EUBO auditions are held in two three-day batches in order to accommodate for the large number of hopefuls who come for a live audition. The total number of instrumentalists at Echternach, Luxembourg, (one of the orchestra's places of residence) this year numbered close to 100. Curiously, the instruments auditioned in April were strings, harpsichord, oboes, and bassoon, no trumpets, percussion, or plucked continuo (I say curiously, as those instruments appear on some of the tour rosters). It's no surprise to me that the trumpets and percussion were auditioned separately, seeing as though they wouldn't have gotten much out of the course (chamber music with natural trumpets? No thanks!) as the rest of us, but I was surprised there were no lutenists. Whatever.
For three days (an evening, two full days, and a morning) we played non-stop. Solo lessons, chamber music, orchestra rehearsals - you name it, we did it. And all throughout I had the distinct feeling of being watched - the orchestra's rehearsal hall had a balcony which was constantly manned by at least one observer plus a video camera.
Preparing for an audition is always difficult, especially when you aren't given a clue as to what you will play until the day before you get there. All you can hope to do is keep calm, eat and sleep enough, and stay focused. After four hours of travel, we stepped into our first rehearsal and the nerves began to go. I remember checking my pulse whenever I had a moment in the vain attempt to slow my pounding heart. Luckily, we played bits from the 1st Orchestral suite - something Donna had suggested I prepare. After playing the second Bourree well, I think I managed to catch enough attention to put me on the radars of some of the observers.
Cleverly, I had decided to wear a tie. Though a small gesture, two tutors approached me the following evening to tell me that they had noticed (I was the only one to do so during the second round of auditions). I'm sure they were pleased to see me in proper concert dress too during our informal chamber concert on the final morning.
By the end of the weekend, naturally, I was exhausted. A shadow of myself, I managed to collect enough energy to buy a burger with some others, having been dumped at the train station following the concert, which kept me conscious for the rest of the afternoon. Surprisingly, most of the Baslers were bassoonists and it was nice to share the ride home with Giovanni and Nelly. Despite keeping in reasonably high spirits, it was hard not to feel utterly vanquished as I overanalyzed every moment of the previous three days.
To my complete surprise, within two days it was announced to me that I had won the placement. It was baffling to me, considering the high number of applicants (10) and my poor performance (or so I thought) during the auditions. Maybe I hadn't been that bad after all? Or maybe it was something else. Looking back, not only had I dressed well (at times), I had displayed one or two acts of leadership (keeping track of rehearsal time and recommending not to take on another movement, stating a program order for the oboe band before any of us could lose track, etc.), and took directions well (I don't think the conductors ever heard me say more than, "Sure," or, "Cool, cool, cool."). Surely it was this display of my other qualities which helped tip the scales in my favour?