There’s a nice article (Note: Link no longer working.) about the retirement of three brass players of the Boston Symphony. Three in one fell swoop is a lot. (And one retired last January too.) And yes, I think it changes the sound a lot when you get new players.

Certainly a change in the SF Opera caused my ears to perk up a little; I had never heard such perfect unison intonation before in the winds! And there was just something different and magical in what I heard Wednesday night.

It’s not just the instrument you replace. It’s the person. And everyone has their unique ways. I believe our bodies are a part of our instrument and sound. It’s not just the pesky reed, but it’s the inside of our mouth. I can play on someone else’s oboe and someone else’s reed and I’ll still sound like me … or at least I think so! And some even think it’s more than the reed and instrument; some believe it’s our chest and maybe more. Of course it’s also in the way we appoach our instrument, and the desired tone and pitch. Whatever it is, it does make each of us unique, even if it’s in a very small way.

Then, of course, there are also personalities. We all are in a little dance when we work together. Some folks get along well with each other. Some don’t. Some believe they are God’s gift to music, while others of us (!) always fear we are considered hacks by our colleagues. Some think they are the hub of the orchestra, while others prefer being part of the body but no more significant than anyone else. Figuring out how to deal with one another can take time.

Every time we add someone new — even in the little groups I play in — I wonder just what the change will bring. It’s bound to do something, it seems.


  1. Very interesting article. BSO retiring 2nd horn Daniel Katzen is about my age, and hit the audition circuit at about the same time I did in the mid-1970s. He took nearly 40 auditions before finally winning BSO!

    Did you hear the new Principal horn of the SF Opera the other night? He just won the audition and I wonder if he was playing.

  2. Hi Cameron,

    It was really interesting to read these and realize that I’ve been at this since 1975 and if you think of SSV as SJS that’s a whole lotta years. But retirement? Not yet. Can’t afford it, for one thing!

    I haven’t a clue who was playing horn. From where I’m sitting I can’t really see anyone except perhaps Larry Ragent. And even him I’m not certain about … next time I bring binoculars! 🙂

  3. So now I was obliged to go look up the S. F. opera orchestra to see about the new co-principal horn – looks like Dave got tired of commuting from Florida, maybe? Don’t know – from his bio., the guy is pretty talented. I did like this line from the English horn player’s bio: “When not chained to her reed-making desk…”

  4. … and that English horn player is one fabulous musician … and a very nice person as well. Those two don’t always go hand in hand!

  5. Indeed, there are so few of us…:)

  6. timdowd, David Sprung left Florida and moved back to the Bay area several years ago. I played with him recently in Midsummer Mozart; he lives in the Oakland hills and is now freelancing in the area.

    David retired from the Opera at the end of last season after an illustrious career.