Playing to Win: Politics and Auditions

Miles Hoffman Compares Tryouts on Musical, Presidential Stages

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Flute player

Auditioning for a major symphony can be like running in a presidential primary, Hoffman says. ©LWA- JDC/CORBIS hide caption

toggle caption ©LWA- JDC/CORBIS

All the world's a stage, and nowhere is that more true than politics. But music commentator Miles Hoffman says that in some ways the competition for a spot on an orchestra can be just as intense as a run for the White House. Hoffman and NPR's Bob Edwards discuss the similarities — and the differences.

Like candidates trying out a new speech before a focus group, musicians play for friends and colleagues to solicit critiques before they audition. And like the political arena, there's the matter of financing. You have to pay your own way to travel to the audition — even if it's across the country.

"It's like the candidates who decide where they're going to buy TV advertising, in which state," Hoffman says. "You have to decide which auditions you have a good enough shot at, and financing your airplane trips to auditions is not always so easy."

Unlike politics, when you win a spot on an orchestra, you're on probation for a year. But once you've passed probation, you typically have tenure. "Then you're el presidente for life..." Hoffman says.

Music Heard in This Report

1. (Flute) "The Birds," from Carnival of the Animals. by Camille Saint-Saens. Lalo Schifrin, conductor. (Dove Audio, 30700)

2. (Trumpet #1) "Petrouchka," by Igor Stravinsky, Montreal Symphony, Charles Dutoit, conductor. (London, 417-619-2)

3. (Trumpet #2) "Petrouchka," by Stravinsky. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Jarvi, conductor. (Telarc, CD-80587)

4. (Horns) "Don Juan," by Richard Strauss. Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, conductor. (CBS, MDK 44909)

5. (Strings) Final Movement, Symphony No. 1, by Georges Bizet. New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, conductor. (Sony, SMK 61830)



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from