compete against the industry’s very best players. Success or failure is determined by one of the world’s fastest job interviews. Most last just ten minutes. Many musicians make dozens of attempts before landing the perfect position. Some never do. “There are more professional athletes in Denver than there are nationally auditioned professional musicians,” says Pierce. “The same people take our auditions as take the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra. There are only so many jobs out there. It’s a very exciting process, because we have a chance to identify someone who is possibly going to become a new member of the family, and you never know who it’s going to be.” Karl Fenner was already a member of the Colorado Symphony family in June 2012, when he took the most important audition of his career so far. He’d served in the bass section since October 2007, his first major job since dreams of playing professionally hatched at age 14. Like hundreds of others, he’d seen the post in The International Musician, the official news arm of the American Federation of Musicians, announcing that the Colorado Symphony was auditioning for Principal Bass. “All of the years of practicing, auditioning and performing inspired me to set my artistry to a higher level,” says Fenner. “I was ready to put myself on the line, to see how I would fare when I set myself against a pool of candidates and a
Karl Fenner Principal Bass
level of competition I hadn’t yet experienced.” Fenner spent six weeks working through a longer and more complicated list of audition excerpts he would be expected to play to perfection for a committee that included musicians he worked and played with every week. As the date drew near, Fenner purposely did not engage orchestra members he knew were involved with the audition process.
“As important as auditions are, they’re just part of a larger process of growth and perseverance.” —Karl Fenner, Principal Bass
“The idea of going in and playing and advancing, without my colleagues knowing it was me, that was a major source of pride,” he says. “I wanted to go in and win completely on my own.” After two tension-filled days of competition against more than forty world-class players, Fenner won the job of Principal Bass. And the audition didn’t stop there: Like all new, nontenured members of the Colorado Symphony, Fenner faces a two-year, peer-led review process that will partly determine the shape of his career, and his future. “There’s an idea I repeat to myself and to my students: Never look at any audition as an endpoint,” Fenner says. “As important as auditions are, they’re just part of a larger process of growth and perseverance. I say, ‘I won Principal Bass of the Colorado Symphony on my 16th audition. But there were 14 I went to and didn’t win.’ Going to those improved the character of my playing. As you’re preparing for a career, a lot of emotional resilience is important. You have to be able to say that no matter what happens in those ten minutes, this is something you’re committed to until you’re successful.”
SOUNDINGS 2013/14 | COLORADOSYMPHONY.ORG 17
In-theater magazine produced for the Colorado Symphony