Why doesn’t North America have a EUBO?



In the winter of 2002, I spent a long weekend at a monastery in a southern Dutch town where upwards of four-dozen musicians found themselves in serious audition mode. I was one of (approximately) seven harpsichordists who were looking to be noticed for our basso continuo abilities, among a number of things.

At the end of what can only be described as a baroque orchestra boot camp was the golden fleece for the fortunate—a place in the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO), a unique initiative for 20-somethings who specialize in early music.

EUBO’s mission could be compared to that of the New World Symphony (NWS) in the US, a training ground for tomorrows orchestral musicians who are in between conservatory study and full-time professional work.

However, EUBO is not based anywhere in particular, but is a touring orchestra (which also makes recordings). Its musicians are drawn from the EU and spend six months together performing under prominent directors such as Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Roy Goodman, and Ton Koopman.

For the twenty-five lucky auditionees who receive places on the EUBO roster, the touring can be quite rigorous. The audition process not only finds the most talented (and flexible), but the more sociable. Long hours together require musicians to get along in and out of rehearsals.

Unfortunately, I was among those who did not get a place. My ineligibility was the issue.

I knew that going to into the audition process—anyone from countries outside of the EU cannot be considered. There have been exceptions, but none were made that year. It didn’t matter that I was ineligible. In the end, and in spite of the incredible stress, I took away many positive things about the experience (as well as friends).

EUBO has been around since the mid-1980s. It’s difficult to gauge what its impact has been on the European early music scene (if it can be generalized that way). Nevertheless, a safe bet can be made that all of the prominent baroque orchestras in Europe have EUBO alumni.

All of this brings me back to the title of the post. Why doesn’t North America have a “EUBO”?

Learn More: EUBO website

(EUBO 2010 with director Lars Ulrik Mortensen in the foreground.)

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