Duty of care

Five years ago, I would never have guessed he would be the one. He was known in the orchestra for his acerbic wit and penchant for practicing Paganini. He knew more about violins than anyone else in the band. He didn’t seem to exude job satisfaction, but he had that battle-tested tough-guy swagger that so many full-time orchestra musicians adopt along the way. He had a solid gang of friends in the orchestra- they all seemed to share his sarcastic sense of humor. In my few hangs with him, I found him funny and entertaining.

Over the last year, everyone in the band knew he’d had a rough time- despair at this state of life after ten years in the job and god-knows-how-many auditions, a break up with a girlfriend, but these things are common in the music world. Even when he needed weeks off work for depression, nobody began to think the unthinkable.

This week, the unthinkable became reality. The orchestra is in shock. Thirty-seven years old. Everyone is going around saying things like “I meant to ring him up before we left and just ran out of time.”

We hear this is a tough business every single day, and accept that as a fact of life. The fact is, it can be too tough, and if it could be too much for him, it could be too much for anyone. Some exit fast with pills, others slowly with booze. I don’t know if he would have made it in another field, any more than people know if it would have made any difference if they’d stopped by his flat the other day, or if one of those auditions had panned out better. Maybe he just had an incurable disease, like cancer, but the disease was an idea that ate away at his brain the same way cancer eats away at your body. Fuck it all…. I don’t know….

This is a community of human beings.

Be kind.


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.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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