Jobs Don't Grow On Trees

In a recent article in the New York Times, Daniel J. Wakin points to the seemingly large number of orchestral positions that are currently open at some of the nation’s top orchestras. 

Of course we could debate all day about whether or not 12 openings in the NY Phil is remarkable, if they will be filled, who should fill them, etc.  Young people’s eyes are already glazing over with excitement, picturing themselves walking out on stage rubbing elbows with other NY Phil players.  But judging by Wakin’s description of the overwhelming audition process, do they really have a shot?  I mean, a guy does a great job in a temporary position for years, is the only eventual finalist, and doesn’t get hired? Obviously there are many forces at play here, and we could debate these decisions forever. 

But as a young musician, what is most interesting to me is how uncompromising my colleagues are in their aspirations.  In the face of auditions where 300+ solid players show up, they keep coming back and giving it their best.  In the face of positions that go unfilled, even when the best talent is available, they declare that they will succeed.  In the face of financial challenge and costs of travel and lodging, and the opportunity cost of preparation time, they don’t blink an eye at their goals.  Call it naivety, call it youthful arrogance, or call it unrealistic goals.  I’d rather call it refreshing.  How many people these days pursue their dream with unflinching dedication?  How often do people really reach for their dream job again, and again, and again.  I’m not saying these young people don’t need to seriously consider their career options before dedicating their lives to a very competitive field.  I’m saying bravo to those who know the risks and are willing to bear them. 

I realize that the audition process is grueling, the chances are slim, everyone should have a backup plan, and the future of these jobs is less than certain.  But can we take a moment to recognize that the future of this business will be in the hands of those dedicated, inspired young people who want nothing more than to be a part of a group like the NY Phil? 

Don’t stop, whether there are 12 job openings or 1. You need the music, and we need you.

About the author

Stephen Danyew
Stephen Danyew

Steve Danyew is a composer, saxophonist, teacher, and arts administrator based in Rochester, NY. Danyew composes works for chamber ensembles, large instrumental ensembles, choirs and more, and currently serves as Managing Editor of His music has been hailed as “startlingly beautiful” and “undeniably well crafted and communicative” by the Miami Herald, and has been praised as possessing “sensitivity, skill and tremendous sophistication” by the Kansas City Independent. Steve received a B.M. cum laude, Pi Kappa Lambda from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and holds an M.M. in Composition and Certificate in Arts Leadership from the Eastman School of Music.

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