the 70's, I was a foreigner. When I left in the 90's I was a "non common market foreigner". The entire time I lived there I was a privileged foreigner, in that I had a tenured employment position which insured my living and working visas along with those of my wife and children.
German orchestra policies treat foreign and domestic musicians equally, and indeed Germany has a centuries old tradition of importing musical talent. The Bavarian State Orchestra, of which I was a member, has an almost 500 year history (earlier as court orchestra), and lists in the earliest journals Orlando di Lasso as conductor and an orchestra of decidedly Italian heritage. There were also times of substantial Flemish influence, along with a steady flux of musicians from neighboring Austria, perhaps the foreign country viewed most suspiciously by Germans!
Local pride can also be a strong factor. One of my now retired friends told me that he had a more difficult time joining the Bavarian State Orchestra in the 50's as a non-Bavarian (he is from the state of Rhineland-Palitinate) than I had as a non-German in the 70's!
Today, the various German orchestras have different policies and practices, sometimes even differing between individual instrumental sections. While there are recommended guidelines concerning the hiring of foreigners, there is also human nature and attitudes, which play perhaps as much of a role. The recommended guidelines, as stated in memoranda from the German Orchestra Union, would have the orchestras first consider German and Common Market citizens before expanding the search to include others. Some orchestras, however, consider it a point of pride to include high level international competition in the first rounds of auditioning. Others will hold many auditions before making that step, and include foreigners then only if absolutely necessary.
The law of supply and demand applies here as well. In the 1960's and 70's, for various reasons, there was simply a shortage of high quality brass players entering the German work market. This coincided with a time of overabundance of excellent brass players in the USA. The gravitational pull was not to be denied, and to this day there are many American brass players in key positions in the German orchestras. They are, to my knowledge without exception, respected, admired and appreciated members of their ensembles, often holding important committee positions as well. Although there are also non-brass playing Americans active in German orchestras, brass players seem to constitute the majority.
In recent years, as my countless audition committee experiences verify, there is again an adequate supply of excellent brass players in Germany, thus reducing the demand for imported talent. The sheer number of German orchestras, however, will presumably always offer some chances for foreigners to compete in the audition process. It has been facetiously stated that "every train station in Germany has an opera house", and while this is not exactly true (I have been in many train stations there that did not have opera houses), the number of orchestras offering full time employment to musicians is enviously high.
And of course there was a time when Germany exported orchestral musicians! If you study the member lists of the major American orchestras at the beginning of this century, you will easily recognize that German musicians played a big part in the musical life of this country. At present, American orchestras seem to be importing mostly conductors from Germany. Maybe the pendulum will swing so far as to include instrumentalists again.
So, within the orchestral world, life as a foreigner in Germany is as much as you want to make of it. Getting along as a musician in an orchestra is probably the same the world over. Once you realize that musicians make the most noise when they are not playing, and decide to what degree you wish to participate in that noise, then you have found your place. Certainly language skills play a role here, as they also do in assimilating to life outside of the orchestra. Although I had two years of high school German, I must admit that I had viewed it at best as an abstract exercise, at worst a huge nuisance. Through those two years, and that mostly through osmosis, I was able to at least identify when someone was speaking German as opposed to, say, Italian or Japanese.
Despite such humble beginnings, I learned quickly. "Posaunen zu laut!" and "Posaunen schleppen!" were among my first accomplishments. Further linguistic nuances were to follow, and indeed, mastering a foreign language is one of the definite benefits of living abroad. Through the language you are not only able to communicate, but also gain insight into the literature and even the mentality of a nation.
But more importantly, commanding the local language is one of the highest prerequisites to assimilating comfortably in any country. Since English is spoken efficiently throughout most of Europe, especially in musicians' circles, it is always tempting to revert to that language, especially since there are many who are just looking for the chance to brush up on their high school English, and still others who speak excellently. Although I learned German autodidactically, I would recommend taking advantage of adult education courses or the like.
Adapting to life in a foreign country can be an adventure, and we all like adventures - sometimes! Beyond learning the language, one should have a decidedly open mind, and accept that there are many different ways to do things. It was the people who were constantly bemoaning that the peanut butter or the telephones were better in America, or who couldn't accept the sometimes-rigid bureaucratic structures and procedures who became unhappy, thereby missing the many positive things to be gained in their situation.
It is also interesting to note, that almost any country that you as an American go to will have a much less diversified ethnic culture. Indeed, many countries are basically mono-cultural or mono-ethnic, especially when compared to the USA. If there is some overriding characteristic trait or mannerism inherent to that culture that rubs you the wrong way, then it will be you with the problem, not the millions around you.
Even if you go to a foreign country with language skills and an open, adventurous frame of mind and are welcomed with opened arms, you are still leaving some things behind, and I am not speaking of tangible items here such as your aquarium, bicycle, stereo or car.
If you haven't already, then at the latest when you go abroad you will be losing the close infrastructure of your family and friends. Granted, there is email and fax, but in the 70's there were telephone and airmail. None of these media will replace a close knit relationship with those whom you love. I was fortunate to meet my future wife, marry and start a family while also enjoying a wonderful collection of friends in our chosen land, but our family was often "in exile" when marriages, births and deaths, and other family occasions were celebrated back home.
You will also be leaving behind your network of professional connections, and connections that are not regularly cultivated will suffer. True, you may no longer need your free lancing connections if you are not planning to return, but you never know. Some musicians pursue professional activity in places that do not offer the long term job security of Germany, and while they enjoy and benefit from their few years abroad, they often return to find that others have filled their earlier places in the scheme of things.
Further, while this may not be of great significance to some, you will be leaving behind American society and way of life. While learning other ways and cultures will certainly give you new perspectives on those that you left behind, maybe even making you appreciate certain things more, you will be effectively disconnected from your old way of life.
While abroad, I voted by absentee ballot in presidential elections only, feeling too uninformed to vote in local or state elections. In Germany, I enjoyed basically all privileges of a German citizen except the right to vote. This concerned me very little as a 20-year old bachelor, but as I later owned property and was raising a family there I missed the possibility to voice my opinion, if even as only one in 80 million. After spending a number of years there, I could have adopted German citizenship, this however, at the expense of giving up my US citizenship. This was a move that I was not willing to make, my patriotic American upbringing being too deeply ingrained.
Now mind you, I never bemoaned these things that I left behind, and was usually not even acutely aware of them. And I neither heeded nor really understood those well-meaning individuals who pointed these things out to me in my youthful exuberance. There was an opportunity, and I had trombone - would travel.
And so I return to Mozart here, and his alleged reply. I never asked anyone how to do it. Furthermore, those who offered advice often did so to my deaf ears. Despite that, my adventure, which at this point constitutes half of my life, was an experience that I cannot imagine having missed, and one that formed and molded more than just my musicality.
While my experiences were lived out in Germany, I have met and spoken with many musicians who have gone to other countries, sometimes for extended periods of time. Many musicians have lived and worked in Italy, and I can remember a lively American "colony" of orchestra musicians in the beautiful city of Florence. Many American musicians in Italy seemingly did not enjoy the long-term security that would merit committing a large segment of your professional life, and some of them realized this at a late stage. Other American musicians, specifically in Milan and Turin seem very well situated. I am unable to offer specific details. All were, or are, able to enjoy living and working in Florence, Rome, Naples, Milan, Turin and other great Italian cities - an enticing prospect, to be sure!
Some musicians of my generation went to orchestras in Hong Kong or South America. I don't remember that the engagements were long lasting, but they all have many exciting tales to tell and were able to garner valuable professional experience while getting to know another culture. For some, the engagement served as a spring board to further orchestral activity elsewhere in the music world, for others, it was a chance to do something fun before returning to further studies or another professional pursuit.
Returning to this country in 1998 as professor for trombones and euphonium at Indiana University School of Music was and continues to be professionally inspiring. While I look forward to a new chapter in my career, with many possibilities waiting to be pursued, the move here was at the same time the close of the previous chapter, thus bringing much of that experience into a no longer ongoing focus.
Not surprisingly, the move back to the US after 21 years in Germany was much more involved and represents a much larger change for me and my family than the move to Germany as a 20-year old bachelor. I intend to cultivate my contacts and friendships in Germany, and am maintaining a professional presence there, but nonetheless - in coming back I am leaving much behind. As I tell my children when they point out that the schools or the bread or the bus system in Germany were better: "You should be thankful to have experienced something in different ways."
And indeed, I am.
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