MusicDish e-Journal - November 24, 2017
MusicDish Advertising Network
» HOME » INSIDER SCOOP » CAREER TIPS » MUSIC SPOTLIGHT » MUSICDISH*CHINA
» INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS » NEWS BEAT » DIGITAL SKOOL » OPEN REVIEW » MUSICDISH EDELWEISS
Search MusicDish e-Journal (Advanced)
Subscribe To MusicDish e-Journal
About | Contact | Advertise | RSS | Submit Article | Submit News | Artist Development | Premium PR Distribution
Mi2N | MusicDish*China | MusicDish Network | MusicDishTV | Urban Music News Network

I Used To Be An Orchestra Player
or, Living The Dream
By Aaron Minsky a.k.a. Von Cello
(more articles from this author)
2001-10-23
Comment | Email | Print | RSS

(Most musicians, and other artists, wrestle with the need to make a steady living and the need to create their art. They often wonder if they should quit their day jobs and pursue their art full time. The following article goes into the category of, How I Quit My Day Job. I hope it may serve as an inspiration.)

I once had a nice cushy job. Well, maybe not cushy, but the work was steady, the pay was good, and the benefits were excellent. I was a section cellist in one of South America's top orchestras.

When I first joined the orchestra I was thrilled. For one thing, we played great music, the real war horses, like Beethoven's 5th, Tschaikowsky's 4th, and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. We also had a great group of musicians; most were imported from top U.S. conservatories. It was fun to take in a new culture and every day was an adventure.

One day I showed up to a concert when suddenly the personnel manager, who had always been friendly to me, came running over and started screaming at me. My shirt wasn't pressed! The way she carried on, you'd have thought I killed someone. Yes, I understood that an orchestra must maintain a certain image, but the shirt was wrinkled in the back where it would end up covered by my jacket anyway. I didn't argue, it was clear from her attitude that there would have been no way to win. This was lesson one on the powerlessness of orchestral musicians.

On another occasion, we were rehearsing a Mozart symphony and I was playing my best, when the principal bassist made a comment to me that I wasn't playing with the cello section. I told her that I was hitting the notes at exactly the same time as the section but playing the notes with a round and ringing sound. I further explained that I had studied Mozart with Lillian Fuchs ( the famous violist ) who taught us to play Mozart with just such a sound. She said, "I see."

During our next break the principal cellist walked over to me and in an angry tone said, "Why aren't you playing with the section?" Surprised, I said, "Oh, you must spoken to the principal bassist. As I explained to her, I WAS playing with the section. It's just that the section was playing with a dry short sound and I was taught at Manhattan School of Music to play Mozart with a round ringing sound." He said, "You're not in school anymore. Play with the section!," then he briskly walked away. So much for musicality!

It was rumored that our conductor was given the funding to create our orchestra as a gift from the president of this democratic (on paper) country. His position seemed clearly due to politics. On one occasion, he started a rehearsal of a Mozart symphony a little differently. He explained that he had made an intense study of Mozart, his favorite composer, and he felt that Mozart was always played incorrectly. He wanted to play the music exactly as Mozart had written it. It seemed that this time we would actually have a good experience with him. Perhaps we would finally play Mozart with style and finesse.

We started playing the first phrase of the piece when he stopped us. He said, "Why are you playing a crescendo? Mozart didn't write a crescendo." We played again. He stopped us. "Why are you playing a crescendo?! Let's try it again." Again we started and again he stopped us, yelling, "A whole orchestra of American conservatory trained musicians and you can't even play Mozart! What do they teach you up there?!"

At this point we were all getting nervous and wondering what kind of game he was playing. It continued on uncomfortably with him becoming more and more angry each time. Finally, the section leaders whispered something to each other and then the word was passed down through the sections by musicians whispering with cupped hands, "Play a decrescendo as the phrase goes up." Apparently what was happening was that as the musical phrase went up in pitch there was a natural and slight growth of intensity. The conductor was interpreting this as a crescendo, so to compensate and make the music not increase in intensity at all, we had to fight nature, and actually pull back in sound to keep the music completely flat in volume and emotion. We did just that. It sounded bizarre. The conductor smiled with satisfaction and said, "Now THAT's Mozart!" Needless to say, the rest of the rehearsal was sheer torture as we butchered this beautiful piece of music.

The dictator, I mean, conductor, was always finding ways to demonstrate his power over the musicians. The lowest blow came when he decided to break the contract and move a rehearsal to the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur. He had no right to unilaterally change the schedule and there was no need to do it. The Jewish members of the orchestra complained, charging him with breaking the contract with no justification. He admitted that he made the change solely because he felt like it, nevertheless, he would dock the pay of any musician who took the day off. He suggested that if the musicians were unhappy, they should speak to the orchestra committee chairman, and that is what they did. (The orchestra committee was a group of orchestra members whose job it was to settle disputes. The chairman was a very nice guy who happened to have epilepsy. It was known that he could have an epileptic fit if he were stressed, so everyone was careful to be kind to him.) He was outraged by the conductor's actions and agreed to speak to him with the musicians present after the next rehearsal. The next day he went up to the conductor and diplomatically made his case. The conductor responded by screaming at him. He started to shake and the musicians encouraged him to walk away. The conductor kept screaming even as the musicians walked the committee chairman off the stage. They pursued the matter no further and all were docked pay!

These experiences and many others led me to the realization that being an orchestra player was not for me. Of course this is an extreme example, but similar things happen in many orchestras or in any work environment where a boss or manager has unbridled power and low morals. I fulfilled my contract and then proudly quit the orchestra.

When I returned to New York, I wrote a rock song called, "I Used To Be An Orchestra Player," and started joining rock bands. It was hard to quit my "day job," and many years of struggle followed, but I never looked back. This song became the opening song on my solo CD, "Breaking The Sound Barriers." It took many years to get in this position, but I am finally able to live my dream!


Home » Career Tips » I Used To Be An Orchestra Player
Permalink:http://www.musicdish.com/mag/?id=4654
Email |Print |Comment |RSS

back | top


MusicDish Advertising Network

Career Tips

» The Nashville Musicians Sound Healthcare Plan Rolls Out

» Career Moves: Cinq Music, Songtrust, Def Jam, Warner Music, 117 Management & DPA

» The Production Music Association Now Accepting Entries For The 2017 Mark Awards

» Aloft Hotels And MTV Spotlight Top Asia Pacific Music Talent

» Deadline Looms - The 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition

Career Tips Directory



» [2017-11-21] Joint Statement By The Nordic Musicians' Unions And British Musicians' Union; Discussions On The Issue Of Gender Inequality, Sexism And Sexual Harassment, The Scale Of Which Had Been Highlighted By The Recent #metoo Campaign

» [2017-11-13] Women Make An Impact On The 2018 MPG Awards Shortlist; Nearly A Quarter Of Those Named This Year Are Female, Proving That Music Production Is No Longer A Bastion For The Boys

» [2017-11-13] The Nashville Musicians Sound Healthcare Plan Rolls Out; Sound Healthcare & Financial Announced The Formation Of A True Group Health Insurance Policy Plan For Musicians And Industry Professionals

» [2017-11-09] Streaming & Listening Diversity - Spotify Case Study; Will Artists Have An Easier Time Finding An Audience, Or Will Streaming Focus Global Attention On A Small Number Of Stars?

» [2017-11-09] Two-Sides Of Copyright Finance: Sound Royalties & Kobalt; Sound Royalties Unearths Millions In Undistributed Royalties While Kobalt Launches Fund To Invest In Music Copyright

» [2017-11-08] Career Moves: ROLI, Live Nation Sweden, Music Glue, BBR Music Group, Warner/Chappell Music Spain & Blue Night Soundscapes; ROLI Chief Creative Officer, Live Nation Sweden Managing Directors, Music Glue Global Head Of Business Development, BBR Music Group VP Of International, Warner/Chappell Music Spain Managing Director And Blue Night Director Of Music Clearance

» [2017-11-08] Europe's Digital Music Leaders Form Alliance; European Digital Music Companies Launch Of Digital Music Europe

» [2017-11-05] Pandora Subscriber Base Grows To Over 5 Million; Pandora Premium Paid Subscribers Cross The 1 Million Milestone In October 2017

» [2017-11-05] Hybrid Studios Announces Online Mastering Services; Engineers Billy Klein And Brian Frederick Spearhead New Online Mastering Effort Through OC Studio

» [2017-11-05] Music Industry Betting On VR & AR For New Revenue; The Music Industry Is Making An Early Bet On VR & AR To Create New Revenue Streams Across All Their Lines Of Business

» [2017-11-04] Sound Royalties Unearths Millions In Undistributed Royalties; Nearly $14 Million In Undistributed Royalties Has Been Found By Music-focused Finance Firm Sound Royalties

» [2017-11-02] MusicDish*China October China Label Music Releases And Charts; Several Tracks From October Releases Have Charted On Chinese Music Portal Kanjian ING Top 10 Weekly Chart
MusicDish Advertising Network

follow MusicDish on
Follow MusicDish on Twitter

Mi2N Music PR

Hybrid Studios To Sponsor Unsigned Only 2018

Twice The Holiday Feel-Good Vibe From NYC Indie Rockers

LOVE MY COUNTRY! Is The Ultimate Compilation Series Featuring 20 Hot New Hits

Getting Restless

Your Favorite Color Releases "Heartache"

Melvin Alan Album "Wonderful Life"

Jean Louisa Kelly Presents A Personal Collection Of Songs From The American Standards And Musical Theater



Websites: Mi2N | MusicDish*China | MusicDish Network | MusicDishTV | Urban Music News Network
Services: Submit Article | Submit News | Submit Video | Artist Development | Premium PR Distribution

Copyright © 1997-2017 MusicDish LLC., all rights reserved.
About MusicDish e-Journal | Contact Us | Advertise | RSS | Internships