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Step away from the cell phone…

0 Robert Levine

A discussion has erupted on another online forum regarding the use of cell phones at auditions. My orchestra has had some very limited discussion about a related issue; the use of electronic devices by committee members, albeit in the context of doing anything at auditions other than listening. But that discussion (which manifested itself in a request by one of our internal committees to audition committees) did not raise an issue that apparently has come up in other orchestras; that of maintaining the confidentiality of the audition process.

I’ll confess that the idea had never occurred to me that a candidate could use a cellphone to alert a committee member to his/her identity. I’d like to think that’s because, in our situation at least, such a breach of the anonymity of the screened audition wouldn’t have much effect. We don’t have screens up for finals, so such a breach could only affect earlier rounds. And it’s very rare in the screened rounds that one committee member’s opinion is deciding. Most candidates get no votes; candidates who get passed on usually get more than a simple majority of the committee’s votes. Having one committee member trying to “tilt” the voting might change the outcome of one or two votes during a day of listening - but wouldn’t have any effect on the music directors I’ve worked for.

Besides, there are simpler (or more undetectable ways) for a candidate to secretly communicate his/her identity to a friendly committee member. A distinctive way of tuning, or a few notes of warm-up pre-planned as a signal would work just as well as a text saying “I’m #49,” and would be much harder to prove. No doubt this has happened on occasion, but I’ve not been aware of any instances in auditions I’ve heard.

Cell phones (especially the smart versions) and laptop computers and such can be a distraction to audition committee members, although I’ve found that the process is such a grind for committees that such distractions can be not only welcome ones but actually helpful in maintaining focus over a very long day. But I don’t think that such devices pose a new threat to the screened audition.

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