What is the difference between Associate and Assistant (concertmaster)?

September 21, 2011 at 09:53 PM ·

I would like to know the distinction between the terms "Associate Concertmaster" and "Assistant Concertmaster."  Any thoughts, and any places to research the topic?  Grove Music online has only an entry on "leader," not associate or assistant.

Replies (5)

September 21, 2011 at 10:04 PM ·

The associate concertmaster sits next to the concertmaster, and is sometimes called "second concertmaster." The assistant sits third chair. When the concertmaster is absent, the associate sits in his/her seat and the assistant sits next to him/her; it's rare that both of them are absent at the same time.

September 22, 2011 at 12:16 AM ·

Brian is right for the vast majority of orchestras; however, since there are (eccentric) exceptions, if you are interested in a particular orchestra, best to ask.

September 22, 2011 at 02:49 AM ·

It does depend on the orchestra. Sometimes there is a Concertmaster, and an assistant concertmaster, and no one else in the 1st violin section has a title. Where there is an associate CM next to the CM, then the person behind the CM is usually called "assistant". Sometimes even the person on the 2nd stand inside is called "2nd assistant CM". More titles = more prestige - and in a big orchestra, usually more $.

Sometimes there is even a Co-Concertmaster. This usually indicates 2 CM's sharing equal duty and status. With co-CM's sometimes they will play together, alternating the CM seat, and sometimes when one is CM the other isn't there at all. I believe that the Chicago Symphony and the Met Opera use this system.

September 26, 2011 at 01:10 PM ·

Thank you for your responses. Merriam-Webster's definition of associate is "to join as a partner, friend, or companion," so that makes sense why the associate CM sits next to the CM.  It also makes sense that having a co-CM, assistant, associate, and second assistant gives more prestige, or more chance for a donor to think that his endowed chair is more than just 2nd stand, inside player.

September 26, 2011 at 02:30 PM ·

 Theoretically, it puts the associate &/or assistant 'on notice' that s/he had better be ready to step in with any solo parts in the repertoire, on the chance that the CM might be sick or injured.  Conductors look askance at 2nd/3rd chair players who aren't ready to step up and fill in.  In some ways assoc. / ass't. CM have a harder mental role; while the CM is there, they must be 'associative' or 'assisting,' but in the CM's absence, they must BE the CM, and that's an enormous switch in mental gears!

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