It’s hard to believe, but yesterday marked the beginning of my 22nd season with the Oregon Symphony. Even though I’m closing in on the quarter century mark, there are still things that make me happy when I show up at the first rehearsal of the season.
First, my colleagues. Since we don’t have a summer season, the orchestra members scatter to the four corners of the globe doing summer festivals, vacations, and in some cases, other jobs. Because of this, we don’t get to see each other that much during our off time – even those of us who are close friends. Seeing everyone after the summer break is much like seeing one’s friends at school after the long break. It’s old home week, with lots of hugs and stories shared before rehearsal and during the break.
Second, the sound of a really great orchestra. With few exceptions, the summer festival orchestras we play in are not of the quality of the Oregon Symphony. They are fun, and good, but as festival orchestras, they are put together afresh each summer, often without the continuity of personnel that a full-time orchestra has. When we come back from the summer break, and I hear just how good we sound, even on the first day back, it makes me smile from the pleasure and pride of it.
Third, knowing I’ll be getting paid soon. Yeah, we don’t do it solely for the money, but the mortgage must be paid! In a less than 52 week orchestra, budgeting is a constant battle. Saving money from each paycheck to apply towards the summer bills, trying to figure out how much summer work there will be this year, etc. Some people rely on unemployment benefits to make it through the summer, but it has become so difficult to jump through all of the hoops that the state has in place that some of us – me included – have given up trying to collect benefits.
Today (Saturday), we perform at the Oregon Zoo in a program that has lots of audience favorites. The temperature will hit 99F today, with around 90 expected at concert time. Thankfully, no tuxedos or tails for us – it’ll be OSO polo shirts and slacks for us – and we have new water bottles to keep us hydrated, if not cool. Plus, there’s the 1812 Overture!