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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Would you rather be a soloist, or play in a group?

November 7, 2009 at 4:30 AM

Some people are made for the limelight; they have that kind of energy that transmits best in the solo spotlight. Others enjoy being part of a group, be it an orchestra, chamber group, band or other situation.

Personally, I've certainly enjoyed the recitals I've given over the years, but my heart is in the orchestra. I truly enjoy being one small part in a larger-than-life whole.

How about you? Please vote, and tell us your thoughts on the joys and trials of being a soloist vs. being a team player.


From Eitan Silkoff
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 5:17 AM

Well, considering that most violinists who want to become soloists become concertmasters of great orchestras and most violinists who dream of being a concertmaster become a soloist, I hope to become a great concertmaster :P

From David Rowland
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 5:48 AM

Do I get to play? I'll take it! :)

From Anna van der Merwe
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 12:07 PM

I think I'm somewhere between the two :)

From Alison S
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 12:23 PM

Although I've never had any aspiration to be a soloist I don't like the opposite scenario; playing in a large orchestra where I can hardly hear myself. In that situation I just feel like I'm drowning.  

My preference is to play in a small group where I can hear my own contribution and appreciate that of others. I enjoy shaping the harmonies.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM

 I'm with you, only more so.  When I was younger, I could have gone my whole violin-playing life without ever having to play a solo.  I've gotten a little more appreciative of solo-ing in recent years.

I think if I'd wanted to be a soloist, I'd have played the piano as my main instrument. I enjoy listening to solo piano a lot, much more than solo violin.

From Anna Meyer
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 1:20 PM

I am definetly more of a group person. I love listening to soloists and I enjoy playing and performing with piano but in a group setting there´s so much more going on, so many things are taking place and so many instruments come together to make really wonderful pieces of music come to life. So my vote goes for group :)

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM

I value as much the two and think we should do a bit of the two to be "complete" even if we might prefer one over the other.  Axious to have time to play in a group!

Since I'm a sound maniac that likes to polish every note (I mean the best I can according to my situation) and that I mostly played as a ""soloist"" because, lately, I didn't have time to suscribe to any groups,  my heart is to soloist music and repertoire.   Notice that I put the word soloist between " " because I always tell the accompagnist that it's me that accompany them since they are so good musicians. Really I hate the term soloist because I see this as a duet, as chamber music because there are two musicians playing and we must never forget this...    I feel that there is no need to polish everything like a real maniac when you play with a huge group where the most importants things are mainly to be in tune and in tempo. Also it's because I find stage fright ridiculous.  So many musicians, saddly, tell that they can just play in a group because they are too afraid when not in one. Get used to the stage is one of my goal and I don't want to eliminate stage fright by beeing too self confident, arrogant or repetitions of nonsense sentences, I want to eliminate it by gaining violin skills, very gradually, to have more and more control on my playing in various situations including public performances. 

But I did have an experience in a little string group that was just big ennough to be fun but not too big to crush musicians into numbers. I loved it so much for meeting other musicians and for sight reading skills and tempo skills. So I consider playing in, at least, a small group as ESSENTIAL FOR EVERY MUSICIAN.  You MUST LEARN TO RESPECT OTHERS, BE PART OF A GROUP WITHOUT ALWAYS BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT. In 2009, much people believe they are princes/princesses but we must not forget that we are not just a human beeing but also a member of a community and society may we agree or not with its principles. This is valid for musicians as well!  Sometimes it is good to remember that we are not more important than the neighbour : )   For all these reasons, I absoluntly want to find a little group  just as a complement to my musical activities to develop even more the true set of skills a musician should have and understand even more the harmonization of music.  I'll seek a little group as soon as my studies will be over (still a few years... but then, I'll be an even better member for them. Well hopfully...)

Interesting discussion!


From Rosalind Porter
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 6:29 PM

Whilst I love playing solo repertoire for my own pleasure, I've always been an orchestral animal, right from the start of my violin studies.   I've never had any wish to be the person walking out to take a solo bow, I really enjoy being part of the machinery of an orchestra way too much.   It's just such a great feeling to be part of a group and making music together with other people.  There''s nothing to beat the thrill of an orchestra at full throttle, or playing so quietly that you could hear a pin drop.

From Elinor Estepa
Posted on November 7, 2009 at 11:39 PM

I love chamber music and orchestral music..I second what Rosalind says.  There is something so intimate when you are part of a group, and that you are  in this great place where you all are communicating and listening to each other. and I thrive more when there is someone playing and saying something to me, just opening up yourself to them.

Very personal, and quite fun too!


From Amy Jean
Posted on November 8, 2009 at 5:33 PM

Right now I am playing in an orchestra and I love it. I have never been a soloist but if I had the opportunity I definitly would=)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 8, 2009 at 8:28 PM

Chamber music is where my heart is.  There is something about being able to communicate without words to tell a story that is amazing.

From Royce Faina
Posted on November 9, 2009 at 11:23 AM

I feel more confident in a group.  To play solo I am so self concience of myself.  To play solo would be one big mountain for me to conquor.  Being that I have no one else to play along with, I play 'solo' and it takes so much courage, it takes a lot out of me, but the happiness people get when I play makes it worth every moment!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 9, 2009 at 11:51 AM

 My impression is that much of the standard violin pedagogy for kids is aimed at producing soloists.  And I've often wondered if that really makes sense, given the range of interests that students actually have.  

For example, while I was always in orchestras in school, I didn't really have actual lessons about playing in an orchestra or chamber group until I was an adult.  As a kid I'd bring orchestra music to my lesson and it would be treated as a distraction from the main event--almost like "cheating."

I'm fortunate now, my teacher is a symphony musician and section leader, and so we discuss these issues at my lessons.  And all of that seems much more useful for what I actually do on the violin than learning concertos or other major solo repertoire would be.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on November 9, 2009 at 7:14 PM


Interesting comments.  Good food for thought...

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 10, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Karen an Kathryn, what you say is very true, I think it's the 2009 "me myself and I" mentallity combined with the fact that kids (usually those who follow music courses) are very busy nowadays with school or many hobbies so they don't have time to play in an orchestra.  The most important is to be aware of the benifits of the two styles and find at least a little group or so when you'll be able.


From The Weekend Vote
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 9:22 PM

Great comments everyone. One of the interesting ideas from Venezuela's "El Sistema" is that the musical education is designed to produce orchestras and to teach citizenship through being in the  orchestra. An orchestra is only as good as its least-accomplished player, and thus, everyone must do their part, and people must support the excellence of every member. Food for thought!

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