The first official event of the year for the bass department is seating auditions for the two Peabody orchestras. All the students receive the required list of excerpts over the summer and play them, along with a solo, for the faculty, the orchestra conductor, and the chamber music coordinator. After everyone has played, we consult together and work out assignments for orchestra seatings.
Auditions are seldom fun for most folks, but it's a good way to start the year on many levels. It lets us see what all the students have been doing bass-wise on their summer vacation. Some students have been at various music festivals and camps, while others may have just stayed home and practiced. In any event, it's always fun for me to see the progress various students have made. Sometimes, getting away from school and its constant workload and pressures is just what a student needs to make a huge leap forward.
I also like starting the year with an audition because it says: back to work, everyone! Auditioning well is a key part of what we are teaching here, so why not begin the year by reminding ourselves of what that experience is all about?
Afterwards, we have a department meeting in Bassland. We cover various items of business and take a department photo. You'll see it up soon somewhere on the front page of the Peabody bass department website (www.peabody.jhu.edu/doublebass). Then, Paul Johnson asks THE QUESTION. It is always interesting, sometimes mysterious, and occasionally downright disturbing. I cannot reveal this year's version here - it is a secret only for the initiates. THE QUESTION itself changes every year, but it always begins the year for us at Peabody, and no one can ask it but Paul....