the orchestra world

orchestra meetings

Orchestra meetings should most likely not be held outdoors, in the summer, and in Chicago all at the same time. This is the conclusion I came to after reading the CSO Bass Blog entry today. It’s a small peek into what happens at meetings between orchestra players and management (and conducting staff).

I guess I should take this moment to describe some of the common species of orchestra members at orchestra meetings – especially those which involve only the musicians. Here goes:

The Committee Chair. The orchestra committee chair position is perhaps the most feared and loathed position in the orchestra meeting hierarchy – not for any sinister reason, but for the fact that no one really wants to do it, and if they actually do want to do it, they’re clearly insane. If you like being bothered late at night, during breaks, and while you’re trying to warm up before rehearsal, then being the OC chair is for you. The OC chair cames in three distinct flavors: the (a) brilliant yet self deprecating, (b) spineless yet manipulated, and (c) the absent-minded professor. A’s never want to run (because they’re actually smart) and you have to beat away B’s and C’s with a stick.

The Angry Yeller. There’s usually one of these, and they’re referred to by being called “Angry _____” either behind their back or to their face. They know that they’re mad and so they don’t care about being labeled. The anger usually isn’t focused, but generalized and all-encompassing. The good thing about these guys is that their rants are usually so vehement that they rarely last long.

The Smart Ass. There are often several of these, and they specialize in asking snarky “gotcha” questions after a well-reasoned presentation. Most often they are not willing to put in the time to actually think through problems, and so they spend their (and our) valuable time lobbing bombs at those who do. They can be funny, however, so they’re not a total nuisance.

The Pompous Ass. There are also often several of these in the orchestra, though they could be split into two sub-species: the Private Pompous Ass and the Public Pompous Ass. Once this person is given the floor, you can feel the air go out of the room as they inhale in preparation for their 15 minute encyclical on all things orchestra. Sometimes these lectures have something to do with the topic at hand, but more often they have to do with themselves and how important their experiences are to the orchestra.

The Alien. This person is also known as the head scratcher. They say whatever they have to say, and then you can hear the sound of dandruff flakes hitting the floor about halfway through, most often accompanied by arched eyebrows and mouthings of “huh?” and “what?” by the other, Earth-native orchestra members. Generally, this species has come of age and experimented during the 60’s, but that’s not a rigid requirement.

2 replies on “orchestra meetings”

Good characterization! Of course, you have described about 80% of all committees in the world! (Wild guess as to the percentge.)

I always enjoy reading your blog. As a long-time season ticket holder in Dallas, reading about the “inside” of an orchestra has been both fun and enlightening.

Welcome, Bill! Glad to know there are readers in the “Big D”! I think I may have described even more than 80% of all committees, but your estimation is in the ballpark. Thanks for reading!

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