The problems are throwing a harsh glare on the management of American orchestras – and exposing some disturbing attitudes and practices.
And there’s also a tendency for managers and directors to view orchestral musicians as cogs in a machine: interchangeable and easily replaced. This is not only wrong, it’s deeply insulting to the musicians.
In this cloudy climate, what would be the best advice for young American musicians who want to attempt an orchestral career? Frankly, I’d encourage all music students to carefully weigh their choices against other career opportunities.
First, I’d point out how much professional training is required to even enter the profession. Ideally, one should begin by the age of five, and continue through to graduation from a university or conservatory, 20 years later. Perhaps, for something less training-intense, a young aspirant might want to consider a career in brain surgery?
As well, landing an orchestral job is an intensely competitive undertaking – with 100 or more candidates for every available position. If that sounds too competitive, how’s about joining the international tennis circuit, or day-trading on the stock market, instead?
And finally, it should be noted just how financially insecure and unpredictable a career in classical music can be. Anyone who feels the need for work that’s more secure and reliable might want to look into becoming a professional gambler.
Unfortunately, it seems that many managers and board members have little grasp of just how much hard work, pressure and uncertainty goes into an orchestral career. In all these aspects, the profession’s demands go way beyond any “normal” career.
So let’s not talk about orchestral musicians like they’re cogs.
© Colin Eatock 2012