No attitude adjustment needed

This post from Helen Radice is a nice post-script to my piece last week on the rhythms of work. I’m afraid Allan Bennett has it completely wrong. There are always maybe one or two cancers in an orchestra who will exploit every possible loophole to get out of work. I know of one violinist who has managed to have some “illness” every time his children are off from school for about 15 years. These people are a tiny, tiny minority. I would say that generally, musicians (both contracted and freelance) are about as dedicated a group as you’ll ever find. I’ve seen friends and colleagues risk life and limb, even walk out of their own hospital rooms to get to a gig.

Also, check out this post at NobleViola. Who says orchestral musicians take music for granted- all they want is the chance to be their best. When the conductor or the repertoire makes that impossible, of course they get discouraged.  This is powerful stuff. Orchestra musicians get awfully frustrated at things that get between them and their best, and outsiders could easilly mistake their frustration for lack of desire. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Well, this past week we learned that our new concertmaster of two years, Amy Schwartz Moretti, was leaving at the end of the season to become Director of the Robert MacDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. This was a stunning blow to many in the orchestra. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really expected that Amy would stay as a ‘lifer’, but two years was a remarkably short time to have someone of such talent in the chair (even by her own admission – she was intending to stay longer than this, but the opportunity arose, and after much agonizing, she took it) and clearly she had much more to offer the orchestra and the community than the great things she’d already brought in her brief two year stint with us.
What is interesting to me about this is the pre-announcement vs. post-announcement state of the orchestra that I have observed. The beginning of this season started pretty auspiciously for us – the playing standard was quite high even after our long summer break (approx. June 5 to August 25) and our first run of subscription concerts and rehearsals the previous week were notable for the high spirits of the orchestra and the high standard of playing from nearly every position in the orchestra.

Then, the announcement. Poorly timed, I think, at the inception of the first rehearsal of our next classical series. The rehearsal was pretty much a wash – many stunned faces, lots of tears and depressed looks at the break, and stoic professionalism for the rest of the rehearsal.

Now, it feels like our game is off. We have been shaken to our core, which I wouldn’t have believed possible before this, but the swagger is gone, and the customary self-doubts that are endemic to our orchestra have started to resurface.”
c. 2006 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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