The Time I Won an Audition I did not Realize I was Taking

The Podcasting Store
3 min readJan 20, 2023

by Drew Holmes

On my weekly visit to schools as an Educational Representative for Boomer Music, I saw something that resonated with me. Above the white board in a middle school band room was a set of signs outlining a strategy for how to sight read. It had, in order of importance, things like time signature, rhythm, and road map.

Seeing the strategies for sight reading on that wall brought back a flood of memories.

Fall of senior year in high school was my last NESBA marching band finals. Though we came in second, upon our return home from Boston we celebrated our accomplishment with an impromptu parade through the center of town. Ending in front of the high school, we formed a half circle in the parking lot and played our show one last time for the assembled crowd. After we finished, I was approached by two people I had not met before.

“Hey,” the man said, “Our brass quintet is down a trumpet player.”

“Would you be interested in taking his place?” asked the woman.

Jim and Mary were the tuba and horn players, respectively, for the Elmwood Brass Quintet. Alumni of East Bridgewater High (and the band), they happened to see the parade and followed us to the school. Hearing me perform they thought I would be a good fit for their group and offered me the gig on the spot.

I had just won an audition I did not realize I was taking.

I readily agreed and soon found myself confronted with a very large pile of music I had never played before. Until that moment I had plenty of time to work on new charts in rehearsal or in my lessons. The pace was leisurely, the number of songs manageable, and recordings frequently available to listen and learn from.

Now I was faced with quickly preparing dozens of arrangements I had never encountered. The other four members of the group already knew the book, so I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being the weak link.

This was a professional situation, not a class, so the stakes had never been higher.

As I dissected the songs, measure by measure, the lessons in reading music I had been taught for years began to make sense. Time signatures were guideposts, rhythms revealed themselves, and road maps showed me the way. In short order I came up with an approach for reading new music that I still use to this day.

Choosing to not fail I had finally learned to sight read music.

During my time in the quintet, I learned much about music and made some great friends. I became familiar with a range of composers from Giovani Gabrieli to Luther Henderson and everything in between.

Today I am a great sight reader. Developing that skill has taken me to places I never could have imagined that night in the parking lot. Will these middle school students absorb the lesson? No one knows for sure. But for those who do the journey will be worth it.

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