Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't give up your day job

I'm pleasantly surprised to admit that I agree with Norman Lebrecht about something. He wrote a post about the principal 'cellist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Said 'cellist, Nathan Waks, once was head of music at the Australian Broadcasting Company. That part isn't important. What is important is that Mr. Waks has another job alongside playing with the orchestra, as CEO of a winery (Nathan Waks also wrote a comment to the post). Mr. Lebrecht points out that this model leads to a much happier life, compared to full-time orchestral players who get burned out. What struck me about the post is that the concertmaster, Dene Olding, has a similar arrangement to the new concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Zack De Pue. He is in the popular chamber group Time for Three. The ISO has also hired Alexander Kerr, a professor at Indiana University, to be the principal guest concertmaster when Zack is on tour with his other chamber groups. The day job can be teaching, composing, playing in a chamber group, or running a bistro.

4 comments:

ComposerBastard said...

thats right

And I "do" software engineering. Makes for:

1) More comfortable life
2) More diversity
3) More artistic freedom and artistic thought (I write slower, with more technique, and hopefully better).

at a cost to ego...

Just say:

"You're not the boss of me!"

Peter (the other) said...

I seem to remember (although I am sorry to say I do not have time to look up the reference at the moment) that Mozart's favorite horn player, the greatest virtuoso of his time, was also a restauranteur.

Tim Munro said...

Hi Scott!

Nathan is a great bloke, and a very passionate musician and artistic mind. Dene is also a great bloke, and I think both are incredibly happy with their diverse artistic lives. But they are both PRINCIPAL players in the SSO, and can more easily negotiate time off than, say, a person at the back of the second violins.

Other SSO principals with active musical lives include the principal oboe, the gorgeous and spectacular Diana Doherty, who flies around the world doing solo gigs with the New York Phil etc; and the principal bassoon, who still goes back to Europe to guest principal with the Chamber Orch of Europe (his old band).

The SSO tolerates this because they want the best Aussie musicians active in the world. The rank-and-file don't have it so good, and as far as I know there is as much animosity and dissatisfaction as any other orch I know.

Interesting nonetheless, but Lebrecht is the worst sort of Michael Moore-style, "grass is greener" writer. The reality is almost inevitably quite different.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Tim, thanks for the comment. I hadn't thought about the leverage issue, which is very important as you point out. Is there any way around this, or is the line of available performers who are willing to play full time too deep? Of course, I imagine there are plenty of "part-time" orchestral musicians in the community orchestras, and even in some of the regional orchestras, particularly in the lower seats. But that is because they are paid per gig rather than given a salary, and are often given reduced schedules.