27. August 2007 · Comments Off on A Little Inside Scoop · Categories: Ramble

Charles Noble, over at daily observations gives readers a little info on things like overscale. Overscale is no surprise to me, although I’ve been told—or is it that I’ve foolishly assumed?—we don’t have that going on in Symphony Silicon Valley.

I did get overscale in San Jose Symphony (RIP). And I didn’t feel guilty about it either; I was the English hornist, and according to our contract I received base pay. The English horn has solos any time it is used. I felt a wee bit of overscale (not as much as the principal winds were getting … not even close!) was justified. (If I’m remembering correctly, I received $13.10 extra per service. Bizarre amount, I know.) But I do understand Mr. Noble’s point. Overscale really causes rifts between orchestra members. Shoot, even being paid the same amount (as I am now) as the string players ticks some of them off. They, after all, have to play more notes, and rarely, if ever, get a piece off. (I can’t tell you how many times a particular player from a particular not-to-be-named-section has said, “Well, you’re finally earning your money!” when I have a solo. But then I also can’t tell you how many times people in that same section turn around to look at me when they don’t care for how I’m playing. What is it with that particular, unnamed section. And they must all have sore necks by now!)

Ramble ramble … moving on …

No seat in the orchestra is easy. If one takes the job seriously. (I do know of a few players who just phone it in, but that’s not all that common.) Some positions are, I believe, scarier than other seats, but I nearly had my head chopped off by a string player when I said something like that. She said my position was MUCH easier than hers; she sat in the middle of a section. I was the only English horn player. I should know how much more difficult it was for someone to sit in a section. I only thought to myself (I finally caught on that arguing was foolish), “Yeah, but if you blow it will your name be in the review?” Heh.

There’s always something, you know?

And maybe we are all so insecure and want to feel like we matter. What is is about us?

But really, going back to overscale, it sure does split an orchestra up. Still, the concertmaster does deserve a good amount more (and receives it in the orchestras I play in). And the principal oboist, principal trumpet and horn all play such important roles, I think they should be paid something more than the typical 25% more that our principal players all get. (And no, I’m not principal oboe in Symphony Silicon Valley; I play principal in Opera San José.)

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