The Baltic Sea Philharmonic has completed its first-ever Digital Talent Tour, having moved its 2020 recruitment drive online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the week of 18–22 January 2021, the orchestra held live video-conference auditions for 91 candidates from the entire Baltic Sea region. These 91 musicians were selected from more than 200 candidates who had applied between 15 October and 30 November 2020 and had submitted recorded video performances.
The live virtual auditions were held in front of a jury comprising ten Baltic Sea Philharmonic principal musicians and conductor Kristjan Järvi, with the candidates given 15–20 minutes to tell the jury about themselves and perform selected repertoire that they had prepared. Following the live virtual auditions, the jury made a final selection of 70 musicians, who will now join the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s pool of outstanding players for upcoming international tours and exciting opportunities on stage, in the studio and online.
A new kind of audition process for unprecedented times
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic constantly strives to refresh and expand its roster of musicians, and was set to run its Talent Tour 2020 audition programme alongside its planned ‘Midnight Sun’ tour of Poland, Germany and Russia in June and July 2020. When that tour was postponed because of the pandemic, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic immediately started to develop innovative digital projects and solutions. Recognising that there was a significant hunger among musicians to showcase their talents and artistic personality at a time of drastically reduced performance opportunities, the orchestra launched a two-stage Digital Talent Tour combining video and online technology with an in-person virtual audition.
Like the regular Talent Tour, the Digital Talent Tour was open to applicants aged 18 to 28 from, or studying in, one of the ten countries around the Baltic Sea – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The 91 applicants selected for the live virtual auditions represented the full spectrum of orchestral instruments, with 36 string players, 12 brass players, 24 woodwind players, 7 harpists, 6 percussionists and 6 pianists.
Empowering musicians on both sides of the screen
In common with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s other digital initiatives of recent months, including the innovative ‘Musical Chain’ series of classical remix videos, the Digital Talent Tour aims to connect, unite and empower musicians amid an extremely challenging landscape for the performing arts. The orchestra’s principals had important responsibilities throughout the entire Digital Talent Tour audition process, from helping to choose the audition repertoire, to assessing the initial video applications, and then conducting the live virtual auditions. By helping to appraise and interview their peers, these experienced members play a key role in shaping and developing the unique personality of the orchestra as a whole.
As jurors, the principals felt it was important at the live auditions to create a supportive atmosphere for the candidates. Principal flautist Kristine Beitika, from Latvia, said: ‘When I listened to the applicants I wanted them to succeed and feel confident and happy about their playing. Having had this experience I know that it will help me for my own auditions. It was important for applicants to realise that there is not much to worry about when you’re at an audition, that the jury definitely knows how it feels to play an audition and that they will do everything they can to make you feel at ease.’
Applicants who were selected for the second round certainly valued the opportunity to perform in a live virtual audition in front of a jury. Spanish clarinettist Alejandro Lobato, who is studying in Sweden, said: ‘An online audition is the best idea right now, because I consider that an audition has to be live and direct, and not just based on a video recording. During the audition all the jurors were very professional and polite, and it was a good experience to share some music with them and also tell them about my own experience.’ Lobato was one of the second-round candidates chosen by the jury to join the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s pool of talented musicians, and the orchestra looks forward to working with him and all the other successful applicants in the near future.
Read more about the Digital Talent Tour here