Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memory Day: MV Auditions

For the last two years of my five-year Marching Virginians tour, I was one of two section leaders (with Pat Brown and Joanna Swift), which meant that I had the privilege of sitting in a hot room with the trumpet professor, Dr. Bachelder, listening to seventy or eighty trumpet players zealously murdering their sheet music and vying for one of the sixty-three available trumpet spots in the marching band.

We had all kinds enter the audition room, from eager freshmen who were first chair in their high schools because they could play "Let's Go Band!", to shy music majors who played the Dave Matthews excerpt with vibrato, to oldtimer day warriors who hadn't picked up their trumpet since the Bowl game the previous winter, and expected a guaranteed spot in the band because they were old, and sometimes wise.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, there actually were guaranteed slots for some -- since it's been proven that the collegiate tenure system is highly effective at motivating old professors to teach, we emulated it at the marching band level, secure in the knowledge that a trumpet player who sounds like ass in year 1 will blossom into a beautiful songbird in year 4. (We also saved spots for the hot girls and the rank captains' girlfriends).

The audition music I selected was the same both years -- a slow piece (Colors), a rhythmic piece (Caravan), and then a choice between a low, easy excerpt and a fast, high one which was very effective at proving that most of the players who picked it had no business playing the trumpet. The fast excerpt was taken from the marching band arrangement of that old John Tesh classic, Avalon, which we shamefully performed on the field one year with Yanni's Santorini. (The following year they finally realized that playing new age music in a marching band was retarded, and we spiced it up with the Macarena instead).

Trumpeters entered the auditions with all sorts of ready-made excuses. Were the proceedings to take place on Family Feud, the most popular excuses would be "I just got the music in the mail yesterday!", "I just had my wisdom teeth out!", and "I already know the 3rd Trumpet part so just put me there". One guy by the name of Harry put so little effort into his attempts that he was cut, after which his dad threatened to SUE the marching band.

Since I keep EVERYTHING that doesn't get flushed down the toilet, I still have copies of the audition forms from 1999 and 2000. Here are some of the actual comments on auditions from 2000:

  • Kevin Alexander: "Out of practice. It's very hard to tell anything about him"
  • Denise Aspell: "Needs work on rhythm and technique but could become good"
  • Gordon Dodson (Flip Flop): "Could be strong if he practiced"
  • Rick Dunham (Gold Medal): "Minor flubs but has a G range"
  • Jordan Elmiger: "Said 'I just got my braces off' at least 5 times"
  • Jason Hovell: "Not sure of himself but he could do it!"
  • Mike Jedrey: "Would be good if he put some valve oil on"
  • Ryan Jenkins: "No rhythm at all, but a strong player"
  • Megan LaVorgna: "Good tone. Shyest trumpeter ever"
  • Kristin McKeon: "Has a cheerful, decent sound"
  • Anish Prasai: "Put grace notes on everything. I think he thinks he's improvising"
  • Ryan Somero: "Funny kid"
  • Anna Spellerberg: "Fuzzy tone, needs to practice a little to get chops up"

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