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Making every note count


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July 18, 2011

Tanya Dusevic Witek, BFA ’93, contender for prized second flute position

By Caitlyn Spencer

When Tanya Dusevic Witek sent in her audition tape for second flute with the New York Philharmonic – a position that, before the 2010 retirement of Renée Siebert, had not been open in 35 years – she knew she had to make every note count. The tapes were the second step in the auditioning process, following a resume application, and amounted to only eight minutes of music.

“Even though it wasn’t much material, it took a lot of work to get it up to the level I wanted,” Witek recalls. She paired with a New York producer she’s used for other recordings, and recorded and re-recorded until everything sounded just right. “When making the tape, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I wonder if they’ll listen past the second excerpt,’” she adds. “You record six excerpts, but for most of the submissions, the committee is probably only going to listen to a couple of excerpts.

However, a week after submission, Witek was notified that she’d made it to the semi-final rounds, and was suddenly faced with the prospect of finding somewhere to rehearse while back in Calgary visiting family. With her husband and two small children along for the ride, Witek knew trying to rehearse at her parents’ home would be a challenge. Banking on the possibility of her alma mater having some room to spare, Witek contacted the music department from which she’d graduated nearly 20 years before. She’d been hoping for a break, but didn’t anticipate that the department would offer her a studio to rehearse in for hours a day.

“I can’t thank the university enough,” Witek says. “Even at home, even at my parent's house, I wouldn’t be able to get the same amount of concentrated practice done. Three to four hours of solid time each day has been so beneficial. When I get back to New York I will be playing the Mostly Mozart Festival and I have my teaching job at Montclair State University. I’ll still be practicing, but I needed to get a good start on the repertoire.”

In contrast to the eight minute audition tape, she and all other contenders will have many hours worth of music – much of it large orchestral pieces – selections of which they will be asked to play at the auditions. “The entire list is amazing music,” Witek gushes. “When I listen to the recordings, I put on my headphones, and I just get goosebumps.”

Even if Witek doesn’t win the position – prized for the stability it offers professional musicians just as much as the prestige associated with playing in America’s longest-running orchestra – she says the experience of the auditioning process will be invaluable in preparing her own students for similar experiences. “Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s prepared me for other things to come.”

Semi-final auditions will take place at the end of September. Finalists will participate in a last audition in October. For more information on the New York Philharmonic, please visit their website. To learn about the programs offered by the Department of Music, click here.