Jauvon Gilliam, for seven years a timpanist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, really, really wanted to win the vacant timpani position with the National Symphony Orchestra when the opening was announced last year. So he rented a minivan, packed up his drums and drove 26 hours across the country to audition. He got called back and made the drive a second time.

To make sure he was mentally prepared, he called up timpanists in major American orchestras along the way and asked if he could play for them. He wanted to get used to playing nervous, in unfamiliar situations. The first two attempts went terribly. The next two went much better. And by the time he got to Washington, he was in great form. He was the orchestra’s unanimous choice for the position.


I have great admiration for anyone who has to do the audition thing. It’s more difficult than a non-musician might imagine … and I’m incredibly thankful to have jobs I love already. Whew!


  1. patti with an i

    Suddenly I’m even more glad than usual that I only have to leave the house with a viola!!

    It can’t be usual to take your own timps, though… I’m trying to envision the waiting room, and the warmup rooms, and how long it would take to get each candidate in & out…

  2. Yes, it is usual to take your own timpani to auditions; at least to the major auditions. Those waiting rooms are full of timpani! As I understand it, not everyone does bring their own; however, it is to your advantage if you do. I am a percussionist and am often taking a cartload of my own percussion equipment (snare drum and stand, a few pairs of cymbals, at least 2 tambourines, 2 triangles and multiple sets of mallets and sticks). I have yet to actually audition for a strictly timpani position precisely because of the task of taking your own drums.