Classical clarinetists-female · Orchestra · Teaching

The Most Important Aspect of Playing In An Orchestra

I work with some of the finest colleagues anywhere. St. Louis Symphony musicians are known for graciousness towards visiting conductors, a high level of passion and musicality, and friendliness.

I thought it might be fun to ask some of these wonderful musicians what they think is the most important part of playing in an orchestra. I’ve divided responses by number of years of service but have left answers anonymous. Some remarks are quite elegant; some poignant and others humorous. I may add a second list later on, as musicians love to share what they know. Enjoy!

String– over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Teamwork; must be a good ensemble player. Must submerge a bit of your personality to create a unified sound for the section and the orchestra.
  • Actually, the answer to that question has changed over time for me. Early on I wanted to be a part of the social life of the orchestra. Then I WAS part of the social life. At the end of my career I feel separated again. It used to be that musicians wanted to be accepted by the older players, but this is no longer the case.
  • Another important thing is to realize that we are part of an institution that has a long and rich past.

String – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Equal parts of self-awareness and collaboration are needed. In order to collaborate you have to be aware of yourself and others around you.

Brass – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Being sensitive to people around you, both musically and personally.

Woodwind – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Refuse to gossip and criticize a colleague. Realize that when you do this, you are tearing down a valued person and our great institution. Eventually it might affect our music-making. Also, it will come back to bite you.
  • Especially avoid gossip with management, something that sadly goes on here too much.
  • Wear deodorant. Under no circumstances, take garlic pills.

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Take a shower!
  • Flexibility – ability to collaborate with colleagues onstage

Woodwind – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Intonation: never think you are right. Work together and keep the insecurity and ego out of tuning. There is no ‘right’, there is only compromise and working together.

Brass – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Keep the music alive. Pass on what you know and keep classical music relevant to future generations.

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Listen to the orchestra as much, or more than, watching the conductor.
  • Learn from experienced players by asking them questions and working with them.

Percussion – over 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Learn when to lead and when to submit.

Woodwind – under 20 years of service

  • Be passionate when playing, even small pieces (pops, for example). Make it meaningful.
  • Be supportive of your colleagues. Stop tearing down colleagues!

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Going home. 🙂
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