Have you ever been bullied in your own orchestra?

November 8, 2012 at 12:48 AM · Sigh. I didn't think it would come to this.

After joining a quartet as a second violinist (they wouldn't let me be first even though I made first violin in region), the cellist has been pushing me around. Saying "Just quit orchestra; You suck at the violin; you can never be good" and generally demeaning things. He is seriously pissing me off and I might resort to violence if all else fails. He thinks he's the leader of the group even though he doesn't know what he's doing. He picked beginner pieces for our quartet for no reason. Note : I've never met this guy, though I think he's severely racist. He tries to join into my friends conversation and kick me out and then take me to a corner and physically pushes me. I was tempted to crack my school laptop on his head.

I might be able to just quit his quartet and get a dear friend of mine to play the Bach double concerto in d minor, all 3 movements.

It's a contest for solo and ensemble.

Assuming I can't just leave this quartet, any advice that you guys can give to me?


November 8, 2012 at 01:36 AM · Leave the quartet. You'll find other students to play with. I promise. If you're this upset about it, you need to leave. Now. Just tell them you quit and be done with it. No sense in arguing, as much as you want to. You don't need to explain yourself to them either, if you don't want to.

Also, reading this I assume you're young. Please don't equate playing first violin with being the best. Trust me, I know what it feels like when you're a student in school and you don't get to play first violin. Each part has its own challenges, and there is nothing wrong with being the second violinist in a string quartet. John Dalley seemed to do just fine for himself.

November 8, 2012 at 01:45 AM · Thanks. I'll talk to my director about it. I really wanted to be a second violin more than a first since I need to work on my rhythm but I would've wanted the choice so they would've at least considered me. Putting that aside. Thanks for the advice

November 8, 2012 at 02:25 AM · I don't know how talented is that guy (My theory is that his music is too whimpy to make him feel good about himself and keep his mouth shut as the real musicians... :) Of course you can't tell him this for your safety...

I would seriously tell him (or have someone else tell him these if he could be violent), that at one point in his journey, he was no better than you. If you are afraid, bring some friends or better... the director!

(I don't mean this in an insulting way for you, maybe you are very good... but by saying this, it will bring him down to earth)

I would also tell him that the time he's wasting bullying you, is some time he could use wisely to practice more and become better...

And lastly I would say... I'm sorry I want real musicians to work with and progress.

Then, I would quit!

Good luck!

I agree about the judging but, it still is possible to tell him that bullying is pointless...

November 8, 2012 at 02:30 AM · He's not that good. He made chamber orchestra in 11th and 12th grade while I made it freshman year. He didn't make region and I made it. I'm going to quit. We signed up 3 days ago. He gave me some Concerto Grosso No.8 (Christmas) music. I don't want to play that. It's literally quarter notes at a tempo of around 70 for around 3 pages.

But judging him would make me no better than him. I'll ask. Thank you Anne.

November 8, 2012 at 09:20 AM · as everyone said: leave the quertet. Unfortunately the music business sometimes works that way that everybody has to play with everybody. To me that is nonsence. There are also many musicians wich whom I don't want to play just because I cannot work with someone I don't like. Those people can be good instrumentalists but usually they are not very good musicians and not worth to play with anyways. And also: The audience will know if there is a friendly connection between the musicians or a inner fight.

November 8, 2012 at 11:12 AM · Unless you can figure out a way that the two of you can get along, quit the group.

Good quartet playing requires all the members to be good to one another, humble, and willing to listen to each other. If it doesn't occur, then the give and take of solo parts, sharing of supporting lines, blending of voices is much more challenging. Playing ability should come afterwards. If you don't like the communication dynamics of the group it's probably right to look elsewhere.

November 8, 2012 at 03:14 PM · There's a reason that professional quartet players have among the highest levels of job satisfaction-- if a quartet is less than perfect, it explodes. Sounds like yours is next on the list.

November 8, 2012 at 03:50 PM · Bullying in any aspect at school should be dealt with by the director, teacher or principal. Don't take it in your own hands. Everyone knows the one who retaliates is always the one that gets the punishment.

November 8, 2012 at 05:49 PM · I agree with everything that's been said, but...the quarter notes in the 2nd violin part of that Corelli are extremely important, and not so easy to play musically. Sure, they CAN be boring; it's up to the player. Just a thought, and nothing to do directly with the issue of bullying; more about attitude to music.

Good luck to you on finding a compatible group.

November 8, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Thanks for all the support. The only problem that is present that me and my other partner would have different orchestra classes. So we won't have every day to practice. But the Bach double is mainly individual practice I guess. and We are pretty close friends so we can just go to each other an hour each week to practice.

November 8, 2012 at 10:56 PM · "He gave me some Concerto Grosso No.8 (Christmas) music. I don't want to play that. It's literally quarter notes at a tempo of around 70 for around 3 pages."

If you mean the Corelli "Christmas Concerto," that's an awesome piece of music.

November 9, 2012 at 02:44 AM · Agreed about the Corelli Christmas concerto - you should listen to the WHOLE thing. It's pretty gorgeous.

November 9, 2012 at 11:54 AM · I'm not really into Corelli. I like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bramhs, Dvorak etc. More of a real classical lover.

November 9, 2012 at 12:19 PM · The second violin is just as important as the first, if not more so on occasion. Any string ensemble would sound pretty feeble without strong seconds, and in orchestras the firsts are grateful for the support of the seconds playing an octave below, or even at the same pitch. A second violin part in orchestra is often at least as technically demanding and as musically interesting as the first.

It is unfortunate fact of life that the term "second violin", in amateur and junior orchestras in particular, only too often carries with it the hint of "second rate". This should never be so, but it is difficult to think of alternative names for the two sections, that do not have that association.

Earlier this week I went to a quartet recital in which the programme consisted of the Elgar in Emin, Borodin 2, and the stupendous Dvorak Piano Quintet to finish. The first and second violins swapped chairs for the Borodin. Now there's a thought.

November 9, 2012 at 07:46 PM · You have my sympathy.

Your second violin comment reminded me of a lecture/masterclass I heard years ago given by Vartan Manoogian. He began by saying, 'The second violin is the heart of the quartet'. After much experience playing chamber music I can confirm that he was correct.

A few things I'd suggest:

1. Know your part (and the other parts) and rock at it.

2. Let your cellist know that his behavior and comments are not okay. Be civil, but be firm. Something like, "I don't understand why you think your behavior is acceptable. Your comments and bullying are inappropriate, unprofessional, and unwelcome. If you have something constructive to say I will listen, but if your abusive behavior continues I will speak with (director, teacher,coach, etc).

3. In terms of rehearsals and he 'leading', I sugges you go into rehearsals having a rehearsal plan, something to contribute in terms of ensemble/intonation/rehearsal technique, etc. Write it down so you have a battle plan for next rehearsal, and discuss your thoughts privately with the violist and other violinist and ask them if they'd be willing to back you when you voice your thoughts during rehearsal.

Some ideas for rehearsals that work well regardless of the piece; Vary the seating, instead of the traditional quartet seating, put the cellist where you would normally sit as second. It is effective as an ensemble exercise (you get to hear other parts more than you normally might). Try sitting with each member in the corner of the room, with their backs to one another (facing the wall) and play. Great listening exercise.

Last resort: Quit. There are a lot of musicians in the world and a lot of playing opportunities, you don't need to be involved in a group that harms you as a person, it's not worth it.

final note: I believe in musical 'karma', over the years I've seen considerable proof that it exists. People like that generally end up exactly where they should be. (playing 'brigadoon' in an off broadway show every night and twice on sundays for FREE)

November 9, 2012 at 09:35 PM · Another thing to try - and I've seen it done professionally on a couple of occasions - is for the two violinists and violists to play standing. A cellist can't do that so you put him on a platform so that he is on the same eye-level as the others (that's important). I'm sure playing when standing improves the tone and overall performance. Don't most of us practice standing, and certainly stand during lessons?

November 10, 2012 at 02:19 PM · Talk to the music director about the bullying. The cellist should be the one to leave, not you. And unless it is a cello concerto or a piece that premiers the cello (or viola), it is the 1st violin that leads the group.

As far as "boring" parts is concerned... if the composer didn't think it was important, s/he would not have taken the trouble to write it out. "Boring" parts can be the most challenging to play!

As a violist, I joke that we always get all the left-over notes that noone else could play. Making a beautiful phrase that makes the other parts sound more beautiful is no easy task.

November 10, 2012 at 09:36 PM · Just to be a contrarian, it might be good to remember that we have heard only one side of this story. It may all be true, but.....

November 12, 2012 at 10:27 AM · I respectfully disagree with Mendy about the first violinist leading, both in terms of leading rehearsals as well as leading a piece. In rehearsals it's a group process. In amateur groups other players may be more likely/willing to be cowed, but it absolutely doesn't work that way in conservatory or professionally. In terms of leading a piece, it depends on what's going on, leadership changes pretty much constantly depending on the passage.

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