I'm especially interested in feedback from current and former orchestra players; but no one is excluded -- it's a wide-open thread.
In my teens, I set my sights on becoming a professional symphony player. Yet, after a couple of years of heavy training for this, I gave up the whole idea.
It was more than the big-group environment, long evening hours, and lack of individual freedom and creativity that got to me. A significant factor that pushed me over the edge was the decibel level of some orchestral pieces. The music that had previously so engaged me as a listener -- Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Wagner, for starters -- well, some of it put me off as a player.
Now, be assured, it wasn't the technical challenges that put me off. I'm a tenacious fighter; and I knew how to zero in on hard parts, work them out, and pull my own weight. But in the tidal waves of sound, sometimes I could hardly hear myself think, let alone hear myself play.
It wasn't a physically painful sensation -- just something that really grated on my nerves. Still, I probably would have resorted to earplugs if the three other negatives I listed above hadn't already gotten to me enough to make me call it quits.
What about you? How do you cope with the high volumes? Do you use ear protection?
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