The heinous practice of the “no-hire audition” is incredibly wasteful, insulting, and completely unnecessary. In the past, orchestras have gotten away with this because audition candidates lacked information. This site exists to rectify that disadvantage. Offending orchestras are listed first, followed by a manifesto against the practice.
We recommend that any musician seeking a job should avoid auditioning for any of the orchestras listed here. There are other orchestras that do not hold no-hire auditions. Why waste your time chasing a phantom position?
The Hall of Shame
The following orchestras have held a no-hire audition with these properties:
- The audition was held in or after June 2013
- At least 10 candidates were invited to play at the audition
- The orchestra refused to hire any candidate after the audition! (Brief trials of less than one season are not counted as hires, but a probationary season counts as a hire.)
Sources are listed after each orchestra. (Updated June 29, 2016.)
- Atlanta Symphony (reported by a user; source, audition source)
- Boston Symphony Orchestra (reported by the orchestra)
- Cleveland Orchestra (reported by a user; source)
- Dallas Symphony Orchestra (reported by the orchestra)
- Detroit Symphony Orchestra (reported by the orchestra)
- Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (reported by the orchestra)
- Grant Park Orchestra (reported by the orchestra)
- Kansas City Symphony (reported by a user; source)
- Los Angeles Philharmonic (reported by a user; source)
- Montreal Symphony Orchestra (reported by a user; source)
- National Symphony Orchestra (reported by a user; source)
- Oklahoma City Philharmonic (reported by the orchestra)
- Omaha Symphony (reported by the orchestra)
- ProMusica Chamber Orchestra (reported by a user; roster source, audition source )
- San Francisco Symphony (reported by a user; source and source )
- Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (reported by a user; source, compare #12 and #20)
- Spokane Symphony (reported by the orchestra)
- Toledo Symphony Orchestra (reported by a user; source)
But note that not every orchestra engages in no-hire auditions. Many orchestras report having zero no-hire auditions since June 2013.
Imagine: You’ve worked for years to earn degrees in music. You practiced for dozens or hundreds of hours, for weeks or months on end, learning a list of musically vapid, emotionally void excerpts, working until you can play them by heart at a high level of technical mastery. You bought a plane ticket or drove a long way, and put yourself up in a hotel room. Why? Because you love music, and you need a job to pay the bills, and this orchestra has an opening. You arrive and there are several dozen other highly qualified practitioners of your instrument; ah well, c’est la vie, this isn’t your first audition. You make it through several rounds, then—miracle of miracles, you are invited back to the audition room, and everyone else is dismissed! This is it. You’ve won the Golden Ticket—a steady job playing with a major orchestra, and the possibility of tenure.
Or is it? What’s this? They want to hear you play again. So you play a few more excerpts. The committee deliberates some more. Then the axe falls. The committee elects to hire no one. Thank you for your time; see you next year.
WHAT?!?!?! Anyone outside of this process can see it is madness.
We exclude from discussion the case where an orchestra holds a “bad faith” sham audition, not intending to hire anyone from the beginning; false advertisement is a federal crime.
Then the other case is where an orchestra held an audition, intending to hire a musician, but no candidate met the committee’s standard, and they chose to hire no one.
The problem is this: The committee has set the bar insanely high, but they continue to act as if the bar is reasonable and that a reasonably good musician may clear it.
Consider the nature of the candidate pool.
- Are there not enough candidates? At many no-hire auditions, there were dozens of candidates.
- Are the musicians not qualified? Most of the candidates have music degrees and are excellent musicians. Many of them are outstanding. The quality and quantity of musicians graduated has greatly increased over the last several decades.
- Did the Truly Godlike musicians miss the audition advertisement? Most auditions are nationally advertised in the same channels. The fact is, the audition committee heard many of the best players in the whole country. Who do they think will show up next year?
And why were so many candidates invited in the first place? Most auditions are blind, meaning they could have just as easily been held by Skype or a similar service. At the very least, the committee could have pre-screened players by recording and only invited a 2 or 3 top candidates for live performance. Most other industries follow this model: resumes and phone interviews to screen candidates, then live interviews for the “short list”. The orchestra has made its contempt for the audition candidates clear: their time and money is not worth the trouble of a better process.
How much waste has the orchestra generated? Consider an audition where 60 candidates are invited to play. Suppose each candidate spends 50 hours preparing for and attending the audition. Congratulations, the committee has wasted 3000 man-hours of time, or about one and a half man-years of work; plus travel and lodging costs for 60 people, which at 2 nights per person amount to four months (120 nights) of hotel stays. A conservative estimate could put this at $100,000 worth of time and money.
Nonetheless, the orchestra behaves as though this is normal. You had to expect when you responded to a job advertisement, prepared for many hours, and attended an interview at your own expense, that the employer might choose to hire no one at all . . . despite the overwhelmingly rich pool of highly qualified candidates drawn from the entire nation. The amount of hubris and contempt displayed by the audition committee is staggering.
And it’s disgusting. The art world should be a haven, defending the dignity of humanity amid a broken world. Instead, orchestras have taken advantage of the market imbalance (supply of musicians vs. demand for classical music) to treat musicians like commodities. They have taken a house of prayer and turned it into a den of thieves.
The music world is tough. Art requires sacrifice. But there is no reason for orchestras to treat musicians this way, and there is no reason to let them.
Save your time and money for more worthwhile activities:
- Audition for orchestras that do not hold no-hire auditions
- Take gigs
- Play for fun
- Put recordings on the internet
- Educate your friends about no-hire auditions
And when many musicians stop showing up for auditions at these orchestras, perhaps someone will notice.
This site is anonymous to protect the friends and family of the author. (Incidentally, the author was not a “winner” of a no-hire audition, merely a person tired of seeing this particular injustice perpetrated.) If you wish to report a no-hire audition, dispute an orchestra’s inclusion in the Hall of Shame, or give another comment, please email email@example.com. Note: If you email to report a no-hire, please specify one of: 1) That it is acceptable to use your full name as a source and how you know about the no-hire (e.g. you were a candidate) OR 2) A link to online source(s). If you don’t provide a source using one of these options, we won’t be able to publish the report on this page.