Violinists and group psychology
A violinist emailed me a few months back using language that made me hesitate. Whereas a woodwind section will be very small, violin sections are large enough to display various group-psychological phenomena such as resource conflict, dominance, sub-groups or cliques, intra-group dynamics (I don't know anything about any of these things - I'm just assuming these expressions are meaningful) and, frankly, politics with a small 'p' . I'm not keen that kind of thing.
I wonder how many of you have noticed these oddities in violin sections stemming from their size? Maybe it's not clear what I mean. Or maybe it's simply not clear because these things don't exist.
Gordan, I consider these things to potentially exist in any interaction between humans. Between dogs, cats, and mice too.
This is a very abstract post without you actually stating anything about the phenomenon you mentioned.
I've not noticed any particular dynamics (aside from the generally ignored ones printed in the score) within violin sections, probably because people tend to be quiet and play. There is not that much social interaction.
Gordon, et al.,
Oddities? Not in any of my viola sections. Certainly not.
The viola section is an oddity;). (joke)
Every group of sentient creatures has a hierarchy, whether or not everyone realizes it there will be at least one creature who does - even among violists.
Every group of instruments in a large ensemble has politics and the same sort of behavior issues your friend discusses as belonging to the violin section.
Actually most of my "viola sections" are me and one other person, so it's not really a "group" dynamic situation. And the larger section -- in the full orchestra -- is too busy during rehearsal for any kind of drama. I share a stand with our principal (she's a college freshman) and the stand behind me is a young man (high school senior) and a woman in her 60s. Our principal is the best violist but not by a huge margin. The woman in her 60s is who I depend on to count the rests accurately. Having shared a stand with her for the Nutcracker, I know she is uncommonly good at this.
Youth symphony violin sections can have a lot of drama. The less good and less secure the player (and the more they hold Dunning-Krueger delusions of competence), the more drama they tend to create.
My experience of drama in community orchestras is very different from Lydia's: the drama has been largely similar to what she describes in youth orchestras (Dunning-Krueger delusions of competence), except that the hyper-competitiveness has been mostly from older players who are hostile or condescending toward younger players. I haven't ever seen hyper-competitive young players. Perhaps this is because I didn't play in school or youth orchestras, and the orchestras I've played in until recently have mostly been lower-level orchestras than what Lydia has described as the "typical" community orchestra. The youngest players I've seen in these orchestras have been in their mid-20s.
I should have included some kind of lol emoticon, as I wasn't 100% serious.
My experience in life in general has been the same as Scott Cole with quartets. And yes, beware of the Quiet One.
In community orchestras of my experience dominance conflict seems to be an occasional problem particular to violin sections. A seating dispute caused one player to walk out of a late rehearsal taking the first horn (her husband) with her. Then you get the players from further back trying to take over the section-leader's role.
I remember being annoyed when our string front desks were pushed back at the dress rehearsal by the conductor's pro cronies, who also took over the solos.
In my orchestras it has always been the rule that when an extra player or two (often a pro or near that standard) is brought in for the performance then they sit at the back of the section. I remember fairly recently being joined in the back desk of the firsts where I usually sit in that orchestra, for the second half of the concert, by the soloist who had just performed the concerto with us in the first half. On another occasion in another orchestra, where I was in the seconds, the firsts were joined at the back by two young pro quartet violinists. It soon become obvious that that particular bus was being driven very effectively from the back by those two fellows!