DEAR CARRIE: I have a question about a colleague who is becoming a problem. We both play in a university orchestra, sit side by side and often share a solo. I play principal flute, and she is the principal oboist. Working with her is tough because she is often in her own world during rehearsals. At times she even forgets to pay attention to the conductor.

Then she interrupts me to ask where we are, even after the conductor has stated three times which part of the piece we are starting. I doubt that she has put any effort into learning her parts. And she doesn’t try to play in tune with others. When confronted about her problem, she becomes defensive and pouts. And then nothing changes. Some of us are really fed up, primarily because the conductor doesn’t seem to want to deal with the issue. He has to be aware of the problem but has said nothing to her. What should I do? — Noteworthy

Sigh. Not a way to solve the problem, really. And writing to someone who isn’t inside our very wacky world could prove to even be disastrous.

But of course the first thing that comes to my mind is … what school?! Who is the oboist? And one might wonder if this was sent hoping the oboist might read it. (And yeah, I realize the instruments may have been changed to protect the innocent. And not so innocent.)

But really, if the conductor won’t deal with it I’d probably tell the flutist to just deal. And welcome to the wonderful world of music. 😉

If you’re curious what Carrie said, go here.


  1. I find the given response very unrealistic. I’ve had these problems before, where there was a superstar clarinet player sitting behind me, a principal flute player. Because he was so intimidating, I always thought if we were out of tune, it was my fault. However, it wasn’t!! It was personally gratifying, but also something that the conductor immediately addressed.

    Rehearsing together?? And you guys already have confronted each other, and her defenses are up? My advice would be to continue doing your best to make sure you’re in tune, and hopefully if the problem is bad enough, someone in authority will step in.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Jolene! And what the heck is it with the “superstar clarinet player” anyway? I’ve dealt with them too. Maybe it’s the nature of the instrument? One wonders!

    Having been in this biz for a while (since 1974 … wow do I feel old!) I just think going outside the door and into the news for this problem is just plain stupid. Not only does the person answering the question not have a clue about the orchestra life, but it’s truly inappropriate.

    Conductors should certainly address these issues, but some don’t … or won’t … who knows why. Of course it could also be that the author of this letter is the one in the wrong and the oboist is actually in tune! Who knows?

    But really, we all have to “deal” in orchestras. Some musicians I’ve worked with are truly a pain. They aren’t going to change. So I have to adapt or at least learn to ignore. Thats life! 🙂