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A Night at the Symphony

I had a lovely evening last night at the Boston Symphony. (Thanks, UBS and Mike Haynes!) I was fortunate to be able to hear a brief, informal talk by one of the orchestra’s bass players, Ben Levy, in addition to an outstanding pre-concert talk about the night’s program.

Here are some interesting takeaways that relate to my favorite subject of career management:

  • Passion sells! The woman who gave the pre-concert talk was so enthusiastic about her subject, so enthralled with the composers and their stories, that we in the audience couldn’t help but be swept up in her enthusiasm. When you’re talking to people about your job search, what you love to do, the kinds of opportunities you’re seeking, or the challenges of a particular job you’re interviewing for, be sure to show your knowledge, passion, and energy.
  • Competition is fierce. As a “top 5” national orchestra, and representing a steady gig for often itinerant musicians, Boston draws a huge applicant pool when a (rare) opening occurs. Just to get a live audition you have to beat out hundreds of other applicants sending in tapes, and the audition is a grueling two-day process that requires you to perform at your very best. I was fascinated to learn that the auditions are “blind” – candidates perform behind a screen, and the judging panel doesn’t know anything about age, appearance, gender, race, or any other factor that might influence their judgment. The decisions are based entirely on performance – a perfect example of Nick Corcodilos/Ask the Headhunter‘s sage advice to “to the job in the interview.”
  • Teamwork is everything. An orchestra is a team in perfect unison – each musician and instrument does something different, yet it all comes together into a harmonious whole. Yo-Yo Ma, one of the world’s most celebrated cellists, first wowed the audience with his lead performance in a Cello Concerto. His style is unique, and his cello made sounds that were nothing like any of the other instruments in the orchestra. Then, in the night’s final piece, Mr. Ma joined the cello section of the orchestra and blended flawlessly with the rest of the instruments during Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. It was a brilliant finish to the evening.

Did I mention that Symphony Hall was sold out? Not bad for a freezing midweek night in January.

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