At the Met, you wear a mask for a blind audition

At the Met, you wear a mask for a blind audition


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2022

Musicians who are auditioning for a vacant seat in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra might have felt they were protected from discrimination by the knowledge that all auditions are held behind a wall.

The Met, however, maintains an extra level of personal protection.

Auditioners have been informed by orchestra office manager Rachel Hocking: ‘You must wear a facemask when you audition. This does not need to be a KN95 but any mask of your choosing. We have KN95s in the office should you want one.

As for the music: ‘You will not need a concerto for the prelims…. Remember to bring the music for the pianist.’

Question: Why keep the wall up if auditioners are wearing a mask?


  • James says:

    Really? You can’t be serious, Norman. It’s not a full face mask. There are many ways to identify people without seeing their nose and mouth.

  • Peter says:

    Screens are part of auditions to prevent the jury from knowing the auditionee’s sex, race, age, etc. You are only being judged for how well you play. A mask doesn’t cover enough of these aspects.

  • msc says:

    O.k., now that’s a silly question not worthy of you, NL. Blind auditions are mostly to prevent sex and racial bias, and a mask will do very little to hide either. Medical masks also leave enough of the face exposed for most people to be able to be identified. Did you think about this for five seconds?

  • The Maestro says:

    Honestly, do we really need to explain this? It is a blind audition. The pannel will still be in the same room, just at the other side of the screen. Masks keep everyone safe. You would hope that the panelists would be wearing their masks too. The wall or screen, call it what you will, means the pannel don’t see the candidates and vice versa. It doesn’t guarantee them protection from covid-19 droplets.

  • New Yorker says:

    do you seriously not know the difference between a wall to maintain anonymity and a covid mask?

  • Peter Geld says:

    These days orchestras all over North America seem to be competing to see who can virtue signal the most with the dumbest possible polices. But probably for the best, because otherwise somebody might think you voted for Trump.

  • Player says:

    Because prejudice is even more virulent and catching than Covid? You CANNOT be too careful.

    I wonder if those conducting the auditions also have to mask up?

  • Oliver says:

    “Why keep the wall up if auditioners are wearing a mask?”

    The correct question would be : why would you wear a mask if you are alone behind a wall? Hopefully, this audition is not for winds…The wall is an essential part of a fair orchestra audition (meaning until the very end of the audition). As for not playing a concerto in the first round, it is quite standard in most North American orchestra auditions. The candidate must have the piano part in case it is required later on.

  • Maurice Dancer says:

    Are you really asking such a daft question NL?

  • Edoardo Saccenti says:

    What a difficult question. Maybe because with a face mask a person is still fully recognizable??

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Is it an actual wall, or just a screen? They aren’t in separate rooms, after all.

    Positivity rates are climbing again in New York City, particularly on the upper west side. The city health commissioner just yesterday made a strong recommendation (shy of a mandate) to again wear masks in public settings.

  • CA says:

    Many other orchestras have had this requirement, not just the Met. Those auditioning do make contact with, or are in close physical proximity to, others taking the audition as well as administrative staff backstage who are running the event and escorting auditionees to the stage etc.

    • Kate Sharp says:

      If I auditioned, they would know my playing screen or not. I play Oboe like a cross between a leaf blower and a chainsaw. Depends on the reed.

  • WILLIAM says:

    Really? Is this a serious question? A mask over the mouth and nose does not hide if the player is male or female, white, black, asian, or any other identifying characteristics which may influence those conducting the audition process. The purpose of a blind audition is that the decision is based solely on musicality, and nothing else. A mask to prevent the transmission of Covid does not make “the wall” redundant.

  • MacroV says:

    Seriously? The wall/screen is for anonymity, the mask is a COVID precaution; it’s still with us, unfortunately.

    I assume this was for a non-wind/brass audition?

  • M McAlpine says:

    What is the audition piece? Phantom of the Opera?

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    The answers to the Question are evidence that our age has lost a sense of humor (humour?), or that commenters on this blog don’t possess one.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Either wear a N95 mask or equivalent, or no mask at all. It should be known that cloth masks are useless, and while regular medical masks may have of some use for earlier versions, they are powerless in face of Omicron. Stop the theater.

  • Saul Goodman says:

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever read on this site.

  • June says:

    I find this amusing. While the Met may give that speech before the start of the performance that “Masks are required to be worn” during the performance, they do nothing about enforcing this. So they don’t really have a policy at all. The girl sitting next to me at Friday’s “Hamlet” performance removed her mask and started filming the opera as well. (I gave her a piece of my mind) No ushers came up to the Family Circle, not once, during the performance. I take it that, since they assume we’re all poor due to where we’re sitting, the Met just doesn’t care if we get covid?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      I’ve been to at least ten performances this season at the Met. At each performance ushers walked down the center and side aisles after the lights went out to look for no or improperly positioned masks.

      There is enforcement.

  • Industrial Hygenicist says:

    As some of the commenters have already stated, people are generally easily identifiable in a face mask. What is bizarre here is that I was involved with a consulting team hired by the MET to help them going forward with their occupation health policies; our team recommended only engineering solutions as it is well known in our industry that these masks are utterly useless for pathogenic filtration. Looks like all that money they paid for the consultation was wasted. Oh well, no refunds.

  • Una says:

    Why the wall?
    Because they would otherwise look at the shoes next! Lol

  • Concertmasker says:

    ‘You will not need a concerto for the prelims…. Remember to bring the music for the pianist.’

    When someone advances to the semis, then the finals, they will likely be asked to play their concerto. Makes sense?

  • just saying says:

    Funny how covid is still a huge problem in places where mask mandates were/are strictest. Just a harmless observation.

  • Phillip says:

    I am hoping Mr. Osborne will comment on screens in orchestral auditions.

    • Gerry Feinsteen says:

      Comment of the week!
      He’s been noticeably absent from recent discussions; he’s probably busy watch the Depp/Heard trial and figuring out ways in which she’s the actual victim (his persistence is admirable)

  • grimm says:

    That’s a really stupid question you posed at the end. Obviously you want us to comment thus. So I did. What kind of a face mask do you wear? If it’s a giant sack/hazmat suit that covers up your entire body they maybe I would understand your ridiculous question. Do you know anything about auditions and what a blind audition entails?

  • chet says:

    It’s bad enough to catch Covid from a colleague, who wants to catch it from a bunch of rejected candidates?

    I’d make them audition behind a wall, behind a mask, behind a webcam on Zoom. Stay in another room!

    Let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of audience members listen to the overwhelming majority of musicians over livestreaming or youtube, so how a musician sounds on video is more important than how he sounds in the same room.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    I suspect Norman’s question was a whimsical quip, not meant to be taken too seriously. But to continue the whimsy, instead of a screen, which might impede the sound, might the panelists not wear blindfolds?

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    I’m sure it would be useful to wear a Freddy Krueger mask with a short skirt dress on. Really confuse those bigots on the panel

  • Sar Dinia says:

    The committee knows who’s playing when regardless of a “wall” or not, if they want to. When I auditioned, it might have been a blackboard so they could see the feet, but in any case, they can hear the clip-clop of high-heeled shoes and know the gender. The personnel manager was sitting right next to me, rushing me along so they could get rid of me faster. When I finally played one wrong sixteenth-note, they cut me as fast as they could. The person who got the job had parents who had raised money for the Met for decades, and they had blocked the outgoing principal player from coaching anyone but their daughter, ever.

  • NY Musician says:

    Candidates take off their mask when they play numb nuts.