I’m not in an orchestra with that sort of salary, nor do I get any benefits, so I’m not qualified to answer the questions here:

How does great music engender such bitter people?
I am soliciting opinions on the following: how in the world is it that so many people who are involved in the classical music business are so bitter? It is hard for me to see how either playing the music of Beethoven or Mahler or being a behind-the-scenes person who brings Beethoven and Mahler to the public can make one quite so unhappy. For goodness sakes, it’s a privilege – most people have jobs that allow little or no room for emotion or expression or beauty or a glimpse of the eternal. Very few people hear applause at the conclusion of their workday. But if, for example, you have the good fortune to play in a great symphony orchestra (which comes with an income that is solidly upper middle class, every imaginable insurance benefit, etc.) and you play the works of great composers at least *most* of the time, how can you complain? Yet I can tell you that orchestra musicians, on average, are very very very unhappy. Of course I have never had the experience of being in an orchestra, so I am probably missing something – but as a pianist who depends quite a bit on the annual whims of different concert presenters to find out whether I will be able to pay the mortgage or not, I find it hard to understand the bitterness. I know I’d have a more stable income as an attorney, for example, but it is a great joy and privilege to play great music for people.

[snip}

a few years ago I was playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I had a number of old friends in the orchestra. It took them till the second rehearsal to remember to be friendly to me – as if they had become so hardened and jaded by the “business” that they had only a dim recollection of fun times playing Brahms Trios and the like.

And conductors… why are so many of them so unpleasant? Does it make them feel that they are somehow more important, more authoritative? Of course I know many conductors who are wonderful people – but how are the rest of them getting hired at all? Are they such great musicians that they don’t need to bother to be civil and courteous and human? (Generally this is NOT the case!)

Well, if you have answers to any of these great mysteries, please share them! Meanwhile, don’t forget that the Beethoven “Archduke” Trio is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments – and that the “music business” exists to bring that piece together with a world of people whose lives will be better if they spend 30 minutes listening to it.

And oh yeah, as a piece of advice – I don’t think you will REALLY feel better about yourself by talking down about others.

I’ll leave it to others. Just figured he needed some attention. 😉

3 Comments

  1. I took a stab at it…

  2. Thoughtful and not at all defensive, Bruce. Good job!

    I read it and first got all prickly. Then I thought, “But he is right about this … at least a lot of the time!” So I’m glad you went for it in the way you did.

    Oh to remember that, despite the trials of this profession, we are doing something absolutely incredible much of the time!

    (Of course right now, with how I’m feeling, I wonder if I’ll be back at it. Health can sure do a head trip on me!)

  3. No doubt that when the music is playing, 99% of musicians are into it and there is an almost spiritual connection that transcends any conflicts.

    Its that time between the notes that gets us in trouble!