Best way to audition an MD

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by stevetrom, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

  2. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    In the past when auditioning we have asked the applicant to take apiece that the band currently know. Then we ask them to select a piece out of the library that perhaps they know, but the band has not played for some time.

    We also ask if one is a test piece the other is a concert piece.

    Gives you a chance to see how they work for both concerts and contests.

    All the best with the process.
  3. a very flat b

    a very flat b Member

    Agree fully we have done the same.

    We also tried to make it clear that the potential MD was being auditioned by the band and MD should also be auditioning the band. This way you can have a sensible discussion about how they would improve the band and what they expect from the band.
  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Don't make a positive decision (i.e. select the MD) based on one rehearsal, make them do a few.

    (but you can cast off unsuccessfuls more quickly ;) )
  5. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Just out of curiosity, would you expect them to work differently with the bands for concerts and contests, and if so, why?
  6. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    I agree you would expect them to work just as hard for both. However we have had applicants who lets say were more dismissive of one than the other. They felt they had to work harder and impress more on the contest piece.

    Needless to say they never got the job.
  7. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    There's an old thread on this same topic here:

    Ordinarily, we discourage multiple threads on the same topic, but the thread above is about three years old and is a bit stale. So keep on with the discussion here. :)
  8. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Before you start the auditions, agree a clear idea of what the band actually wants to achieve and the resources available. When we auditioned last year our objectives were:
    Return to contesting - but only 2 or 3 / year
    Promote good quality concerts and sell all the tickets
    Develop training band members into senior band members

    We made it clear that not everybody could make it to rehearsal all of the time and that commitment to home practise was, let's say, variable.

    There would have been nothing worse for us than appointing someone who wanted to get to the Championship section in 4 years at any cost. On the other hand, that might be exactly what another band wants.

    Yes, you have to check people out musically, but I think 90% of whether a conductor will work for you is that you like each other, you have agreed your goals and can push each other to achieve them.
  9. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    A band I know of advertised for a new MD. A chap turned up to audition after carefully studying the vacancies at the band. He brought a couple of mates along and, hey presto! Intant band! They fell for it, even though the bloke was mostly 'all talk' and he got the job. After a few weeks, the shiny new players stopped coming and the band was left in a worse position than before.

    My advice is to beware when something seems a little too good to be true. It usually is.

    Just to confirm my suspicions about this bloke, the band he almost wrecked came last at a recent contest and his new band came 2nd from last.

    Please don't ask me who it was, that's not the point of me writing thie above, but please do heed the warning!
  10. MaxPressure

    MaxPressure Member

    If anyone is interested in applying for this position i can vouch that they are a great bunch of people, both musically and socially, I have worked with the band as a player and in the middle and enjoyed every minute of it.
    So good luck to those applying, and see you in a couple of weeks Steve.
  11. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Some pretty sound advice here so far. The only thing I would add is not to rush into it - if you don't get the right applicant from your first batch, don't settle for someone who is "near enough". Have a criteria and stick to it.

    Its also worth having a good chat with the applicant after the rehearsals, it doesn't need to be too formal or intimidating (ie you don't need the whole committee grilling them), but you do need to get a good clear understanding of what their plans are for the future, and what they see are the strengths and weaknesses of your band, but make sure you tell them before the audition that you are expecting them to do this. Also you should seperately get a committee member to chair an open discussion with the band, to see what the rank and file members opinions were of the applicant.

    Once you have someone who you feel would be suitable, try to get them to prepare the band for a concert, or at least take several rehearsals before fully committing.
  12. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Just remembered something! Once you are nearly sure who you want, get them to take a concert and get them to introduce the items! So many good conductors are let down by their inability to speak to an audience. It's a skill which takes some learning, but once learned, it can make or break a concert.
  13. NAS

    NAS Member

    Hey Steve, hope all is well!

    My current band were in a similar situation 4 years ago and they chose to audition a number of applicants on a rehearsal (consisting of music the auditioning MD chose, and a test piece that the band chose). After deciding who had impressed most they then gave them (meaning me) two contests leading up to Christmas to prove themselves.

    Good luck to the band for the future!

    PS I also ended up planning two concerts before being appointed.
  14. samandy

    samandy Member

    Appointing a conductor

    Would you ask for a CV, plus references on application?

    Prior to appointment would you undertake CRB checks to comply with Child Protection Guidance?
  15. Vibrato

    Vibrato New Member

    My advice would be:

    Don't be blinded by experience and success as a "Big Name Player"

    The nerve and skill needed to play end chair for a "Big Band" have little in common with what's needed as an MD.

    The ability to read and interpret a score, to motivate a band as well as understand and help those less tallented around the stand, are much more important. So is the ability to interact with an audience!

    Certainly many good Top Men etc have made good MDs, but I've sat infront of several Stars who couldn't conduct a bus! Possibly the most celebrated conductor in recent history is Major Peter Parkes. He came from military banding, and I think was a clarinetist! How often would that CV make a short list?

    Good luck!
  16. bigcol

    bigcol Member

    Aren't we getting just a little bit too scientific about this? Like most things in life like this, you'll know within the first minute whether he or she is correct for the band, regardless of what they do, conduct, play etc. Just go with instinct and feeling; can't whack it!
  17. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    I wouldn't worry too much about formal references. If there are any doubts you can always seek out opinions informally; in any case, reasons to avoid somebody get through on the grapevine pretty quickly!

    The CRB is an interesting point. Does a conductor always need one? If the band as an organisation is actually officially run by Trustees/Committee, then surely it is they who are responsible for any child's welfare, not the MD. Obviously the situation different with a youth band.

    As for general advice, I would echo what other people have posted. Don't make a decision too quickly; once you have made a decision, why not have a probationary period of 3-6 months? At the end of it, either side can walk away with no hard feelings if you feel like it just isn't 'clicking' (as it sometimes doesn't).

    Be clear - both with yourselves and with the applicants - what you want from them in an audition, not only with the music but what you want done with it. I have been 'caught out' (on test pieces especially) in the past as to what people were looking for: I've done a 'broad sweep' with a run at the end, and then been criticised for not going into detail; I've also gone into detail, and then been reproached because I have given no indication of how I would interpret a whole piece. :oops: A helpful word one way or the other before would have made it a much more constructive experience for both sides.

    Finally - don't look upon this as an inconvenience or torture to be endured. Yes, it's stressful, but it's also a big opportunity, so try and keep everyone as positive as you can. And who knows - the undiscovered next David King (or insert name of favourite conductor here) might be about to walk into your bandroom...!
  18. JR

    JR Member

    I agree totally
    He cannot play a brass instrument - so what? - He is a great band trainer as well as conductor - I speak from experience as one of his students
    In fact I cannot think of anyone who has ever studied under him who has a bad word for him.
    And that's pretty rare

    JOhn R
  19. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Ive always said within the first 15 mins you can tell if they are any good or not 20 at the outside after that they are not the person for the job.
    You know the bands faults yourself in general where the weak sections are etc and a good MD should be able to pick them up on the first piece played.
    There are so many people who bluff there way into a band with ALL talk but when youve had them for a while you can see they are not as good as they are cracked up to be.
    This was some sound advice i was given many years ago by a very good conductor this also applies when you go to another band or are looking for a band to play for, forget the players around the stand ,concentrate on the MD if he is not much good then dont join the band even if the players are really nice.;)
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Whilst it is true that Major Parkes may not play brass instruments, one of better aspects of the training offered via Kneller Hall is that each candidate is expected to have a good understanding of the workings and technical aspects of all the instruments in the band. I would certainly not see this as an over-riding priority, but it may possibly swing things in favour of a candidate who has some knowledge of this side of things. I would agree with others, though, that general musicality and motivational skills should be at the forefront of ones thoughts when auditioning an MD.

    I'd go along with much that already been said about the need not to rush into things, and for the audition process to be seen as a two-way thing. It is also vital that the band sets out clearly their expectations, and particularly the demarcation lines between what the MD is expected/allowed to do, and what needs to be decided (or maybe ratified) by the band/committee. Opinions will vary, and there will be some who would prefer just to come along and conduct as required, whereas others will want to be much more involved in the work behind the scenes. Both approaches are valid, but it is important that there are no misconceptions as this can soon lead to friction and resentment if things are not running smoothly.

    I would also suggest that any subsequent appointment be made for a set trial period, at which point a formal review can take place. This enables both parties to evaluate the success or otherwise of the partnership, rather than allowing things to drift on aimlessly if there are any issues anyone is not happy about.

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