Tom Service, who blogs for the Guardian (UK), reports on a really good idea from the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Association for British Orchestras:
The annual Salomon prize is for orchestral players – or, rather, for a single orchestral player in a UK-based professional ensemble who in the eyes and ears of their fellow musicians has been “an inspiration to their colleagues and engendered a greater spirit of teamwork within the orchestra”, for which commendation the winner will get a trophy and £1,000. That wording emphasises the collegiate nature of what orchestral musicians do, rather than their soloistic brilliance, which seems a shame: what about the woodwind or brass players, say, who may not necessarily engender teamwork, but are simply some of the best players out there? The essential principle is a good one, however, celebrating the achievements of the thousands of orchestral musicians in this country, those perennially singing but always unsung heroes of our musical lives.
I think Service misses the point about rewarding “collegiate nature of what orchestral musicians do, rather than their soloistic brilliance,” though. Those musicians in a position to demonstrate “soloistic brilliance” can get plenty of positive feedback without the intervention of a prize, whether from their bosses, their colleagues, or critics. It seems to me that the point of this award is to provide recognition to those who aren’t in a position to be noticed otherwise.
It would be an equally good idea for orchestras to institute their own versions of this. Lots of businesses already do this with “employee of the month” programs. Why not orchestras? Obviously the process of selecting winners would have to be designed carefully. But I can think of a number of my colleagues here in Milwaukee who deserve such recognition but, in the absence of such a program, will never receive it – except perhaps when they leave the orchestra or die, by which time it’s really too late for it to serve as a motivational tool.