Auditioning soloists is one of my least favorite parts of my job as a conductor.
The trust they have been building among themselves is diminished when they have to compete for a solo that only one can get. It is a necessary evil to making the music we want to make; having excellent and passionate musicians means the choices are always tough.
As a conductor, I am motivated by love for the music, and equally by love for my ensemble. Solo auditions require me to diminish one love to serve the other.
I communicate my ambivalence with my students: I don’t enjoy doing this, and I love you all no matter who I select. But it’s also clear that my decision stands.
It’s a comfort that by the end of the year, my choir features enough soloists for at least 75% of the group to have performed a solo.
I think our conversations about service to the music help, too. My students know my choices are made not by ego or favoritism but by a strong desire to enable the music to live.
It will never get easier, and the frequency makes it especially rough – the only thing I enjoy less is the annual ensemble audition, but at least that only happens once per year.