April 2024ArticlesFeaturedIssues

Why I Don’t Want a Full Time Orchestra Job

By Alyse Hokamp

I recently had the epiphany that I actually don’t want a full time orchestra job, and don’t even want to take auditions for one. This surprised me a little. As a performing classical flutist, obtaining that kind of position is held up as a rare and precious jewel- a dream job.

A FTOJ (let’s abbreviate that) seemed like a happily-ever-after ending; the ultimate badge of success for a flutist. I adopted this goal for about ten years, never questioning it much. Performing, pay, and stability- what more could you want? So I auditioned, toiled away in the practice room, and took on personal projects while biding my time.

I’m guessing some of you artistic types recognized the direction I was heading before I ever did. Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly invested myself in my own creations, becoming disenchanted with the idea of a Job. Still, I was holding on to hope that maybe the right full-time performing job would satisfy me.

I don’t feel dejected, or indignant. Rather, I feel empowered to make this decision for myself. I’m not giving up my dreams, but I’m realizing they have evolved. I’m choosing to prioritize personal artistic development. I’m not saying I’ll NEVER try for a FTOJ- there are no hard lines for me. But it’s not where I want to direct my energy right now.

I can remember the start of a shift- at my audition in Knoxville, TN (2021). I didn’t advance, but I realized that IF I won the job, I didn’t actually want to relocate the whole family. I was also dismayed by the large expense of that particular audition.

Here are some of the experiences that led to my change of heart:

  1. Kids reached school age

In the past two years, my kids entered elementary school. Before that, I felt that if I won a job, we would move to that city, no questions asked.

Now, there’s no way I would choose to remove them from their school, friends, and grandparents. It’s not that I can’t- I just don’t want to.

On top of that, the idea of any full-time job is unappealing to me. I love doing most of my work during the day, while the kids are at school. Then I can be present for fun stuff after school and on the weekends.

  1. I finally played in professional orchestras

In the past two years, I had opportunities to perform with a few professional orchestras. This made me realize that in terms of competency, I was not significantly different than other professional musicians.

Previously, I had no professional orchestra experience. After so many audition rejections, I developed a bit of paranoia that maybe I wasn’t good enough.

In fact, with my tendency to over prepare when anxious, I was often more prepared than others for rehearsals. What I lacked in experience, I compensated for with preparation.

Maybe it’s unfortunate that I needed to feel validated, but that’s a whole other story. 

Ultimately, I realized I never actually lacked anything in the first place- except for confidence and experience.

  1. My personal projects gained traction

During the time I was auditioning (2014-2022), then more so during the pandemic, I spearheaded projects that struck my inspiration. I started my blog (2019), YouTube channel (2020), led online events (2021), made arrangements (2022) and started my flute band, The Pan-Tones (2022).

I felt compelled at the time to create these things, for one reason or another. None of them “blew up,” or made any significant income, especially at first. That was never the point. I thought they were cool ideas, so I did them.

I also needed to keep myself busy between auditions, and really wanted to have something to show for my work. Since I wasn’t advancing, I didn’t have anything to add to my resume, much less an “exciting announcement” of winning a job. At the same time, I was learning a lot while going through the audition wringer, and wanted to share it with others interested in this path.

My website, which I published in November 2018, is now a testament to that work. It started as a simple landing page, with just a photo and bio. With each project, a new page or section emerged, expanding organically.

I realize now I was creating a body of work- an artistic portfolio. Over the years, I had created opportunities for myself, documenting them along the way.

  1. Self-acceptance and validation

In retrospect, I was taking auditions out of a desire for validation. I wanted someone to say I was good enough to play in XXX group- welcome to the club.

Perhaps my need for approval was unhealthy, but in a way, finally playing in an orchestra did give me the validation I was looking for. On top of that, others started taking me more seriously once I could name drop some orchestral playing.

Playing in an orchestra is fabulous- don’t get me wrong. I truly love it. Thinking, moving, feeling as a single organism. The sound enveloping me, coaxing me into another realm.

But playing in an orchestra doesn’t mean you’re a better player, or better musician (or better person) than anyone else. What it does mean is that you are a competent player that is subject to the goals, artistic decisions, and schedules of a larger organization. And with such an unwieldy group, orchestral obligations (especially full-time) can easily crowd out personal creativity.

The thing is, I really like everything I’m currently doing. I’m also well aware of the time and energy my personal projects require. Let’s just say it’s definitely not compatible with preparing an audition (and I have a pretty good of idea how that works).

I’ve started beating my own path (with my own drum?), and I’m sticking to it. I don’t know where it will lead, but I am optimistic. I don’t have lofty visions of riches or fame. My priorities are artistic freedom and creativity.

Last year, one of my mentors told me that in short, I needed to take myself more seriously. I nodded and agreed, turned the thought around in my head, and thought I understood. But I’ve now reached a deeper level of understanding.

I have a habit of being dismissive of my personal projects, thinking they’re just weird little ideas I had. Maybe it started off that way, but now, those weird little ideas are my body of work. My band, arrangements, recordings, writing, etc., are what I have to show for what I’ve brought into this world. These are things that only exist because of me.

Final thoughts

Would I feel this way, had I managed to get a FTOJ and more audition success, quicker? Possibly not. All I know is my experience, which led me to where I am now.

It’s as if the universe guided me away from that path. It’s not that my way is better than any other way. But maybe it’s better for me, right now.

I can tell you with some certainty that if someone had suggested to me ten years ago to not take auditions and do what I’m currently doing, I would have totally ignored them. In fact, it’s completely possible that it was suggested to me, and I totally removed it from my mind. I tend to be very stubborn about these things.


Alyse Hokamp is a flutist and arranger based in Denton, TX. She is an active performer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as an orchestral player, chamber musician, and solo recitalist. Alyse has performed with The Dallas Opera, Allen Philharmonic Orchestra, Highland Park Chorale, Flower Mound Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth. Additionally, she has performed with her flute band The Pan-Tones at Denton’s Arts and Jazz Festival, Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival, Texas Flute Festival, and Denton Folk Festival. Alyse regularly creates online events and resources for the flute community, with a focus on accessibility, honesty, and connection. These include flute duet arrangements of standard flute repertoire, an online mock audition, and a free mentorship program. She openly shares her challenges, and thoughts and observations on the world of professional classical music on her blog (alysehokamp.com). Alyse is originally from Kailua, Hawai’i. She lives with her husband, guitarist Robert Hokamp, and their two children. In her free time, she takes ballet classes, reads, and attempts to stay on top of household chores.

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