Clevenger on How Many Auditions, and How Many it Took Me


The horn world has been abuzz for the past few weeks with the retirement of Dale Clevenger from the Chicago Symphony, who served as Principal Horn from 1966-2013. Of the interesting links and articles I have seen among the more interesting to me was a by a retired psychologist in Chicago, Gerald Stein. He is not a hornist but was involved with recording Clevenger’s oral history for the Chicago Symphony. One of the topics of his article on life lessons from Dale Clevenger was on that of auditions and persistence. 

Clevenger-serenadeBacking up a step, while Clevenger of course was an influence on me (what horn player my age was not influenced by Clevenger??), I did not study with him and I don’t believe that I have ever met him either, so I only know Clevenger as a listener and through friends who have worked with him. This album cover is of my personal favorite Clevenger recording, my absolute favorite recording of the Britten Serenade. I purchased it as an undergrad not long after it came out and listen to it often to this day.

With that introduction, I can totally relate to the part of the article where Clevenger speaks in his oral history on the topic of persistence and auditions. He is quoted after mentioning a horn player who won his job in the Boston Symphony after 48 auditions,

How do you stick it out? How do you do that? Would I have done that? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. There are a lot of people who play five to 15 auditions (before they win a big one). I played 9 or 10. It didn’t affect my ego. You just keep going. (For example), how can an actor be an actor unless he is used to the failure to get jobs? It’s not possible. You have to try to find the positive in that situation.

Of course there is more to the article (read it here in full), but the reason I relate to this comment so much is that actually I am another of those people that took a lot of auditions, and in cleaning in my file cabinets yesterday I finally found the full list! It has been lost for at least ten years. The stats:

  • During 1986 and 87 I took 13 auditions, starting the last semester of my MM study at Eastman. I made the finals for 5 jobs (twice in Memphis, Richmond, Denver, and Buffalo) and semi-finals three times.
  • I then started my Doctoral studies at Indiana and after an embouchure change took seven more auditions between 1989 and 91. I made the semi-finals three times, finals twice (Louisville and Indianapolis), and won Third Horn in Nashville. It was my 20th audition.

After that I took actually 7 more auditions and made the semi-finals four times including in particular all three of the last three auditions. By then though I was starting to think in other directions, toward teaching full time, and I was able to shift my career focus. Still, the time playing full time and all the audition preparation (and taking) I draw on constantly in my teaching to this day.

Now Clevenger will be making a similar shift of career focus, joining the faculty at Indiana University as Professor of Practice. We wish him the best at Horn Matters! And for a great tribute to Clevenger I highly recommend viewing the tribute video made by his Chicago Symphony colleagues.

University of Horn Matters