Yesterday I was telling a student about playing in the pit, and how our instruments get rather dirty sometimes, due to all the dust that accumulates there. She reacted with a surprised look, “I didn’t know you played pit!”

Now some of you might wonder about that. I would, but I know better now. These days there’s a “pit” group in high school marching bands. The “pit” uses players who don’t usually march, like oboes and even, at least at one school a student I had attended, strings. (Ridiculous, if you ask me, but you probably aren’t asking.)

I had to explain what a real orchestra pit is. One might wonder about why I had to explain too. Why is a student unfamiliar with that? Hasn’t the student ever attended anything I play?

No, in fact, most of my students never attend concerts I play. Sad, but true. They are busy, I’ll grant them that, but mostly they have little or no interest in hearing a professional group. I’ve encouraged them. I’ve even, in the past, offered comps to them. Never do they take me up on that. (I’ve given up at this point.) They want to play an instrument, but they don’t want to hear them being played.

I find that incredibly puzzling, and quite distressing as well. I wonder if I’m the only one who has such disinterested students. Am I doing something wrong?

Meanwhile … here are a few photos of the California Theatre that include the orchestra pit, taken by Bob Shomler, put up with his permission (Thanks, Bob!).

This was taken a while ago … I’m not sure which opera was being done. I’m guessing Tosca, perhaps, due to some people I see sitting in certain chairs, but that’s just a guess. (I know it was a while ago because the set up has since changed.)

This is from our latest production, La traviata:


  1. What a beautiful hall! I’m jealous – and of course playing opera is the best! But when I was a student I remember actually sitting IN the pit with my teacher, for a musical which I had seen in the audience and loved so much I got to go back with her. Probably changed my life! I love playing in the pit. (and I would NEVER play oboe or strings in the marching band, what a waste of time!)
    My students occasionally come to things I play, but it takes tons of badgering and parental involvement is the key. I hand them all symphony brochures at the beginning of the year and tell them they are expected to attend, sometimes it works!

  2. Oh it’s an incredible hall! Both inside the actual concert hall as well as the lobby. Di you click on the link to Bob’s photos? Hope so! If not, go here:

  3. Vladimir Gurevich

    I am always puzzled about that. I mean, (almost) every school has a number of orchestras/bands, there are so many youth orchestras in Bay Area alone (we’ve just had a festival in Davies Symphony Hall, it was totally filled while not all the orchestras were even there), etc, etc. In other words there are thousands and thousands of your musicians just around here. I would also imagine that there are even more adults who went through the same experience.

    Yet, every time we attend a concert or an opera we see very few kids. Rarely we meet, say, Daniel’s fellow musicians unexpectedly. Opera is even worse: every time we attend it, my wife and I have a nice feeling that we still belong to the youngest 1% in the audience :).

    I honestly do not know why is that…

  4. I think there are several reasons for this, Vladimir.

    Money is an issue for many. When my husband and I were just married (I was 19 at the time!) we had absolutely no money to attend anything. We were also both in school so we were somewhat busy. (AND I landed my symphony job when I was 18 so there was that too, but I know that’s rather unusual.) Then we had children and continued with the “no money and no time” issues! As to the even younger crowd, much of it has to do with parents — if parents start kids going to concerts at a younger age (but not too young, of course!) they tend to be more inclined to attend concerts.

    But a lot of it is also busy schedules, different priorities, and the dislike or fear of the words “classical”, “symphony”, and “opera”, I do believe

    Just some thoughts.

    As to my own students not attending … THAT is a true puzzlement (and frustration) to me!