Seminar: Adolph Herseth on Auditioning
Thursday, May 25, 2000 3:30pm
Arthur A. Molitierno, Reviewer
For this lecture and demonstration by the dean of American trumpeters, Adolph Herseth, the largest hall was filled to capacity to for this engaging and witty musician. Although Herseth was totally at ease with his humorous stories, he showed concern for the lack of serious preparation for auditions by some trumpeters. As a corollary to this point, Herseth pointed out that he was also concerned about the questionable fairness in some auditions and the lack of participation by some trumpet sections in the auditioning process. He indicated that he attends all trumpet auditions and the Chicago Symphony probably has the fairest auditioning practice and procedure in the world. He often attends the auditions for other instruments and welcomes, for example, violin players to attend the auditions of brass players. He has found the different perspectives enhancing in the process of choosing personnel.
Herseth does not favor taped auditions because of the possibility of manipulating the recording; however, the live audition can also be a problem. Too many players do not understand the stylistic nuances of the piece they have prepared and there are others who, while technically proficient, have become mired in only one interpretation of the piece. He will ask those auditioning to change the style somewhat to see how flexible they are in meeting the demands of the music and different conductors. Along these lines, Herseth gave ample illustrations of the right way and the innumerable wrong ways to play particular passages in everything from the Haydn Concerto to Mahler's Symphony No. 5. His ability to play with poor intonation while playing the right notes brought the entire audience to boisterous laughter and applause.
In the middle of the presentation, legendary trumpeter Roger Voisin (formerly of the Boston Symphony) rose to thank this grand and ageless trumpeter (Herseth is now 78 and has been with the Chicago Symphony for 53 years) for all that he has given his colleagues through his distinguished career. While "Bud" tried politely and shyly to dismiss the honor, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
After such a moment is would be difficult for anyone to get back to the rather somber and sober topic of auditions, especially with Herseth's quick wit. The audience wanted to hear his many tales of working with different conductors, including those who required "three fingers" of something stronger than tonic water. Herseth covered how he favored Jussi Björling (famed Swedish tenor) for classical voice and Frank Sinatra for popular voice. His emphasis on singing indicated that trumpet players should pay more attention to singers and get their own music to sing through the horn. He apologized (with tongue in cheek) for mentioning a popular singer, but he wished to emphasize how impeccably correct Sinatra was in his phrasing and delivery of material. He first met Sinatra through Harry James, when Sinatra was singing Herseth's favorite tune, "My Buddy."
That type of story and insight has made a legend of Bud Herseth. The ITG audience responded to his presentation with the same enthusiasm that has made Herseth one of the most admired persons ever to represent the trumpet world on concert stages. (Arthur A. Molitierno, associate professor of English, Wright State University)