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 Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2010-07-06 15:47

The thread about the openings at the New York Philharmonic makes me wonder. . . . Once an orchestra hires a musician to fill an open position, does the conductor ever shuffle the section? It's common for students to get shuffled around via seat-jumps, but what happens among adult professional musicians?

Let's say Dizzy Dryreed gets hired as first clarinet. Then a vacancy opens up at second clarinet. The orchestra hires Candy Corkgrease for second, but then the conductor discovers Dizzy's half-faking his way through "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" while Candy can play all the notes, up to speed. (Yeah, I know. As if.) Does s/he demote Dizzy and promote Candy? Do their contracts *allow* the conductor to shuffle them?

Lelia
http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/Lelia_Loban
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2010-07-06 15:55

American Federation of Musicians:

NO


You play the part for which you are hired.


Once an opening occurs, there must be an OPEN audition; you can't just appoint the next guy down the row.


Of course once you've gone through the audition process, if the next guy down the row "happens to win the audition," then it's ok.



..............Paul Aviles



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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2010-07-06 19:15

Thanks for the information! Most helpful.

Lelia
http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/Lelia_Loban
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2010-07-06 21:57

Paul wrote:"Once an opening occurs, there must be an OPEN audition; you can't just appoint the next guy down the row."

Perhaps it depends on the particular orchestra's collective bargaining agreement but in some (if not all orchestras) you can appoint the next guy down the row. One sees it often. Since I have been in Montreal I have seen examples of it both in my orchestra (the principal trumpet retired and they offered the position to the 2nd trumpet) and the Montreal Symphony (a principal brass left and they offered the position to the 2nd player and a principal wind died and the offered his position to the assistant principal). Both orchestras are AFM-kosher.

Simon

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2010-07-07 12:21

Interesting. I wonder what would happen if the orchestra sacked the first chair player for cause (rehearsing while drunk or something else that the union wouldn't likely find objectionable), moved the second chair player up to first, held open auditions for second and hired the former first as the new second, in effect giving a second chance -- in the form of a demotion.

Lelia
http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/Lelia_Loban
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2010-07-07 14:30

It's different in every major orchestra. That is usually spelt out in their master contract and processed by the audition committee and the conductor. The contracts are always approved by the local union of the AFM. ESP http://eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2010-07-08 18:33

Lelia, your example is very interesting but would probably never happen. If an orchestra member was fired because of "cause", it is very unlikely they would ever be allowed to return to the orchestra. Besides, a principal player would probably not audition for the 2nd chair in that orchestra. When a principal player retires or is fired, something that happens only rarely, the assistant principal takes over the 1st chair until the orchestra has auditions. In some rare cases the assistant wins that job or even more rarely is given that position. If the orchestra only has three players they may ask the second, or even the bass player who is sometimes also the assistant 1st as well, to divide the responsibility of playing principal until they hold auditions and hire a sub when they need three or hire someone on a temporary basis until the position is filled. It's different in all orchestras. ESP

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

Post Edited (2010-07-08 18:34)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-07-08 18:57

Samuel Caviezel was principal clarinet in Philadelphia for several years (though I'm not sure whether he had the permanent position) and was then bumped down to assistant principal when Ricardo Morales became principal. There was also infighting and confusion when Bernard Portnoy wanted the principal position back after a stint in the military.

In the Cleveland Orchestra, the string players back of the principals' desks rotate through the seats.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2010-07-08 19:13

The Berlin Phil hornists do the same.

Chris.

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2010-07-09 19:26

A great many orchestra's in the USA rotate the string sections. They have "frozen" chairs as we do in Baltimore. Usually the first one or two stands in each section. The rest of the players rotate on a regular basis, except for the subs. ESP

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: marcia 
Date:   2010-07-09 23:33

>A great many orchestra's in the USA rotate the string sections.

To what purpose? What is the difference playing between first violin near the front of the section, and the back of the section? The part is the same is it not? I suspect the original question referred to wind and brass players, each of whom plays a different part.

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2010-07-10 02:46

Yes it is true that the original question was about wind and brass players and I answered that already. As far as marcia's question about why they rotate strings it's mostly for morale. This was mainly bought about by the players themselves requesting it over the years. It seems a player sitting in the last stand of a section doesn't feel as important if they're back there for there whole career. This way there is no one with the label, "last stand string player". Everyone other than the few frozen chairs rotates unless they request not to. Moral is of great importance in an orchestra as it is in any organization. I hope that answers Marcia's question. ESP

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

Post Edited (2010-07-10 19:25)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: marcia 
Date:   2010-07-10 04:14

Thank you Ed.
Marcia

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: marcia 
Date:   2010-07-10 15:33

>it's mostly for moral

Now that I'm awake:

Perchance you meant "morale", although I imagine that getting up to shenanigans would be easier in the back row, than the front row.

Marcia [wink]

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2010-07-10 17:10

No, Sam wasn't ever the permanent Principal.
Burt Hara was, but left.

http://www.MyTempoMusic.com

http://www.ClarinetLessonOnline.com


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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2010-07-10 17:39

> As far as marcia's question about why they rotate strings it's mostly for
> morale. This was mainly bought about by the players themselves
> requesting it over the years. It seems a player sitting in the last stand of a
> section doesn't feel as important if they're back there for there whole
> career.

Besides, I think it improves musicianship or musicality, because you're not always sitting next to the same section neighbours whom you know inside out. You're constantly re-learning your listening capabilites and your sense of orientation on the "musical map", as well as improving your dependability as a team player.
At least that's what I experience when we occasionally sit differently. Amazing how the sound changes when not a trumpet but a trombone blares down your neck.

(bear in mind that this post was made from the lesser end of the musical food chain)

--
Ben

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2010-07-10 18:41

In youth orchestra, we rotate strings, including the front stands, during rehearsals. The sections were having some difficulties with playing perfectly in unison, and when it was switched it around, even temporarily, individual players began to take more initiative in their playing and the result was a better, cohesive whole even when they went back to regular seating.

(and this is from an even lesser end of the food chain)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-07-13 01:07

As I remember it, Sam Caviezel was hired as principal clarinet the season after Burt Hara left (or maybe Don Montanaro, the long-time associate principal, played a season as acting principal in between), but it was a probationary appointment, as I would guess most are, especially with a relatively non-celebrity player. He was not given the permanent job and Morales was hired. When Don Montanaro took a sabbatical and then retired, Caviezel was retained first as acting associate principal, then was appointed permanently to the associate position. So it wasn't really the same as a reshuffle after a new player had already been hired.

Karl



Post Edited (2010-07-13 15:12)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: gwie 
Date:   2010-07-14 08:35

> As far as marcia's question about why they rotate strings
> it's mostly for morale.

As a violinist/violist too, let me add: sitting in the back of the section all of the time is not fun, and outside of youth and school orchestras it isn't about ranking, it's about comfort.

If you're in the fourth or fifth row of strings in a really big orchestra, it's hard to see the conductor, hard to see your section principal, difficult to hear the other players playing your part, and depending on the ensemble you have the misfortune of being on the firing end of a musical weapon behind the second violins (hello massive unpitched percussion!) or behind the violas (hello brass section!). If you're on the outside stand of first violins at the very back, sometimes you're so far removed from the action you might as well be in the audience, since the first row of listeners has a better angle on the concertmaster and conductor than you do!

There is something truly liberating about playing a single clarinet part in a wind section in the orchestra, versus being a section grunt in the strings. :)



Post Edited (2010-07-14 08:40)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: genekeyes 2017
Date:   2010-07-14 13:22

"Interesting. I wonder what would happen if the orchestra sacked the first chair player for cause (rehearsing while drunk or something else that the union wouldn't likely find objectionable)"

I'm kind of surprised that this comment has slipped by without question.

Lelia...........while I am sure that there have been cases of a musician being intoxicated at a rehearsal (or even a performance), why would you make the assumption that this something that " the union wouldn't likely find objectionable"? That statement doesn't speak well for either musicians or the organization that represents them.

thanks
gk



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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2010-07-14 13:29

I think Lelia meant that the union wouldn't find *the firing* objectionable, not the behavior.

Karl

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2010-07-14 15:39

Depending on the cause of the firing I believe the union would not back the player if the reason was a substantial discipline problem, such as being intoxicated at a concert or even a rehearsal, especially if it happened more than once. Everyone in an orchestra relies on everyone else to be playing at the top of their game all the time. I remember one case in a western orchestra in the USA that a principal player was fired because he stole a case of fine wine from a board - orchestra dinner. Apparently the union went along with the firing because that player was indeed fired. I don't know if there were other discipline problems before that happened but that was apparently unacceptable. That person was lucky not to face criminal charges, at least I never heard they did. ESP

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-07-14 16:19

Ed -

I know the player you mention. He and I were good friends when we were in the West Point Band. He's a world-class player, who's very aware of his gifts, and this led him to do thoughtless things, culminating in the wine scandal. He has brought himself under control and now has another principal/college position, though he will probably never get the top job his talents deserve.

Anything less than equivalent misbehavior will probably not result in firing. If you belong to the IDRS, you can read a multi-part series on the career of the great Philadelphia English Horn player John Minsker, including the time when Eugene Ormandy did his very best to force him out, but could not.

Ken Shaw



Post Edited (2010-07-14 17:05)

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 Re: Musical chairs in orchestras
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2010-07-15 15:30

Karl wrote,
>>I think Lelia meant that the union wouldn't find *the firing* objectionable, not the behavior.
>>

Exactly right. I hope that most unions (of musicians or otherwise) would support firing an employee who showed up for work sloshed. That's why I chose that example: it seemed uncontroversial as a reason for firing someone. I just wondered whether it might be possible for the management to decide later that the employee had used bad judgment, most likely wasn't an alcoholic, had learned the lesson and probably would show up sober in the future if re-hired -- "But we're not going to trust him/her in first chair again right away."

I wondered if a union would then support an audition that resulted in re-hiring the former second chair as first chair and hiring the person who'd been fired for second chair, in effect reversing their positions. I'd assume that such a move might cause the union rep to investigate whether the management had given out the real reason for firing the person in the first place. (Who'd be most likely to say first chair was drunk? The person in the next chair....)

But I admit I'm playing devil's advocate here, coming up with an unlikely scenario. The responses have been most interesting. Thank you.

Lelia
http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/Lelia_Loban
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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