190 flutes applied for audition, 50 played and none was hired

190 flutes applied for audition, 50 played and none was hired


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2018

Barcelona’s Liceu Opera has a vacancy for principal flute.

Some 190 professionals applied from all over the world. Fifty were invited to audition this week.

None got hired.

Or their expenses paid.

That’s how rough it is out there.



  • Robert Holmén says:

    Does an orchestra like that have a headhunter that contacts players they would like to audition (aside from the ones who responded to some public posting)?

    Or would that be against some unwritten rule?

    • Doug says:

      That headhunter would be the conductor who wants his or her favorite player in a vacancy. Sometimes it works, other times it fans the flames of rancor in the orchestra. Do you honestly believe an overpaid administrative type can recognize artistry?

  • Davide says:

    Actually it’s quite a normal situation in Europe…

    • Bruce says:

      Normal in the US too.

      I was in that situation once, years ago: the audition came down to the final 2 of us, and only then did the conductor show up to listen. He seemed to be quite unimpressed with what he heard. (The other finalist reported the same impression.)

      I wondered afterward: if the conductor had been available to listen to earlier round (the semifinals if not the prelims), maybe he might have heard players he liked better? As it was, he only heard two players, pre-selected for him by the audition committee.

      As an analogy, perhaps it was something like this: “Maestro, you asked us to find you an excellent selection of pies to choose from. We found an excellent apple pie and an excellent blueberry pie. Which one do you want?”

      Maestro: “Fools! I only like banana cream pie! Take them away, there is no good pie here.”

      • Orchestra Dork says:

        The conductor may not have had a choice. Often, the conductor doesn’t have a vote until the very end. It’s the musicians themselves that have taken away much of the sway of the conductor. If I was the conductor and didn’t have a say until the musicians pre-approved the final candidates, I wouldn’t bother to show up to earlier rounds either. What’s the point?

        • Bruce says:

          Good point. In my orchestra (a small one) the conductor is typically present, and voting, for the entire audition. But we don’t get this many applicants.

  • Doug says:

    Since when is this a shock to any professional musician in the last fourty years?

  • Anthony Kershaw says:

    Been there, done that. Been happening since Jesus was a baby.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Ridiculous. This is not even a major symphony orchestra, but an opera company. Most of those 190 people could easily do the job, musically speaking. They should probably interview them to see if they can stand up to the grueling schedule and sheer boredom of the pit.

  • Rustier Spoon says:

    So now they will have to spend more money going through the whole process again….and again….and again. No hire is SO common these days.

  • Anon says:

    So glad to see this story in Slipped Disc. Orchestras that do this will just keep on doing it until they are exposed. Meanwhile musicians are out of pocket for travel expenses, out of a job and out of hope.

    And behind the scenes, an underhanded conductor is chuckling with glee because now he can bring in whomever he wants. Total bullshit. All eyes should be on Liceu for all further auditions.

    • Bruce says:

      “…an underhanded conductor is chuckling with glee because now he can bring in whomever he wants.”

      This is possible. In case some readers don’t know, some orchestras’ master agreements state that if an audition is held and no winner is chosen, the conductor can appoint anyone they like. Some orchestras have a significant number of tenured members who never auditioned (although they probably had to pass their probationary periods… a decision made by the conductor).

      • Rustier spoon says:

        …..and some have NO probationary periods. It can cause havoc for so many. As an orchestral musician who has been through a gruelling audition and trial process and won a good London job, no screens, (but plenty of in fighting to secure the position for the person who was “best”) I have first hand experience of how ridiculous the whole hiring process is. Whilst I believe everyone has a right to be heard (assuming their C.V. says something positive about them) I understand that 190 flautists are a lot to hear, however you cannot tell me that there were not at least 50 amongst them that could have done the job admirably. Certain phrases come to mind….

  • MacroV says:

    Anecdotally, at least, this often seems to be a phenomenon with small orchestras. Who for some reason get it in their heads that they can do better, even when the people auditioning are probably far better than the one being replaced.

    It’s absurd to think nobody out of 190 applicants is qualified or suitable.

    Might as well be the person to bring up the inevitable MET example: One audition, guaranteed winner. You want the job? You have one chance to show up and compete for it. No backdoor auditions, etc.. And I suspect the certainty of choosing a winner encourages everyone to show up, meaning they have a good pool from which to choose.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Or at least of the 50 auditioned. Appalling way to treat people and very unlikely to boost standards. I go to concerts at the London music schools and sometimes wonder how these keen talented young people persevere.

    • Bruce says:

      I’ve had the thought before that this is an underappreciated way that orchestras contribute to the economy: make 50 people spend money* on plane tickets, hotel rooms, and meals. I’ve been to much bigger auditions, and thought “wow, even if they do hire someone, this audition is making a significant contribution to the local economy.”

      *(of course, nobody is being forced to spend money on plane tickets or hotel rooms… they don’t have to do it unless they want a job)

  • Anon says:

    The Opera de Paris has held four or five ‘concours’ for their vacant principal harp position over the last couple of years and there has not been a winner on any occasion…

  • Brian says:

    If orchestras focused even half as much on WHAT they played as HOW they play it, there might be a bigger audience than there is.

    • Gerhard says:

      Very few orchestras have any saying in what they play. How they must play what is on their stands will be decided by the level of professional quality and the musical or unmusical tastes of the conductor. What is left for the orchestra to determine is mostly just the quality of the musical execution within this predetermined framework. Everything that goes beyond this is luxury and bliss.

  • william osborne says:

    I seem to remember reading that the Met orchestra has a policy of always hiring someone at their auditions. Certainly no loss of quality evident in that orchestra.

    • Bruce says:

      That’s what the probationary process is for. If someone plays a great audition, it still takes time to find out whether they can fit into an orchestra (or learn to). I don’t know the Met’s record of not giving people tenure, but I remember reading that the Berlin Philharmonic doesn’t give tenure to about 1/3 of its audition winners.

  • Zalman says:

    That means the wrong 50 were chosen, they should have auditioned everyone who applied. Pre-selecting auditionees is a classic way to manipulate the results, not only for auditions but for competitions as well.

    • Bruce says:

      The Chicago Symphony allows everyone to audition as well. (I sent an application once but decided not to go.) They say it pretty clearly: “we give everyone a chance, but if you are not up to snuff, you can expect to be rejected very quickly.” (or words to that effect) They might have to do split committees and spend several days, but they do it.

  • anon says:

    Conductors want fully formed principal players but in fact isn’t the better strategy to hire a young talented player who is eager and receptive to learn and to develop that player?

    Stanley Drucker has said he was hired young by Bernstein and Drucker learned from listening to the other principals.