August 2008 Convention
Kansas City, MO

Orchestral Audition and Masterclass Competition: A Judge’s Perspective

The Orchestral Audition Competition is a yearly favorite that continues to draw a large crowd. This year’s event was no different. Three finalists, selected from an earlier recorded round, performed a multitude of varying orchestral works for a panel of five judges and audience members.

Erinn Frechette

Laura Erickson, Martha Long, and Erica Peel played excerpts from Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and Seventh Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the solo flute passage from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, The Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss’s expressionistic opera Salome, the Variation from Stravinsky’s L’Oiseau de feu Suite, and a short excerpt from the “Pizzicato” movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

To mimic the look and feel of a real orchestral audition, a large cloth paned was put in place to preserve the candidate’s anonymity, and the audience was instructed to applaud only at the conclusion of each finalist’s performance. All three flutists played with confidence, poise, and gusto, and it was obvious that they were very well prepared.

Each candidate brought her own interpretation, lyricism, and style to the Daphnis and Salome excerpts. The players’ technical brilliance sparkled in the tricky Firebird Variation, and a lightness of tongue and fingers was heard across the board in the Mendelssohn Scherzo. Each showed control, technical precision, and careful attention to pitch—the three “must-haves” in any orchestral audition. Our decision was no easy task!

My colleagues on the panel were Aaron Goldman (National Symphony), Alyce Johnson (Chicago Lyric Opera and Grant Park Orchestra), Alicia McQuerry (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), and Jennifer Nitchman (Boston Symphony). We took care to discuss each candidate’s strengths and any points of concern. As with any real audition panel, we were looking for attention to pitch, rhythmic accuracy and steadiness, dynamics, and style.

First place was awarded to Erica Peel, former assistant principal flute of the Honolulu Symphony. Second place went to Martha Long, an undergraduate at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Third place went to Laura Erickson, a master’s degree student at the University of North Texas. All three winners played beautifully and are to be congratulated on their accomplishments!

—Erinn Frechette