28. July 2007 · Comments Off on Common Practice · Categories: Ramble

I reader emailed me to ask about the situation between the players in the oboe section; if the principal doesn’t play for a set, who moves up? Does the English horn (often also considered a solo position although, I’m sorry to say, never in the orchestras I’ve been in) player move up first? Does the second oboist move up instead? And what if there’s an assistant principal requested by the principal oboist?

My answer? It really depends upon the orchestra, the contract and, in most instances, the conductor, and the principal player.

Keep in mind, too, that most of the top orchestras have a designated AP spot, and the EH position is considered (and paid!) a solo position.

In my case? I’ve played second even when my position was designated specifically as English horn (this was in San Jose Symphony (RIP)). In that same group I played assistant principal when there was no EH. In both orchestras (I was EH in SJS and I’m second in Symphony Silicon Valley, although, because we only have two in the section I get first dibs on the EH parts) I’ve played principal. There were times when it felt as if I had been demoted, playing second when my position was EH. But, at the same time, it seemed wrong to refuse to play (and I could have, back in SJS), forcing the symphony hire someone else, spending more money. Of course we still went bankrupt, but at least I didn’t feel guilty by being an unnecessary financial burden.

So … what about you others? How do your particular professional orchestras operate? It might help the reader to hear from you!

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