An Interview on Orchestral Horn Auditions. Part III, Technology and Preparation Today

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This article continues an interview conducted 2/13/13 with Ashley Cumming, a Doctoral student at Indiana University. Part I starts here. 

How has technology played a changing role in your versus your students’ preparation?

As I was using tape recording back then it really is not that much different. We had tuners and metronomes back then too, and plenty of recordings to reference. Those are still the main tools.

Are you using any of the following?


Recording devices


Smartphone or iPad applications

Myself no, but students do.

It is a great site and students love this site, but actually I try to wean students away from it. Work from the actual parts and seek out other recordings. For example full parts of most major works are on Horn Matters, and recordings are easy to seek out in a variety of formats.


Students I am sure use it some.


It is a really handy tool for preparation.

International Music Score Library Project

Yes, but when possible I point people to the same music on Horn Matters, they don’t need to dig as hard to get the same materials.

Skype-profile-snipSkype/Broadband (for auditions or training)

No. I have taught a little by Skype, but only with prospective ASU students whom I could not meet with otherwise for a lesson in person. Some things you can hear, other things you just can’t by Skype. Honestly, without wishing to offend, I question the ethics of seriously teaching audition preparation by Skype. I suppose it is better than nothing, but in my opinion in person lessons are much more effective for audition training of actual horn excerpts.

Audition training websites (, etc.)

I have never used these or recommended them due to the concerns already implied. But I have posted some very relevant readings in Horn Matters, especially in the Orchestra 101 series, and there are some very practical materials I like in the Douglas Yeo trombone website.

Other (please explain)

For preparation of the solo Smart Music is a great tool. The solo is very likely the first thing performed on the first round and needs to be prepared to the highest level possible.

(Please note if you are still using resources such as libraries/hard copy scores/Thompson Edition/Orchestra CD-ROM Library/excerpt cds/older excerpt books: Labar, Chambers etc.)

The level of the student is an element of the answer to the above (“are you still using” certain older materials). For the initial learning of excerpts, excerpt books can certainly be useful. I recommend to my students either the Anthology of French Horn Music by Moore and Ettore, published by Mel Bay or the Horn Player’s Audition Handbook by Arthur LaBar, published by Belwin. The Anthology is to be especially noted for not only presenting well thought out and laid out excerpts, but for also giving good solid suggested metronome markings and other tips for every work, information that is alone well worth the cost of the volume. The only major shortcoming is that this publication has no Strauss, Mahler, or Wagner excerpts. The LaBar book has broader coverage (including major excerpts from Strauss, Mahler, and Wagner) and is more of a one stop source for initial excerpt study. Either book will work well, especially when supplemented with the actual orchestral parts.

How has this access and advanced technology changed the audition process?

I don’t see the audition process as much changed fundamentally since the late 1980s. Orchestra contract language is still roughly the same; the process has to follow the rules laid out there.

Has the increased accessibility of recordings impacted the specificity of your audition preparation?

This question puzzles me, as in the 1980s you could walk into any music school library and listen to multiple copies of everything, and there were many recordings of any standard work available for purchase at brick and mortar stores. Everything was easily accessible without too much effort. Only the delivery method has changed today.

Do you think there is an advantage to physically copying and studying scores versus today’s instant access?

Some teachers make a big point of full score study, which I think is what you are getting at with the question. This was not a part of my training. I feel listening to many recordings is more of a key element, so my answer would be no.

Continue to Conclusion of Interview

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