Rejection

In an effort to keep myself busy, I recently signed up to audition for two separate local projects, hoping to be accepted for either or both.

The title of this post may well give away the outcome of those decisions, but let me tell you about how each one went. Things are made doubly interesting by the fact that the auditions happened within the same weekend, so I was in fact kept busy to say the least.

A friend of mine had recently posted on Facebook about the Western Australian Charity Orchestra. They were looking for applicants, and spots were open for pianists like myself. I signed up, and about a month and a half was spent after that point learning two pieces to perform at the audition. It was a bit nerve-wracking for a while, but towards the end I managed to get confident in my playing ability for the two pieces. I picked some fairly difficult pieces just to test myself a little bit moreso than usual – a piece of my own entitled “Midwinter”, difficult due to the fact that it was quite a complex quaver-based melody in 7/4 time, and the main chords to Dream Theater’s “Octavarium” (which are played on a piano as well as guitar about five minutes in), a rather crazy and unpredictable chord progression.

Simultaneously, I had another thing going on – a local girl, Holly Denton, had posted an ad on Gumtree saying that she was looking for new band members. My dad had pointed me to her ad, and it seemed an awfully good gig – she and her old band had just performed at Telethon 2013 and the video they’d posted of the performance was damn good. With the promise of being part of a talented young lady’s musical troop, learning new songs, meeting new people, and perhaps even earning a little money from the experience, it didn’t take me very long to decide that this was an opportunity to jump right on. I learnt about half of her setlist as best I could, then once I phoned her she informed me I only had to learn two songs – Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and one of her own songs, “With You Goes” (the first one performed in the video). With that clarified, I did my darnedest to learn those two songs as well, although most of my time up to the eventful weekend was spent rehearsing my two pieces for the orchestra first of all, since that audition was to take place on the Saturday, and my audition at Holly’s was to be on the Sunday immediately after.

The following weekend was pretty frantic. It of course started with the audition for the orchestra, was a fairly short drive to the college at which the auditions were being held. I was directed to a rehearsal room which had… erm, everybody else who was auditioning in it. Apparently it was the only room they had? Needless to say, with a bunch of brassists, percussionists and woodwindists all rehearsing different pieces in the same room, now with a pianist (as in me – I was apparently the only one there) it was quite the cacophony. I got onto the piano and started rehearsing, doing my best to concentrate, and thinking I’d only need to go over the songs a few times before I got called.

I was kept waiting for about an hour. I got pretty sick of those pieces after the dozenth time of going over them both the whole way through. I was, if anything, overrehearsed by that point – I was ready to make absolutely no mistakes.

A woman came into the rehearsal room to apologize for the inconvenience – apparently there’d been a balls-up regarding the availability of the performance hall the auditions were to take place in – it had already been booked out and no auditions could be held for an hour, hence why they were so behind schedule. But I was eventually called out. When I got into the hall, I felt more than ready. I was told to remain silent for the judges, and that was no problem as I naturally just clam up and let my music do the talking anyway. The judges were behind a panel, remaining invisible and anonymous to me, as I was to them, so I didn’t feel impaired by nerves at all. I got down at the piano aaaand… hang on, it’s shut. Can I lift this lid? Nnngh, bit heavy. Am I out of shape or is it… hnnngh… no. It’s locked. Umm, I know I’m not allowed to speak, but… can someone please get the key for this piano?

I had to wait another few minutes while someone retrieved the key and unlocked the piano for me, during which time a few more people went in to have their auditions, and all I could do was sit on a chair just outside and try not to make the conversation with the guy standing beside the door too awkward. I believe it was there that I was told that because they were so far behind schedule, I was only allotted a few seconds to play my pieces.

Unfortunately, the wait and the uncertainty of the whole situation had thrown off my groove – I sat down at the piano, fumbling hopelessly with my sheet music, and unable to call upon the routine I’d just spent the last hour or so trying to hammer into my muscle memory. I messed up pretty badly on the Dream Theater piece, which was pretty evident even within the ten second or so window I actually had to play it. They let me go on for a bit longer with my own piece, but since the sheet music for that is mainly all quavers and doesn’t introduce chords until about a minute into the piece, I don’t think it did a particularly tremendous job of showcasing the full extent of my ability with the instrument.

I left the audition and went home feeling vastly underwhelmed, and still rather tense from not having actually gone through with the whole procedure. I’d rehearsed for yonks for that audition and the fact that I hadn’t even performed the entirety of my two pieces left me feeling almightily unfulfilled. I wasn’t going to be too crestfallen if I didn’t get the gig with that orchestra – I didn’t particularly feel like being part of an organization which was so… well, ill-organized.

I didn’t have much time to mope about all that, though – I had another audition the very next day, with Holly.

The drive to her house was very short – 13 minutes at best – and the actual audition took place in her living room. She was mighty friendly and informal – as the whole event felt, really. There wasn’t much waiting at all, and in fact she’d clearly planned a lot of this out in advance very carefully, as we arrived in time for her to let the first set of auditionees go. I admit I made a few mistakes, but hey, at least I got to play the full songs this time around. I also felt I was in a controlled and well-planned working environment – again in contrast to my WACO audition – so while it was a bit embarrassing when I played a bum chord, I didn’t feel like I was wasting valuable time. We played her two songs, talked a bit about ourselves, and that was it, done. It probably took longer to set everything up and pack away than to play the songs. It was fun, though, and she was really nice.

That same day, hours later, I got a text informing me, very politely, that she’d made a decision and that I was unfortunately not selected to be in her band. (The likelihood is she chose a keyboardist who used more than just a rompler, heh.) This actually brought a big smile to my face. What a well-mannered, organized and respectful girl – having the decency to let me know so soon. She’s someone who clearly has the organization and the people skills necessary to hold an audition and treat her entrants with respect.

Inversely, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks on that I got a letter from WACO saying I had… not been selected. I think perhaps only one word went through my mind when I read that – “typical”. I’m pretty certain I was the only pianist who turned up for that audition, so it did come as kind of a surprise that they didn’t want me, though not a terribly disheartening one. Maybe they found it a little hard to judge my playing ability reliably with only a thirty-second sample of my playing that was riddled with mistakes brought on by how badly the event turned out.

So while both auditions ended in me being politely rejected, I feel much better about one rejection than the other. It’s not so bad when the person rejecting you seems like an honest and well-meaning human being who genuinely considers your emotions and addresses you face to face. Less so when it’s a less-than-stellar-organized group of people who reject by written letter a fortnight on.

Genuinely think I’ve learned something from these experiences.