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Forte: Finding new faces

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Allion Salvador performs as assistant concertmaster with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo by Gary Miller)

YAKIMA, Wash. -- While there are often new faces on the Yakima Symphony Orchestra stage as substitute and extra musicians fill in for our regular players, there are a few new faces that you’ll be seeing more often following recent auditions for permanent positions.

Our new assistant concertmaster, who will fill in as concertmaster for next week’s performance, is Allion Salvador. A graduate of the University of Washington with degrees in violin performance and neurobiology, Salvador performs as violinist and conductor with several orchestras around the Seattle area.

New to our cello section this month is Mika Hood, a graduate of Indiana University (also Maestro Golan’s alma mater) and principal cellist of the Coeur d’Alene Symphony.

Dexter Stevens, a freelance musician from Seattle, will join YSO as third/bass clarinetist later this month.

The audition process for any professional orchestra is designed to create a level playing field for all applicants. For the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, as for most orchestras, the first round of an audition is evaluated by a panel of tenured orchestra musicians who listen to each applicant from behind a screen to prevent any nonmusical factors from coming into play.

Candidates are not allowed to speak aloud during the audition, and carpeting is placed on the pathway to the stage so the panel does not even get audible cues from the type of shoes worn (high heels might indicate gender).

An audition proctor accompanies each candidate to communicate any questions to the panel during the audition, which usually includes a solo concerto excerpt and prepared passages from standard orchestral repertoire.

The symphony does not disqualify any applicant on the basis of résumé, so our first rounds often include a mix of accomplished professionals with younger musicians looking for audition experience; while it doesn’t happen often, occasionally an exceptionally talented young musician auditioning for the first time has been hired.

The music director joins the panel for the final round of the audition, which is performed without a screen and typically consists only of candidates deemed fully qualified for the position.

Here, all performance factors are considered, which especially for a principal position may include physical leadership (the body language of a candidate while playing) in addition to technical skill and musicianship.

While occasionally no candidate is selected, requiring a second audition, the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s recent audition panels have been fortunate to successfully identify several exceptional new colleagues.

• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Learn more at

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