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The story of an audition...

Mr. Zander,

Remember me from Friday afternoons of 2001-2002? I re-read The Art of Possibility (for about the fifth time) on various airplanes and airports on my way to an audition this past weekend. Much as a I've thought I've been
continuing to practice, rereading the book and recalling the class really showed how far I've slipped to other side of the chalkboard. Its been gradual, of course, and in some ways more than others I'm still sitting in the front row. Anyway, going into this audition, I really wanted to get out
of the downward spiral prevalent in so much of the audition process-- from other players, the committee, and sometimes even from the administrators telling you where to warm up, where you'll play, etc.

I walked through the stage door with the idea that this would be the best audition ever (you know this game, yes?). The dim lighting backstage and the tired face of the personnel manager couldn't possibly be helping the auditionees in their goal of making great music so I stopped and talked to
him, rather than rushing off to warm up as everyone before me in line did.
We only talked for a few minutes but it made a world of difference; by the end, he was smiling as radiantly as I was.

After that, I had a plenty of time to warm up (almost 2 hours!) and, as is almost always the case, you can hear everyone else warming up, too. Rather than listening to them judgmentally and comparing my playing to theirs (as
is my tendency), I let them be and did my own warm-up without regard to who was hearing me (another mental block I've had trouble with). During my breaks from playing, I'd listen to the others not to compare but to draw
inspiration. I heard excerpts done in ways I'd never thought of; phrases shaped ever so slightly different from what I was doing (though still true to the composer's instructions). All in all, it was infinitely better than sitting in the judgment world and noticing who was out of tune, who was missing notes, who was effortlessly playing things I was struggling with,
etc. etc.

When I was finally called in to play for the committee, I made sure to remind myself that, rather than putting my version of the excerpts out to be judged, I wanted to show them and engage them in my vision. I didn't want them to be thinking about whether I was good or bad; I just wanted them to
lean with me into my crescendos and sit on the very edge of their seats for the final resolution of a sorrowful, gently diminuendoing dissonance.

I played the first 8 excerpts on the list this way and, though they were behind a screen, I knew they were WITH me and not sitting in judgment AGAINST me. On the 9th (Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra), I flat out missed the high D and high C sharp of the first section. They stopped me
and asked to hear that section again. The person speaking seemed more upset about the missed notes than I was! I was glad to have another chance so I picked up my horn and played again. I missed those 2 notes AGAIN, to which
they said "Thank you" and my audition ended. I'd swear I heard more than just a touch of sadness in those two words of my dismissal. Suffice to say, I did not get the position.

After the audition, I went back to the hotel, put my trombone together and played the Strauss excerpt again. It was flawless. I put my horn down and just laughed and laughed.

How Fascinating!

--Derek Clemens
Front row since August, 2001

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