“Lots of waiting around, and then 20 seconds of terror” — that’s what it feels like to be one of the principal musicians in an orchestra. You’re playing along with your teammates for long swaths of time, and then suddenly, you’re exposed, called upon to stand out as a soloist and play a few bars all on your own.

But try being an English horn player … you don’t even get to play “along with your teammates for long swaths of time” … you sit and wait and wait and wait and then … WHAM!!! … SOLO!



  1. Hey, guys! I thought we did this because 1) we love music 2) we think we have an understanding of the music that allows us to say, “Hey, listen to the way THIS ensemble does it. Wasn’t that the best?”

    Just remember that music is the best team sport ever, and like any good sport it’s about teamwork. Take the phrase, say what you’re going to say about it and gracefully hand it to the next player to continue the game.

    If those moments in the spotlight are too stressful, set your sights on second chair. It has its own set of problems but they aren’t as exposed and you still get to play music.

    That’s what it’s all about…

  2. Yes, Bob, but sitting for 20 minutes to play a solo English horn line continues to remain stressful for some of us. Really.

  3. Terror?

    I never had a full time job in a really big time orchestra, but in all my days playing in community orchestras and the like, I really loved every opportunity to show my stuff. I would think anybody who feels “terror” in that way is in the wrong business! And, the same goes equally for 2nd chair jobs.

    OK… it can be stressful… But it’s a GOOD stress. And I know Patty feels that way too.

  4. Oh I think the “terror” word is an exaggeration, but I know what he means! It’s stressful. It’s sometimes extremely scary. But yes, it is also wonderful and exciting and fulfilling.

  5. I can relate to the “terror” even though I love the whole “showing my stuff” aspect of it. The guy in the article is someone I know personally, and he is a fabulous player, not a nervy guy at all. I think he was just pointing out how sudden exposure is scary, even if you’re excited to play a part.

  6. Yep, I’m with you, Jill. (I was sort of surprised that this caused alarm or annoyance with other readers.)

    In some ways it’s kind of like my relationship with oboe. You know? Like “Dear oboe, I love you, I hate you.” Yes … it can be both!