I had meant to write more than I did following the SCU concert I attended Friday night.

Yes, my students did a great job. As did some other musicians. The soloists, a clarinetist and bassoonist with whom I’m unfamiliar, played professionally in Bulgaria before relocating here. They did a very fine job as well, although I prefer having university students solo rather than bringing in outside players; I think the audience, composed primarily of parents and students, enjoy seeing someone they know on stage (not that the Santa Clara Mission has a stage!). But in any case, everyone heard some nice playing by these guys. (The Stamitz is a sweet little piece, although I’d have to hear it again to fully understand it all; the Mission is a bit of a muddle because of the reverb—reverb that makes even a bad reed sound mighty fine, by the way!)

But I was surprised at the number of orchestra players who looked as if they were in zombie land.

I don’t like to see musicians moving around so much it looks like they came to the concert buzzed on ten cups of coffee. (I have been told that some aditions in other countries judge players on their movement and they really want a lot of moving around. I watched one video of a wind chamber ensemble from Germany, and one oboist nearly bounced off his chair as he was playing!) But no movement whatsoever just looks bizarre to me. I’m not talking a little bit of sway … I’m talking absolutely no movement at all, aside from the requirements to play the instrument. I’m talking absolutely no facial expression. Nada. As if they were empty of everything, someone pushed the “play” button, and the bowing arm moved, the fingers fingered, the wind player blew some air (although you really couldn’t even sense that, and that was it.

It was pretty weird, to be honest. Do they not feel the movement of the music? Do they not realize the life of the music? I wonder.

(And I wonder, too, as I have in the past, why it is that I move back and forth, but so many clarinetists I’ve seen move side to side. Just a curiousity.)

I’d love to sit in on more juries and see if the players then start to look a bit more alive, or if what looks to me like “disconnect” is still there. (This year I’ll only attend oboe and clarinet juries.)

Music is alive, folks. At least that’s the way I see it. It’s kind of nice if you look like you are alive too.


  1. This is true, about the clarinet players moving side to side. Or they do this little circle thing with the end of the clarinet, like they are trying to draw a circle somewher on the floor.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks they do this!

    And then there’s that lifiting up of the left hand, since they don’t have to use the it on at least one note. I always find that so … silly and affected.

    But then I find clarinet silly! 😉