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Orchestra demographics

April 4, 2009 at 6:54 PM

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Marquette Michigan, killing time by alternately resting and practicing for a concert that I am playing this evening.  For the last  2 years I've been a contract musician for this  orchestra in a small college town about 3 hours away from my much-smaller home.  This orchestra acts as a kind of a regional orchestra, drawing musicians from as far away as Green Bay and Milwaukee, as well as northern-lower Michigan, and combining them with players from the local university.

Life situations have prevented me from playing here earlier this year, so this is my only concert with them for this season.   For whatever reason, this time, I find myself struck anew by the 'unity-building' power of playing music together:  the group is incredibly diverse, ranging in age from about 16 to some players in their late 70s, or even older.  There are retired professionals from major orchestras interspersed with amateurs and students.  As I look around, I see buttoned-down white-collars, 'emo'-type students, stereotypical 'orchestra nerds', and academics.  There are men in sweater vests, students with multiple piercings, women who look like men, and a man who looks like Santa Claus. One young bass player is standing next to another who is old enough to be his great-grandfather.  I see bald men and balding women, a teenage girl with the sides or her waist-length red hair shaved bald (one serious mohawk!) and boys who've obviously used a flat-iron on their long hair.  There are people in this group who are comfortably wealthy and others who struggle to pay their bills each month.  Some are retired, some work 3 jobs. 

The fascinating thing to me is to notice what an 'equalizing' power that the music holds.  We are all here with the same mission, involved in and invested in something outside of ourselves.  No one cares how you wear your hair, if you have money, or what sort of degrees you have.  The only real questions are about the music.  Can you contribute?  What do you have to say that adds to the whole? 

I'm liking the easy comfort that we all feel with each other, the total acceptance of all, and awareness of being part of a team.  It's affirming, and encouraging, and serves to strip away all of the 'otherness' that can disguise us in our daily lives. 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 5, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Hey, this is cool! Maybe hard to make friends if everyone has such a different style but maybe not!


From Kristin Mortenson
Posted on April 6, 2009 at 3:18 AM

 This is wonderful! What a great experience for the young and old alike. 

p.s. I think I know that Santa-man. Is his name, by chance, James?

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