Alumni ProfileJason Haaheim

Principal Timpani, MET Orchestra
Years in Civic: 2004-2008

Tell us about one of the most memorable experiences during your years in the Civic Orchestra.

There's a famous timpani moment at the very end of Shostakovich 10. I'd been relishing the rehearsal time we had with guest conductor Bernard Haitink. The performance was thrilling and incredibly memorable; immediately after my "moment," the normally reserved and stern-faced Haitink shot me a little grin with a twinkle in his eye. I remember thinking, "I'm going to remember this moment for the rest of my life."

How did your experience in the Civic Orchestra influence your musical career?

Profoundly. It not only taught me the meaning of musical professionalism, but it also provided me with the supportive environment necessary for me to evolve as a musician.

Do you stay in contact with any of your Civic colleagues and, if so, who and in what capacity?

Absolutely. The friends I made in Civic from 2004-2008 remain some of my best friends. The roster of percussionists alone includes Rob Dillon and Dave Skidmore (of the Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion Quartet), Shaun Tilburg (principal percussionist, Phoenix Symphony), Rajesh Prasad (North Carolina Symphony), and Eric Renick (Auckland Philharmonic). Reba Cafarelli (bassoon) already has an alumni profile on this site; so does Brett Rowe (keys), someone I see frequently in NYC. I see David Becker (bass trombone) regularly, and Ethan Bensdorf (trumpet) plays just across the plaza at the NYphil. Not only that: two of my current section colleagues at the Met -- Greg Zuber and Steven White -- are Civic alumni. Civic forms a network of friends and colleagues that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life!

What is your advice for Civic members who are beginning to take professional auditions?

The friends you make in Civic can provide you with all kinds of support. Be generous with your time, and support back. Some of the very best preparation I had was organizing mock auditions in Buntrock where we could all play for each other -- critically, focusing on playing for mostly people who did not play my instrument. This is essential, since very frequently the people who actually play your instrument will be the minority of an audition committee. Record these mocks, and listen back studiously. Those experiences are gold mines of learning and growth.

What would you say to musicians who are considering an audition for the Civic Orchestra?

Do it! It's an excellent experience, and performing career milestone.

Share your thoughts on how to best prepare for a professional career in music.

I personally subscribe to the idea that "Talent is Overrated" -- that is, if there even is such a thing as “natural talent,” it becomes essentially irrelevant over the time frame it takes to achieve real mastery. The far more dominant factors are both how much you practice, but more importantly the quality of that practice.

So I frequently advise younger musicians to ask themselves two questions:

1. Ask yourself not “am I good enough right now?” but rather “am I willing to do the work?” The focus and intensity of that work determines your trajectory, and that is by far the most important thing.

2. Detach from individual outcomes, and focus instead on the process; a good process will ultimately yield good results. What does "process focus" look like? Imagine yourself 10 years from now, and you still haven’t "made it." However you define that for yourself (i.e., a full-time orchestra job), it still hasn’t happened yet. You’re still working part time in other capacities to pay the bills while you're practicing, auditioning, and refining. Here’s the question: “Will it have been worth it?” If the answer is yes, you love the process of refining your craft, and you are well-positioned to dedicate thousands of hours over many years to its pursuit.