blog about playing second violin got me thinking about the system of seating in various orchestras, and the pros and cons of having rotating vs. fixed seats.Earlier this week our
Certainly, we established that there are problems with an orchestral seating system that ranks its players first-to-last, with the idea that the "best" are in front and "worst" in back. It's a system that shape attitudes in ways that are competitive and back-stabbing, rather than supportive and cooperative. It also doesn't necessarily provide balance or lend strength to the section.
So is there a better system, and what does it look like? (Or do you actually like the ranking system?)
One possible solution, which readers mentioned and a good number of orchestras already do, is to have rotating chairs, that is, to seat everyone one way for one concert, and then have them move to different chairs for the next concert. The rotating can be individual, or it could be by the stand. Generally, the section leader remains a fixed position in this scenario (does anyone know of any experiments that have rotated the principals as well? I'd be curious!) Rotating has the benefit of putting people in different physical parts of the section, having them gain perspective and experience for being near or far away from the conductor, being closer or less close to the audience, for being in the middle of the orchestra or on the periphery, etc. I actually don't know of any orchestras that rotate between first and second violins, but I'd also be curious about whether that appeals to anyone and whether it has worked in real life.
Also, I think there are still possibilities for a fixed seating situation that is equitable and does not cause distress and unhappiness. People don't necessarily need to be moving around the orchestra in order to be seated in a balanced, helpful, collegial way. I'm imagining a situation where the section leader and/or conductor devise a fixed seating system each season (or academic year, or semester) that simply puts various kinds of strength throughout the section. Also, it makes sense to put compatible personalities together - or separate particularly explosive personalities -- and keep them that way!
What are your thoughts? Does it make more sense to have a rotating seating system, or fixed? What is your experience with either type of arrangement? What are the pitfalls and benefits? I'd love for us to share experiences and then bring our best ideas to our orchestral leaders!
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