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What does it take to become a Kansas City Symphony musician?

Our eighty musicians are full-time employees, virtually all of whom have moved to Kansas City for their position in the orchestra. They have worked and trained incredibly hard to get here. There is no one path, one school, or one teacher – our musicians have taken many routes to get here. But to win and keep a place in our orchestra, every one of them has been required to accomplish each of the following:

  1. Train extensively. Our musicians have studied at conservatories, music schools of universities, and privately with the world’s finest musicians.
  2. Practice. To become a great musician, they must devote thousands of hours to their instruments. There is no substitute for patient practice.
  3. Win an audition. Our auditions attract sometimes hundreds of applicants – for one job! To win, they have to be at the very top of their game. From behind a screen so that the committee doesn’t know who they are or anything about them (except how they play), they are asked to perform a series of short excerpts from the orchestral repertoire. With so many candidates for the committee to hear, they have only a very few minutes to make a musical statement!
  4. Prove their ability to do the job. Once they have won an audition, the “interview” is only just beginning. Musicians are initially selected based on only a few minutes of solo music making. They then must demonstrate to the orchestra that they have what it takes to play with a section, to literally “play well with others,” and demonstrate other factors expected of any job. If they are the Principal of their section, in addition to being excellent musicians, they also must demonstrate the attributes necessary to lead and manage other section members, including organization and communication skills. They have up to two years to prove that they can do the whole job.
  5. Be a great musical citizen. After they have succeeded in winning the audition, and if they prove their ability to do the whole job, the music director, with input from a tenure committee of their peers, may award them tenure. Our musicians are the champions and stewards of this art form, and sharing and teaching is core to what they do.