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Playing to Win: Politics and Auditions

All the world's a stage, and nowhere is that more true than politics. But music commentator Miles Hoffman says that in some ways the competition for a spot on an orchestra can be just as intense as a run for the White House. Hoffman and NPR's Bob Edwards discuss the similarities -- and the differences.

Like candidates trying out a new speech before a focus group, musicians play for friends and colleagues to solicit critiques before they audition. And like the political arena, there's the matter of financing. You have to pay your own way to travel to the audition -- even if it's across the country.

"It's like the candidates who decide where they're going to buy TV advertising, in which state," Hoffman says. "You have to decide which auditions you have a good enough shot at, and financing your airplane trips to auditions is not always so easy."

Unlike politics, when you win a spot on an orchestra, you're on probation for a year. But once you've passed probation, you typically have tenure. "Then you're el presidente for life..." Hoffman says.

Music Heard in This Report

1. (Flute) "The Birds," from Carnival of the Animals. by Camille Saint-Saens. Lalo Schifrin, conductor. (Dove Audio, 30700)

2. (Trumpet #1) "Petrouchka," by Igor Stravinsky, Montreal Symphony, Charles Dutoit, conductor. (London, 417-619-2)

3. (Trumpet #2) "Petrouchka," by Stravinsky. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Jarvi, conductor. (Telarc, CD-80587)

4. (Horns) "Don Juan," by Richard Strauss. Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, conductor. (CBS, MDK 44909)

5. (Strings) Final Movement, Symphony No. 1, by Georges Bizet. New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, conductor. (Sony, SMK 61830)

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Miles Hoffman
Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman is the author of The NPR Classical Music Companion, now in its tenth printing from the Houghton Mifflin Company. Before joining Morning Edition in 2002, Hoffman entertained and enlightened the nationwide audience of NPR's Performance Today every week for 13 years with his musical commentary, "Coming to Terms," a listener-friendly tour through the many foreign words and technical terms peculiar to the world of classical music.
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