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For Antoine St-Onge, the process of winning his first job in an orchestra can be described as a whirlwind followed by a long wait. St-Onge, who auditioned for Principal Bassoon of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) in June of 2018, found out about the audition just a few weeks in advance. Typically, musicians devote several weeks or even months to prepare for an audition, so this situation certainly required some flexibility from St-Onge. “It was the end of the season for them,” he explains. “They wanted to hold an audition just before summer…. I think it was the day of the last concert.”
Following the audition, St-Onge was offered a trial with the Orchestra in the 2018/2019 Season. A Quebec native, he returned to Calgary this past fall to spend three weeks with the CPO. “A trial is a bit different than playing like usual in the orchestra in terms of talking with your colleagues,” he says. “Sometimes people won’t tell you as much as they will in normal rehearsing life, just to see what you’re able to do by yourself.”
At the same time St-Onge was participating in his trial, the CPO was also auditioning two finalists for the position of Principal Oboe, so he had the opportunity to perform in multiple concerts with each candidate. “They had two big programs for oboe in the first and third week of my trial, and the middle week was Beauty and the Beast — it was great.”
In the end, both St-Onge and oboist Alex Klein were offered their positions on the same night in mid-October. “My deliberation was right after the show, so I was waiting in the lobby, and just waiting,” he says. “Yeah, this was stressful!”
St-Onge began playing the bassoon in high school, after previously learning the violin. It was within a few years, and after more exposure to a higher level of performance, that he considered a professional career with the instrument. “When you’re an artist, sometimes the stability can be hard…. I did two years of teaching and freelancing, so the schedule would be full, but the energy would be spent differently,” says St-Onge. “Getting a job in an orchestra is great because you have stability and that kind of thing, so that was a major factor to apply for a bigger position.”
He went on to complete his graduate studies at McGill University, and while he would have taken an audition wherever it was offered, St-Onge is especially pleased to have won an orchestral position in this city. “Calgary is a special destination in Canada,”
Written by guest contributor Jill Girgulis
Jill Girgulis is a student at the University of Calgary and a regular contributor for thegauntlet.ca as well as buzzfeed.com. When she’s not busy studying for her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, she can most often be found in one of the first three rows of the Jack Singer Concert Hall.