Politics in Music

July 8, 2011 at 11:58 PM ·

 ~Hi All~

I've played in many orchestra and chamber groups and I've had many musical experiences. However, no matter how much of a positive that experience might be or how much fun I have learning new repertoire in the orchestra, there always a negative to tear it all down. Politics. 

There is politics everywhere but I've mostly experienced them in orchestras I've played in, even more so in the string sections. I myself an guilty of them. I have to wonder why they are such a big issue? Why are people ashamed to sit behind people? Why do we all have to be 1st chair? Why aren't we ever satisfied just being apart of the ensemble? 

All opinions on this are welcomed. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say about this. 


Replies (54)

July 9, 2011 at 11:42 AM ·

 I agree with you--I think issues surrounding seating in string sections are the worst part of playing in an orchestra, especially a student orchestra.  It has always seemed rather silly to me to put the weakest players in the back of an orchestra where the goal was learning and teaching.  It's hard to hear back there and it's hard to see, and the weaker and less advanced players have even more trouble keeping up when they're stuck back there (I've spent plenty of time in the back of violin sections, so I speak from experience).

Then when I was taking lessons from a member of the LA Philharmonic he told me that in most major pro orchestras, the principals are set but the rest of the section rotates, even between sections.  (He was one of the rotaters).  To me that seemed like the most sensible solution and I wondered why more student orchestras don't implement it.  And in fact my daughter's 6th grade orchestra does so.  The teacher auditions them in a low key way to know how they play, and then she moves them around for each concert, giving different kids a chance to lead the section each time and giving different kids a chance to be in the 1st violins or 2nd violins.  She includes some strong players in the 2nd violins as well as the 1sts, and nobody is stuck in the very back all year.  

The politics and bad feeling around seating is never going to go away entirely, but I think solutions like this do a lot to mitigate it.


July 9, 2011 at 02:23 PM ·

Politics colour everything.  I've almost given up trying to be involved  more fully with any organization.  I just show up - do my thing - then leave - for the most part. 

Seating is a funny thing, as you've mentioned.  For myself, although I could have moved up (throught attrition and seniority) I choose to sit in the far back of our group, because I'm most comfortable there (seeing, hearing).  I don't care enough to let it bother me.

As to the why of it:  We all want to be recognized as 'special' (that's our ego) and because we're a social animal with a social hieracrchy we automatically tend to form a pecking order.  So when the inherent tendency to form a pecking order clashes with the tendency to want to be special (even if that's outside of what the pecking order would dictate) then we have dissent.

But I'd agree...a rotation system would be the fairest and probably the most useful .

July 9, 2011 at 04:00 PM ·

Not to be devil's advocate, but I don't know that there's more politics in music than there is in any human endeavor. The classroom has politics. The writing world has politics. Online discussion boards have politics. Offices have politics. Politics have politics. I think it's just a normal, if unfortunate, side-effect of a bunch of people working together. What field doesn't have it to some extent?

Perhaps it feels compounded by the fact that, at least when we're getting paid for our work, we know the statistics and we know our chances of (not) getting a job, so we're constantly looking over our shoulders and feeling self-conscious and wondering if we're good enough. Then we become extremely sensitive to any slights, real or imagined.

July 9, 2011 at 04:26 PM ·

Politics is inherent in the baser side of human nature -- a partner in crime with conceit and inflated ego.  I don't know who the author of this saying is -- something I caught on radio just yesterday:

"Conceit is a disease that makes everyone sick -- except the person who has it."

What I think makes politics so noticeable in orchestra is that, besides having 90-100 co-workers all packed into the same room with us, we violinists in particular seem to take first prize in the prima donna sweepstakes.

I agree with the previous posters on rotational seating.  To me, this is the way to go.  Not only does it help to counteract the influence of politics and the temptation to influence-peddling, but I know from experience that it can help the player to avoid getting into a comfortable -- or uncomfortable -- rut.

I began playing in elementary school but didn't have any orchestra experience till high school.  In fact, my orchestra work spanned only about 7 years -- 14-21 y/o.  In high school and later in the CSO's training school, still a teen, I had experience in both violin sections, 2nd and 1st.  The CSO itself uses revolving seating, and so does the training orchestra.

Being required to shoulder different responsibilities this way definitely helped my growth as a musician.  Although I decided toward the end that I really preferred recital material and small chamber work instead, I still wouldn't have wanted to miss the big ensemble experience.

July 9, 2011 at 05:47 PM ·

You're right- nothing sucks the joy out of music like this does.  The orchestra I play in also rotates the violins front to back and section to section.  It's good for everyone and for the orchestra as a whole.  There are even a couple of us who move between first, second, and viola. 

It can be even worse in chamber music.

July 9, 2011 at 06:04 PM ·

The violins* in my orchestra --- not "major" but professional --- tried rotating (except for the front desks) and hated it.  It was supposed to be a two-year process of trying it out, but it didn't even last one season before they asked the conductor to make it stop. 


*(it might have been all the string sections, but the ones who complained the loudest were the violins, so that's what I remember)

July 9, 2011 at 06:06 PM ·

Do you remember what they hated about it, Bruce?

July 9, 2011 at 06:54 PM ·

@ Bruce... What did they not like about it? I feel like a rotating system would be the best way to go. For our orchestra, our condutor is pretty chill about the seating arrangements. The only persons seat who is exact is the principal of that section. Otherwise, you pretty much sit where ever. Because I was the last person to audition and get in, my name was last on the roster which essentially gave me the last seat. However, for me it didnt matter. I didnt care where I sat, I was just glad to be in the orchestra. I feel like you need strong players in the back because thats where the majority of the sound comes, from the back. I also feel like more people would being willing to sit in the back if the last chair didnt have such a bad reputation.

July 9, 2011 at 08:17 PM ·

 Wasn't there a bit of an upset once in an orchestra in the USA where a guy at the back of the second violins was appointed principal viola? Apparently, it turned out he was very good at it. (Sorry, I don't remember any names on this one.) 

July 9, 2011 at 08:55 PM ·

As I recall, they hated moving around.  (It was within sections only, not changing from Violin I to Violin II.)  Apparently once you've figured out exactly what you need to do to play, for example, toward the back on the outside --- say Violin I chair 11 --- then it's really hard to change and figure out what you need to do to play closer to the front on the inside (say chair 6).  I don't know if everybody felt that way, or if it was just that the ones who didn't like it made a lot of noise.  In any case, they changed it back to fixed seating and the subject has never come up again.

July 9, 2011 at 09:42 PM ·

 Even though I think rotating is the way to go for student orchestras, in the volunteer orchestra I play in now, we don't do that.  People seem to be mostly comfortable where they sit, they get used to a stand partner and/or a place and want to stay there.  We also don't have auditions, so the seating is really self-directed.  

My first year in the orchestra I sat everywhere (including the viola section) at least once, and that was actually pretty stressful.  And the lack of cohesive bowings was driving me truly nuts, so I volunteered to the conductor that I would bow the parts, and soon after that I became concertmaster, where I've been ever since (3 years).  It's been an amazing opportunity in many ways, especially because I never made it that far as a student.  But one of the challenges of the position has been that people have asked me now to play a role in seating, and it has given me a new appreciation for the different factors and preferences people have.  

I used to assume, for example, that everyone hated sitting in the back of the firsts, because I did--and surprisingly, that's not true.  There are a couple violinists (as N.A. expressed) who feel most comfortable back there.  And as Bruce said, once people get used to their seat they are loathe to move around too much.  Especially if my stand partner isn't there for rehearsal a particular week I have trouble finding someone who is willing to come up and sit with me, unless it's one of my friends.  They feel like they're in the hot seat.  So I haven't imposed rotating seating in the one case where I actually have the power to do so, even though in theory I think it's a good idea.

With chamber groups I'm finding that it's helpful to rotate the violin parts, if possible.  Play an even number of pieces and then take the 1st violin part for half of them and the 2nd for the other half.  My group is experimenting with viola quintets for the first time this summer, and the violas are doing that too.

July 10, 2011 at 04:16 AM ·

 @ Karen... yes, I can see what you mean about feeling as though you are in the hot seat when you are forced to sit in the front desk when someone isn't there. But the times I've had to do it, that feeling of being in hot seat, disappeared pretty quickly because of fact that the principals were nice and they didn't make you feel like dirt if you couldnt play as well as them. 

With chamber music, it's pretty different for me. I am a member of a string quartet. Someones me and the other violinist switch parts, but usually He's 1st and I'm 2nd. That's not necessarily because I can't handle 1st violin or because he is better than me [even though he is]. 

July 10, 2011 at 05:06 PM ·

In general, I've found that the higher the level of training, the less people care about their seating. In fact, some professionals prefer to sit in the back of the section in order to be cut for smaller works.

Kids and their parents absolutely obsess about placement in in the local youth orchestra to an eye-rolling degree. In my paying orchestra, the lower the level the more the players obsess. One cellist has absolutely refused to rotate with the section-she'd rather leave the orchestra. One violinist that recently auditioned declared that she would ONLY play 1st violin, a rather absurd declaration (she wasn't hired).

I think that when people go on with their musical education through graduate school and into the professional world, they shed their silly seating obsessions, but if they remain community players, their youth orchestra mentality remains. In other words, some players grow up, and some don't.

However, politics do remain, though the subject of what is disputed changes. People always want their say about what happens. 

July 10, 2011 at 06:35 PM ·

The chamber orchestra I play in consists of 2 basses, 4 cellos, 5 violas, and 14 violins more or less evenly divided between firsts and seconds. Our conductor prefers that the usual pie-shaped gaps between the first and seconds, and between the seconds and violas be filled by players from those sections, so that the orchestra thereby becomes fairly compact. It means, of course, that we can see him easily, and, more importantly, that he can see each and every one of us (ahem!). The effect can be, as it was in recent concert in the rather cramped chancel/choir of an Anglican church, that the second violins consisted of the first desk and, immediately behind them, a line-up of five.
We use rotation a lot, not only within the sections but between them, the only permanent fixtures being the orchestra's leader (concert master), and the respective leaders of the violas and cellos. About every year or so the leader of the seconds is swapped with someone in the firsts. One of the seconds – my unofficial mentor in fact – sometimes skips over to the violas if he's badly needed (he used to play viola in the Bournemouth SO). We have no "political" problems with the rotations.

July 10, 2011 at 08:37 PM ·

Competition for status (like where you sit) is a familiar way of incentivising people to improve. I'm not saying it's morally right, that it isn't without negative consequences, or that it's the best way, but there you have it.

July 10, 2011 at 10:28 PM ·

 @ David... Yes I  suppose you have a point. People want to be considered the best, so I guess the politics of it just comes with territory, I suppose it's part of the business. Still it can be quite annoying. I still love the idea of not having to deal with the politics altogether. For instance, one think I like about the orchestra I'm in is the fact that the director is very laid-back. That  can also be a bad thing because then it leaves all of  the issues to the section leaders. 

July 10, 2011 at 10:50 PM ·

 @Jessica, it depends, as you say not everyone is scared of the hot seat.  In our April concert my usual stand partner couldn't play the entire concert cycle so I asked someone who I thought was a good, experienced player, but who was new and had been floating around the back because of that, and she was a great stand partner.  She had some really helpful fingering suggestions for the Russian Easter Overture that I ended up adopting myself.  We also found out we had a lot in common--both PhD biologists, both from New York state originally, both had played Brahms' 2nd once before, in youth orchestra (only for her it was 10 years ago, and for me it was more like 30 years ago--so she had it a little fresher under the fingers).  

I think Scott is right, some players grow up and some don't, but I don't think it necessarily correlates with community vs. professional players.  In community groups you do see more of a lack of confidence--people who really are scared of not being able to play everything perfectly and who just want to hide in the back (and who, unlike pros, may actually have some basis for those fears), but I also think that when money is involved it can make the politics awkward too.  When you're all volunteers, everyone's getting paid the same.

July 11, 2011 at 05:03 AM ·

 I can understand that, its just weird in my opinion. For instance, at Notre Dame there are approximately 300-400 members in the marching band. Some are experience, some are not. Because the majority of the friends I've made there are in the band, I hear lots of band stories. But never once have I heard about someone being angry because they got beat out for section leader or someone throwing a hissy fit because they believe that they are better than all the other people in their section. Why is that? Is it because a group of 300+ people is too big to care about such things? Or is it something more than that? I know seat placement politics isn't a string only thing but it definitely feels that way. 

July 11, 2011 at 10:14 AM ·

Honestly if I see someone behaving the way you described (throwing a fit because they believe they're better than other people, or whining over which chair they got) I tell them to grow up and graduate from high school already. My personal philosophy: Falling doesn't hurt much because I know I'm pretty close to the ground anyway. It also makes me work hard to fix my flaws because I know what they are. Sorry about the long tangent there. I just think some people have some crazy egos and that's probably what these politics are about.

July 11, 2011 at 03:30 PM ·

Keep in mind too...that people who put themselves 'out there' in some form or another generally have/need a bit of extra ego to do so...artists, actors, muscians, politicians...a healthy ego is necesssary to perform well in front of others and to deal with being critiqued by others...

So you are dealing with a population that inherently already has 'more' ego issues to begin with.

Find a place for yourself that you're happy with...and ignore the theatrics...


July 11, 2011 at 04:13 PM ·

 @Jessica, I've never been in a marching band, but it seems like they are run quite differently from string groups and have different goals.  I don't know their origins, but they seem to have links to the military.  At least, bands are popular and play an important role in the military, both now and historically.  Think of bugle corps, and the marching bands in Memorial Day parades.  In a military situation it's very important for the members to think of themselves as part of something larger than themselves and to subordinate their individual egos to the good of the group, and that behavior is part of the overall culture.

On the other hand, there are only a handful of concertos for, say, the tuba or the bassoon, and YouTube is not crawling with 3-year-old prodigies playing trombone or english horn or xylophone hoping to get a big break as a soloist.  Whereas string players, even ones with average talent, are groomed and expected to be soloists from early ages.  Concertos and other solo repertoire are a huge part of the standard training for all string players, regardless of their musical goals.  The auditions for orchestras ask for solo showpieces in addition to excerpts.  So, even if what you want to do is play in an orchestra and enjoy most being part of an ensemble, you won't get very far as a string player unless you are also willing to spend significant time and effort on solo playing.  And for that, I think N.A. is right--you won't enjoy it or succeed at it unless you have some ego and desire to be recognized for your individual achievements.

While I am painting with a very broad brush and there are many exceptions to those stereotypes, I think the kind of environment and culture they are steeped in from the beginning selects for and trains string players generally to care more about individual recognition and being better than the other guy, than, e.g., musicians in a marching band would.

July 11, 2011 at 05:06 PM ·

Ok, if we're starting with the stereotypes, how's this one?

This is so much a violin thing. Viola, cello, and bass sections are usually pretty peaceful about seating, other than an occasional stinker, and people who prefer to play second tend not to get as wrecked about which chair they are in.

July 11, 2011 at 05:12 PM ·

I Reckon Karen has hit on something. A violinist is "in the driving seat" when performing, even in the early grades. The pianist will usually "follow" during your exams. Those lucky enough to play a solo with orchestra will find the conductor will "follow", too. Success is all about ego and "initiative". 

But then, in an orchestra the fiddler has to play along with as many as 15 others, all on the same part. It's just not the same for the wind players ! The violinist's feeling of musical initiative is pruned severely. The driving artistic force comes from elsewhere. One has to "fit in". The player's sense of individuality becomes irrelevant. Insecurity beckons.

The player is rendered uncomfortable, feeling powerless, his/her personality swamped to the point of annihilation. When one's ego feels threatened the best defence is thought to be attack.......fearing that at any moment one's nose may be put out of joint so many will react by getting in first with the "politics".

Is that what Frasier Crane would have said ??

July 11, 2011 at 05:31 PM ·

As a second violinist in my chamber orchestra (3rd desk – however that is defined given our seating layout as set by the conductor, see my previous post) I'm quite sure that I'm hearing far more of what is going on in the orchestra as a whole, as opposed to when I used to occupy a seat in the cello section.  And that is a good thing. As a cellist I often wasn't all that clearly aware of what was going on in the seconds and firsts, and the cello section usually didn't get so much personal attention from the conductor, either.  

July 11, 2011 at 08:41 PM ·

I agree. What Karen said makes perfect sense. I started off by myself on the violin with the music program in the school system, I was never a child prodigy. I started off learning how to play in a group and appreciating that, it wasn't until high school that I started taking private lessons. So I guess that would explain why I find it so weird how everyone has to be the best and everyone has to be first. I suppose had I been taught the traditional way and taken private lessons as a toddler, I'd be the same way. 

I also hear what you say about the way the orchestra is set up. About how there can be like 15 violins but only 1 or 2 winds on a part [Depending on the piece]. I would hate when we were in rehearsal and the director would make on the strings play then only the winds. The winds would always sound so much more together and in sync with each other with winds. My stand partner would always say it was because there are far less strings than winds, but I always thought it was something more. 

July 11, 2011 at 09:56 PM ·

Don't think there isn't drama in the cello section.  My friend is a cellist...I've heard stories...;)

July 11, 2011 at 11:04 PM ·

Speaking from a student's standpoint, I have been in a Junior Philharmonic for the past two years and unfortunately they do not seem to take violists too seriously. Not to be a whiny baby or anything at all, but they placed people based on seniority in the orchestra (not grade level or capability level at all) and I was dead last for two years. (Even though I was only about two weeks junior to the principal and a few minutes junior to the others as I entered late) Not to be mean at all to the players in that orchestra, but everyone ahead of me were not very good at all.  None of them could play at all in any position except first and the principal could not even play a two octave C scale in tune. It was exasperating to say the least. I really think that I should give them the idea of rotating the viola section (and maybe cello also) as well as the two violin sections (which they already do). It would at least be fairer than basing on a few minutes' seniority. Sorry if I sound like a whiny little baby but this past year in that orchestra was very very very frustrating. Also, you may say that I should grow up and get over it (technically, I am still a child-14 years old) and I agree that I should, but I also say that it can get very frustrating and I hope that that particular orchestra rectifies its horrible seating protocol.

July 11, 2011 at 11:45 PM ·

You're not whiny, Saagar.  You are absolutely right that if they rotate the violins they should do the same in the violas and celli.  It's also beyond frustrating to try to follow a section leader who can't/won't lead, even if they can find the entrance. 

A good youth orchestra will try to help students learn to lead, and will put people on the first stand who are ready and willing to take on that responsibility.  They may not be the flashiest players in the group, but will be competent, steady, and constantly aware that there are (a whole lot of) people behind them depending on their leadership.

July 12, 2011 at 12:47 AM ·

Saagar, I was 14 once, and can almost remember a tiny bit of what it was like. I had a refresher course when my own kids were 14.

If I might make an observation, you appear to care about where you sit. Why? If you're caught up in the same game,  is it hard to understand why others are too?

This isn't intended to invalidate any of what you've said, only introduce food for thought.  I'm four times your age, still working on issues, and still want to be first chair.  LOL

I blame my achievement oriented Mom..... until a better excuse comes along...

July 12, 2011 at 01:29 AM ·

 Politics in ensembles? I've never heard of such a thing!  

July 12, 2011 at 03:32 AM ·

 @ Saagar, David does have a point, I have to admit. I suppose to a degree we all have that inner need to be the best or atlease to be put where we fairly belong, which in the case of seating is usually in front of everybody else. I'm guilty I striving for what was rightfully mine. In high school I literally had to fight and strive for spot as concert mistress of my orchestra. My orchestra kept as second chair my junior year just to prove a point and my senior I was CM, I've never felt more happier that she made that decision. It's not always about being the best. Sometimes it's just about being apart of  the group. I've always heard you have heard that sometimes in order to lead you have to follow. Now it's makes perfect sense. 

No politics in music ensemble? You're kidding, right??? ;)

July 12, 2011 at 06:47 AM ·

 Extracted from Wikipedia :-

Politics ..... is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs. It also refers to behavior within civil governments. However, politics can be observed in other group interactions ....... It ...... refers to ..... the methods and tactics used ...etc. etc.

I guess we get suspicious of the "methods and tactics" of the other folk. Who is about to stab us in the back ? Are we getting a square deal ?  Of course, we ourselves are utterly fair and blameless ! But whatever group activity we embrace, the political "cut and thrust" of real life seems inescapable. Unless we decide to live as hermits. And an orchestra is a dictatorship, not a democracy !


July 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM ·

When I was working in Hollywood, a studio musician customer was talking  about how studio orchestras dealt with idle time: "The cellists and violists play cards. The violinists argue about who is going to sit where."

Especially funny, since the audience will never see them. ;-)

July 12, 2011 at 10:57 AM ·

Could it be that we fiddlers are apt to be touchy, thin-skinned and paranoid ?? Always looking over our shoulders, waiting for the next wunderkind to knock us off our perches ? Kicking away the ladder behind us if and when we "make the grade" ?? Playing the dreaded instrument is as dangerous mentally as walking the tightrope can be physically.

Glad I retired !!!

July 12, 2011 at 03:34 PM ·

It's only just occurred to me after reading the comments here that I don't really care where I sit in the violins, as long as (1) I can see the section leader, and (2) I can see the conductor. This must be a remnant from my former life as an orchestral cellist.

July 12, 2011 at 05:18 PM ·

 @ Trevor... Same here! I physically do not care about my seat, I'm life time I've sat everywhere. I've been concert mistress, and I've been last chair of the 2nd violin section. Right now I don't care about the sitting. I just don't understand why about 80% of the violinist do care. It's just a seat for crying out loud! 

July 12, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

 You guys are all right, but at many times it really got frustrating when they had to go back or redo something just because the violas messed up, and many times it was due to the ineptitude of the principal. I know that I should be more mature about it, and I have almost gotten over it, but it still kind of bugged me.

July 12, 2011 at 08:43 PM ·

I've noticed that the higher the instrument, the more difficult the personality.  Let's face it.  In general (I repeat, in general):

  • Tuba players are nicer than trumpet players;
  • Bassoonists are nicer than flutists;
  • Cellists are nicer than violinists (and bassists are often even nicer than cellists).



July 12, 2011 at 08:47 PM ·

When i was young, i had a big issue with this. to me, it was all about who was better. now being 20 years old, i can look back and finally admit how young and shielded i (and most violinists) were of our surroundings. It took many years, but an orchestra or quartet is a group of musicians coming together to produce beauty. Have you ever heard the expression "the first violin section should sound like one violin"? take a moment, wherever you're seated and enjoy that you're making music.


good day

July 12, 2011 at 11:09 PM ·

Violinist called Dorian goes to the Shrink for advice;

Dorian;   Doc I have been playing second violins in the last chair for 32 years. Do you think it is because of my inferiority complex that I make no progress.

Shrink  ;  Dorian I have good news for you. You don't suffer from a complex, you are inferior.

Dorian  ;  Thanks Doc. So is my hen-complex also not real.

Shrink   :  Yes Dorian, you are not a hen. Why do you ask?

Dorian   :  Doc I have a problem, what must I do with the eggs?


July 12, 2011 at 11:45 PM ·

this is I presume,  Dorian Yates the Olympic bodybuilder?

July 12, 2011 at 11:56 PM ·

Actually, Dorian Gray.  He's still in the last chair, still laying eggs.

July 13, 2011 at 01:20 AM ·

My chicken wishes to know. Is there anything wrong with laying eggs?

July 13, 2011 at 02:00 AM ·

Seating was important to me in high school.  now, 40 years later, I don't really care where I sit, as long as I can have a positive effect on other people's lives.  I guess that's what's really important to me.

First or second?  There are kids who may have musical careers ahead of them.  I'll let them "work their way to the top."  Me?  I told the director to put me where he needed me the most.  So I'm in the second section.  It's not usually too bad, except many of the pieces I used to play as a 1st violin are now crashing bores -- like Strauss.  "It's all oompah from here."

I can also play the first part at home -- not to mention the concertos that please me.  And there's no pressure.  As I always told my kids -- the key to satisfaction is low expectations.  (Not low performance!)

It's a good thing Dorian doesn't live in the Austin area.   It's been so hot here lately that the chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs.  And so dry that cows are giving evaporated milk.

July 13, 2011 at 02:09 AM ·

Well, our ensemble has no politics at all. ... :)

[Perhaps thats because we are a standard string quartet and alternate first and second violins...]

July 13, 2011 at 02:24 AM ·

There's a lot to be said, and a lot that's already been covered. So with limited time at the moment, I'll present this (hopefully) relevant joke:

A string trio gets killed in an accident. They float up to the gates of Heaven and are met by St. Peter, keeper of the gate. He asks the cellist "what distinguished thing have you done with your music, that I should consider letting you in to Heaven?" Says the cellist "I've taught some poor students for free, so they could experience the joy of music" St. Peter: "Very nice. You can come in. And what about you, Mr. violist?" Says the violist: "I've sometimes volunteered and performed at hospitals and old-age homes, to give people some comfort," "Very nice, you're in too" says St. Peter, "and what about you, Mr. violinist?" Says the violinist: "I served as concertmaster of my orchestra - and I believe that you're sitting in MY seat!"

July 13, 2011 at 02:50 AM ·

 @ Raphael.... hahahahaha that is a crazy joke. Well I believe what everyone has been saying is true. I also believe  that as long as you sound as one unit, where you sit shouldnt matter, regardless of the level of advancement. 

July 15, 2011 at 10:03 AM ·

Don't forget that the biggest ego in an orchestra is usually (but not necessarily) the conductor. I think it goes with the job.

July 15, 2011 at 07:20 PM ·

July 15, 2011 at 08:33 PM ·


July 16, 2011 at 05:36 PM ·

 True, But I also think sometimes the orchestras ego isnt as big as some as these principal players. My conductor for example is pretty laid back, hates dealing with problems in the orchestra unless it concerns the actual music, and REALLY hates the politics. Dont you think it'd be possible that his lack of caring about such could be fueling the members to care as much as they do?

July 17, 2011 at 04:55 AM ·

It seemed during my career that if the conductor began to lose his/her grip the orchestral politicians became ever more active. Rumbles of discontent. The weeds sprout if a gardener relaxes ! Keep on top of things or perish! The same principle pretty much applies to class-teachers.

Management was apt to target any dissidents. I heard of an entire orchestral players committee being fired for being too active. Not unlike a typical Nation State.

All about control.

July 19, 2011 at 03:26 PM ·

 For my school orchestra, we do chair rotations, even for principle. However politics still run throughout the ensemble. The kids within the orchestra know who is better than who, even the teachers. I know no matter who was soloing I know I was always asked to prepare the solo as well incase the soloist wasn't able to perform at performance level/the person was sick. I loved this concept of rotation (most times).
However, my new youth ensemble does auditions for chairs, and to be honest it has brought the competitive monster out of me. We are doing Hary Janos and it was a famous viola solo, and I'm doing everything and anything to get to top chair. I hate this feeling, and I hate how I need to "bite, kick, scratch" to get to the top stand.

The perfect way for seating for me would be auditions for principle stand and then random, rotating seating for everyone else. 


July 19, 2011 at 06:36 PM ·

I can understand that sense of competition for a concerto [good luck to you] , but not necessarily for any other type of piece or concert. To be honest, I'm not sure if I agree with rotation seating, I mean on the surface, it seems like the perfect solution, but I'm not sure if that be the best idea all the time. I figure even in rotation seating people would still put up a fight. I guess it's the individuals. A director can on do so much to fix such things. 

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