This is what my life has been like recently.
Everything always happens at once, but of course the audition has been the focus of my efforts.
So last week, I did it. After practicing for months, chronicling my process, I woke up early and made my way down to the hall to see how my travails would fare under some serious scrutiny.
I was not too nervous, and when Candidate 11 (me) was called onto stage, I felt pretty comfortable. Oh yay! La Mer! Ba daaaa….yaaaaaaaaa…. *looks at stand*
Right. My music is upside down and not even on the correct page. Of course I have it memorized. I have it all memorized. I played it well, but had to laugh at my jackass mistake. At least I’m consistent. This whole blog is about frailty, and that qualifies as Grade A jackassery.
So most of it went well. I had Ray Hardy move my bridge and soundpost AND put new strings on the low 2, so I had a minor pitch issue on one of the 4ths in Beethoven 5. It was disappointing, but I am ok with it. It’s a killer excerpt that I need to work more, especially on this new setup. Fair enough. What happened next would be pretty terrible if it hadn’t been so funny.
Through some strange accident, I hadn’t prepared the Midsummer Night’s Dream excerpt. I just missed it on the list until about 10 days out, so it was the least polished of the group. Not an excuse. No excuse. I totally got what I paid for here. You see, the universe conspired to play at the resonant frequencies surrounding my bow to punish me for my mistake. An instability began to grow at the skittering tip of my already Vivace stick, and the further I went, the boingy-er it got.
Anyone who has ever had performance gone wrong can attest to the fact that the instrument begins to feel foreign when what is coming out does not resemble what is on the page. It gets bigger or smaller, you check for extra fingers, swear you could have heard a backfire come out of it somewhere. As the cello began to turn square on me, I decided to triage the situation. I sat out a note and picked up the next whole beat and finished the piece much better than I began it. And I did say the f-word. Quietly. It took a lot of restraint not to bang my head on the stand. Let me be clear: I biffed a total of maybe 4 notes. This was not a trainwreck. But it was definitely on the other side of what is acceptable for an orchestra of any repute.
Don Juan was the last excerpt, and I thank him for putting aside his usual sybarite ways and allowing me the pleasure of ripping him a new one. Afterward, I was tempted to throw the cello into the empty seats and stage dive in a rush of adrenaline and relief.
I drove home shaking my head, but not discouraged. One has to have a first audition after surgery at some point. This was mine, and it was valuable to see what aspects of my technique held under that kind of pressure. Keep in mind that my native environment has been recording and filling in as a ringer. I really had no idea how I would do. It ties into my curriculum design stuff at Hopkins, actually. I’m always lobbying that nearly any assessment is viable: it’s just the importance we ascribe to it that makes it useful or cumbersome. I enjoyed the drive home in the rain and listened to good music with the windows down.
I arrived home with cockeyed optimism in full swing. I know what will complete the afternoon! Some SportsCenter and a Guinness.
Little did I know that a tiny, teetotaling assassin was waiting to lunge at me from under the fridge. A squishy, dirty mouse shot out when I opened the door and ran over my foot. I ran for the bat, desperate. Lucy talked a big game, but never went in for the kill and fled whenever the thing would rattle around. Oh beer paradise, why are you so hard to get to? Stop judging me, mouse! Eventually the fridge was moved, beer was procured, comfort was had.


The mouse never was seen again, but I know he’s around. I named him Felix (Mendelmouse). I think he is in the wall behind the tv. Sometimes I turn on Animal Planet just to scare him.
There’s symbolism there, a moral or anecdote. But I’m going to leave it. Some things can’t be summed up in a snappy one-liner at the end of a blog.

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7 Responses


    Emily, I love you. There's a children's book, right there.

    I think your concept of any assessment in any situation being valuable is a good one. If we always assessed ourselves as great we'd never have anything to work for, right?

  2. Man. There's really nothing like being inside that ulcer factory called an audition.

    Thank you for writing about it. For the guts. For doing it. Makes me want to try again, to.

  3. Thanks, as always, for sharing your grand event! I guess after everything else, a mouse in the kitchen was pretty minor. All I can say is BRAVO!

  4. Thanks, guys! I think it was worth doing even if just to be able to tell people about it.

    PS: PDR: The mouse felt like the biggest event of the day. I full-on freaked out. It made eee eeeee sounds. 🙂

  5. Emily, SO funny – thank you – it was with joy & much laughter over coffee & pancakes that I read your post this morning. I'm so relieved that audition is over! & that you got your Guinness in the end. Katie xxx

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