“As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.” James Madison
Recently I was speaking to someone not familiar with my Choral Ethics Blog. He asked what types of people contact me, what kinds of questions do I get asked and what do they expect me to do for them. I answered, all sorts of choral related folks contact me, from conductors/directors, singers, accompanists, board members, parents of singers and even audience members! I told him some folks have very specific problems and those are easy because I can give very specific answers. Some want to complain but about fifty percent of all those who contact me want some sort of validation. They want to know if how they handled a certain situation made sense or what should they have done instead.
Today we have a story about folks treating a potential music director unprofessionally. Monica* wants validation that it truly WAS unprofessional. She contacted me last fall with a terrible audition story. And I have to agree, it’s a TERRIBLE story. We’ve been going back and forth; should I share it in the Choral Ethics blog or not? And if I did share it, when would be the best time? We finally agreed a few weeks ago that this is the time.
Her auditions (there were multiple auditions and several interviews) for this position began last year around this time and lasted about four weeks. The position was for Music/Artistic Director of an elite, highly auditioned treble/women’s choral organization. The organization was multileveled; a boys’ choir, a girls’ choir which combined to be the children’s chorus, a high school group, a typical non-auditioned community women’s chorus and a professional Women’s Chorus. The Music/Artistic Director directs the professional adult group as well as acts as an Executive Director and supervises the other groups.
Because it was such a large program and they were getting back to almost normal after COVID, the audition process was complicated and she would be the first of the candidates to go through the process. She interviewed with the general board, as well as the directors of the three children’s groups, after having observed one or two of each of their rehearsals.
The director of the non-auditioned women’s group took her out for coffee a day or two before her interview with the sub-board in charge of the professional group. That director was also a woman and after they had a nice one-on-one, gave her a “heads-up;” Monica was one of three candidates and the only woman. And she told Monica to be aware that all the previous directors holding the position she was auditioning for were male. Monica felt good about the interviews and observations and even felt good about the coffee meeting with the other director but now she felt a bit uneasy.
Monica interviewed with the sub-board, and it was AWFUL. Every question was asked with a sneer, or her answer received a smug follow-up question. No one would look her in the eye before, during or after the interview. This interview occurred right before her first rehearsal with the professional chorus, and she went in feeling uncertain.
For two weeks, she rehearsed this group. The final part of the audition process would be to direct Saturday and Sunday concerts. During her rehearsal period, she felt like she was directing a badly behaved Junior High group instead of (supposedly)
a professional chorus. They asked her to repeat again and again where she wanted them to start, then said she was “unclear.” The Alto Twos were ALWAYS chatting while she gave instructions. A Soprano One told Monica she didn’t have to listen to her because she was not the real director. They questioned her Latin pronunciation or sang the wrong notes on purpose. The accompanist was mortified by their behavior and apologized to her after each and every rehearsal, saying he didn’t know what had gotten into them.
The concerts she conducted were brilliant. The director of the non-auditioned women’s group came up after and told Monica she had never heard the professional group sounds better, as did several of the general board members. But Monica knew she didn’t get the job, moved on and applied for similar positions soon after this ordeal had ended.
What spurred our months long dialogue about her awful audition experience was recently this organization announced the name of their new Music/Artistic Director. It is now her understanding this person was the preferred candidate from the very beginning and all the complicated interviews and auditions were for appearance sake only. She wonders how the other male director was treated in their process because it sure seemed the lone WOMAN auditioning as Music/Artistic Director was not treated exactly stellar.
Monica wonders if she did something to provoke her treatment or if she was overblowing the situation. I told her it was NOT her problem and she did nothing to provoke it. And also suggested it was a GOOD THING she didn’t get that job because it sounds like it would have been a nightmare.
She was recently hired as the artistic director of a professional chamber choir, with a children’s program. She begins this summer and is so excited because it is a wonderful job, working with wonderful people.
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