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Vadim Karpinos on the Audition Process

Vadim Karpinos (Assistant Principal Timpani and Percussion, Chicago Symphony) addresses in this interview some concerns about the orchestral audition process.
Vadim Karpinos percussion audition

What is the current audition process like?

It’s hard to get into an audition these days. Partly because there are budget problems with orchestras and they can only listen to so many people. The musicians who may be qualified but don’t have enough experience in their background are at a disadvantage, so even getting a smaller job would help them be taken more seriously by big symphonies.

The difference with the Chicago Symphony is that we allow anyone to audition. They may get a letter of discouragement if the CSO thinks the level wouldn’t be high enough, but they can still come and audition.

The audition process works very similarly to how the selection in American Idol and America’s Got Talent works, except that it’s for a specific instrument. You play behind the screen, and there’s a panel of nine musicians. You need to get a majority vote or get at least five votes to get a revote. Six votes would get you through. Anything below that would get a revote, or they might have to listen to you again. So the first preliminary round has about 100 people. Then they cut it down to maybe 16 or so for the semi-finals. For the finals, it would be around six to eight people. Then they are down to usually two to three people. At that point, it’s up to the music director’s discretion to offer or refuse the position. In my case, it was down to two in the super final round, and I was very fortunate to be appointed to the percussion section by Daniel Barenboim. What they have to be ready for — sometimes people don’t get hired on the spot. Just be prepared for any situation, any possibility, and constantly being in contention. The committee might ask you to do something over, and it might not be a bad thing; they might like what you’re doing, they thought you could do even better, or they want to see how flexible or consistent you are. It’s important to stay calm and collected in those situations and always do your best.

External link: Vadim Karpinos at CSO website

Full Interview: “Always Try to Get Better Even When You’re Good at Something”

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