I've seen quite a few articles going around about musician etiquette and how to not get fired. One example is this article, written by my good friend and mentor Dr. Janis McKay. These articles are amazing and teach people (including me!) a lot about being a colleague. We are trained to be performers, soloists, teachers, etc...but it is very hard to learn how to be a good colleague.
Even harder, in my opinion, is to learn how to be a good artist-employee. This article is written from two perspectives. 20% of this article comes from my experience as a professional bassoonist. The other 80% of this article is based on my experiences as a professional personnel manager, contractor, and employer.
At the Audition
1. Read the audition posting completely! If the audition posting says send an e-mail with a specific subject line, do that. In a recent season with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, we held 4 different auditions for 5 positions and received well over 600 application e-mails. So, if the audition posting says to send an e-mail with the subject line "3rd Horn Audition," do not send an e-mail with a subject line of "Horn Audition" "John Smith Resume," or (my favorite) "Job Application."
Also (just as a pet peeve of mine), if the audition posting lists a specific person to whom the e-mails should be sent, just send it to that person. I can't tell you how many audition application e-mails I got that were addressed to "Sir or Madame" when the ad specified to send e-mails to "Kevin Eberle." It's infuriating and lets me know that you don't read things all the way through. Remember that the first e-mail or mailed-in packet you send if your first impression to the administration and ultimately the people you may work with.
Lastly, if the ad says no phone calls...don't call. The person handling the scheduling of auditions (usually someone in the personnel department) doesn't have the time to answer your questions in that moment. Everything you need to know should be on the ad. If you have a question, send an e-mail with the title of the ad and the word question (e.g., "3rd Horn Audition QUESTION") so that it is distinguishable in the flood of e-mails the personnel department gets daily. And after you send that e-mail...be patient. Follow up if you don't hear something after 5 days.
2. If you are invited to the live audition, follow the directions given to you by whomever invited you. When I was invited to the 2nd bassoon audition for the Indianapolis Symphony, I was given a specific time to show up and a time to show up in order to get a room. While I was checking in, someone else showed up and were denied entry because they showed up too early. I can imagine that bassoonist was in a bad mood and thrown off for the rest of the day. Just show up when you're supposed to. You were scheduled a specific time for a reason.
3. Be kind and professional. Realize that the person shepherding you to and fro has absolutely nothing to do with whether you did or didn't make it through to the next round. I've been very fortunate to never has this happen to me, but a clarinet colleague of mine watched a fellow auditionee scream at and berate the stage manager because they didn't advance. What actions like that say to the administrators around the auditions is you don't know how to conduct yourself under pressure. So why would I hire you if you're going to crack under pressure?
4. Something to remember: the administrators of the auditions will let the artistic committee of any problems. :-D
5. The audition process isn't all that bad. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the runner to help you carry things, particularly if you have to traverse stairs or long hallways or dimly lit walkways. When we hosted clarinet auditions last year, every auditionee had to carry a B-flat clarinet, an A clarinet, and a bass clarinet. The least I could do was carry their music and bass clarinet stand. Some PMs will say no, but it won't hurt your chances to ask. No one is going to go to the artistic committee complaining that you can't carry your entire studio with you.
6. If you don't win the audition, send a thank you note to the person listed on the ad. While it is acceptable to ask for any comments, don't pester for them. Usually those comments have to be transcribed by hand. Our preliminary rounds typically include 20 people...times 6 judges...that's a lot of transcription. Be patient. If you are sincere about it, ask to be considered for the substitute list. Some orchestras may include you automatically, some may tell you that there are separate substitute auditions.
After you win the audition
7. Ask the PM (or whoever is there running the auditions) what the next steps are. These typically include receiving a contract, being set-up with musician's area access on the website, agreeing to a schedule, etc...
8. READ YOUR CONTRACT, THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT, AND THE MUSICIAN'S HANDBOOK. Everything you need to know is in these documents. Remember that it is your responsibility to know how the orchestra operates. Even the nicest of personnel managers will only hold your hand so long. When I was first starting out, I did not heed this advice. I ended up not being reimbursed for travel expenses I incurred because I didn't know there was a time limit on submitting receipts. That was a hard lesson. So, read your documents!!
9. Be pleasant, playful, and friendly...to a limit. In smaller, per-service orchestras, you will have a friendlier relationship with the PM than you might get in a big name orchestra with a whole personnel department. But remember that the PM, no matter the size of the orchestra, is the representative of the orchestra and is, in essence, your boss.
10. If a message is being delivered by the PM or another representative of management, listen! It is very typical in small, per-service orchestras for the Personnel Manager to give any announcements to the entire orchestra prior to the start of rehearsal. It may be something that doesn't pertain to you---and it may be something that does. Don't be distracting to your colleagues and give your full and undivided attention up front.
11. If you receive an e-mail from the PM or another member of Management (especially the librarian!), read it fully. It may include a deadline or some other piece of action required on your part. "I didn't see that" is not an acceptable answer.
In Case of Emergency
12. If you run in to problems, always consult your contract, Collective Bargaining Agreement, or consult the Orchestra Committee Chairperson first. If you run to the PM with every little issue, you're not upholding your end of the bargain.
13. If there is an issue with music, approach the librarian. DO NOT go to the Music Director, Conductor, or Personnel Manager with issues pertaining to music. The Librarian is, most times, the only person who knows the answers to your questions.
14. Remember that all of the rules of collegiality apply to your management team as well. If you feel you're being mistreated by your management, approach the Orchestra Committee or Union. Vindictiveness, on either side, is not helpful.
These are just some of the tips and lessons I've learned in my time as a professional musician and administrator. There are thousands more you learn on the ground, but remember that being a great musician is about 90% of the gig. The other 10% is about being a good and helpful employee for the health of the orchestra, the community, and the culture of your city or town.