“I do feel blind auditions are desirable, because, at the end of the day, if I succeed or fail, I have no doubt it’s because how I played,” Scruggs says. “Orchestras need to have a little bit of faith that a fair audition process will uphold artistic standards.”

The oboist points to the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York as an example.

“To my knowledge,” he says, “that’s the only one that holds truly blind auditions, where the winners are accepted before the applicants are ever seen. They have a black principal clarinetist, a black principal trumpet, and a black second trombone. And it’s one of the best orchestras in the world.”


Not true any longer, actually: recently San Francisco Opera kept their entire audition behind the screen. I think this is a new practice for them. With us “little folk”: Symphony Silicon Valley does everything behind the screen, as did San Jose Symphony (RIP) before our demise. I used to fight this idea (for reasons other than race, believe me!) but I’ve decided it really is for the best. The tenure review process can deal with issues we might run into once a player wins an audition.


  1. Many orchestras have been having totaly blind auditions for a long time, dating back to the 70’s and 80’s.blind auditions are not new. I do recall early rounds behind the screen and finals in the open but I also remember taking auditions where everything was behind the screen and this was long late 70’s early 80s. I also recall that screens cannot stop a fixed audition if the fix is in before the audition takes place. On its face, screens are a great equalizer but if the audition is fixed beforehand, then the screen is basically the musical equivalent of the football Rooney rule…

  2. There’s always the possibility of fixing auditions, no matter what. Fortunately I’ve never been in an orchestra that has done that. (Another oboist did accuse us of fixing an Opera San José audition … and what can one do about that? He was wrong, but he spread the rumor and many believe rumors.)

    But yes, Ada, I thought the behind the screen thing had been going on for quite some time.