The View from England re: Playing in an Orchestra

Recently Nathan Kahn, SSD negotiator, posted an article on ICSOM’s Orchestra-l list-serve that was published in The Guardian in February 2006 about why so many musicians are quitting their orchestra jobs for…

According to Anna Price, the author,

The money’s terrible, the stress is awful and the music is plain boring. No wonder so many of Britain’s orchestra players are choosing to hang up their bows…

A recent survey of orchestral members carried out by the Musicians’ Union made for unhappy reading. Work undertaken by orchestra players to supplement their pay packets includes aromatherapy, odd-jobbing, taxi-driving, childcare and cleaning. These are highly trained professionals at the very top of their field. When was the last time your solicitor popped over to scrub the kitchen floor?

The article is well worth taking a look at, as Nathan suggested. But it reminded me of an essay published in the fall issue of Symphony magazine (on page 25), written by Catherine Arlidge, a violinist in the City of Birmingham Symphony.

Titled “Orchestra Musicians: ‘Evangelists for our Art’ or ‘Violin Operators’?” Ms. Arlidge queries whether musicians are really “members” of their orchestras, sharing in the vision of management who continually ask more of them, or are they “instrument-operating employees.” She argues strongly for empowering musicians to take more responsibility and artistic ownership. A most interesting read!

— Ann Drinan

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