Day 28! Two more days until I get to drive home and see Nathan! I'm really glad I decided to come to NOI (I should say more about that later; back in May, I almost decided not to come!), but I'm so ready to go home.
Today we rehearsed the Stravinsky (Rite of Spring) and the Brahms (Symphony No. 2). The Stravinsky basically requires counting like mad through rapidly changing time signatures, and while it's certainly "trickier," I think the Brahms is much more difficult. I was practicing my part this evening and wondering at the fact that we played this symphony at Gordon College when I was an undergraduate. I loved some things about Gordon -- mostly my violin teacher, who taught primarily at NEC but also took a couple of students at Gordon back then -- but it definitely doesn't have a conservatory-level music department by any means. In fact, the orchestra brings in ringers ("mentors") to fill out the sections because there aren't enough students for a symphony orchestra. How ever did we manage to play Brahms 2? And why does it seem harder to me now than it did then? It's so hard to play all the string crossings perfectly rhythmically and with a good quality of sound. The infamous excerpt from the first movement is incredibly difficult to play beautifully and with precision.
We also had a lecture to attend today, given by the former president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I thought the whole thing was sort of a waste of time. He talked about the different kinds of orchestra jobs we all might end up winning, and how to negotiate these jobs once we do (inevitably? hah!) obtain them. Students kept raising their hands with questions like, "What do I do if I win a big orchestra job while I'm still in school?" Or, "What do I do if I win a job with the Orlando Philharmonic, but then I win a job with the Philadelphia Orchestra and want to take that one instead?" Maybe I'm just enormously cynical, but I had to suppress a laugh. Isn't that getting a bit ahead of yourselves, my friends? Winning a job while you're an undergrad? Winning not one job but two jobs? Let's be realistic here. These aren't the kinds of "problems" that most musicians encounter!
(For those non-orchestral-musicians reading my blog, you might enjoy a post from Hannah: Orchestra Auditions for Non-Musicians. It gives a taste of what really goes on in the audition circuit, and all that goes into winning a coveted orchestra job. Violinista also shared her thoughts on the subject here.)
The guy giving the lecture was refreshingly honest about the difficulty of landing an orchestra job, though, and tried to bring some of the students in the room a little more down-to-earth. He encouraged people to be versatile and take a multi-faceted approach to building their careers. He also said some ridiculous stuff, though, like that it was impossible to be successful without a website in today's world. Part of me wanted to raise my hand and say, "Hey, I make a living as a musician. I have 35 students right now, and freelance with five per-service orchestras as well as playing other gigs as they arise. And I don't have a website."
On the topic of auditions and orchestra jobs, being at NOI has definitely given me some food for thought. On the one hand, I'm happy doing the teaching and freelancing I currently do, and truly feel lucky to be doing those things for a job. And I'm more than a little skeptical that everyone here who's hoping to land a big orchestra job will actually be able to accomplish that. (Although of course I'll be happy for them if they do!)
But then a little voice inside me says, "If they have even a chance, then maybe you have a chance, Sarah Marie."
I don't know if I'd have a chance or not. And if I did, I'm not even sure if I'd want to take that chance or not. It could mean dozens of auditions, and dozens of rejections. Maybe it would be worth it, or maybe it wouldn't. But now's a good time to think about whether I might want to try or not. And if I never even try to take any orchestra auditions, am I selling myself short? Will I look back someday and regret it?
I'm not saying everyone has to want an orchestra job. On the contrary, those who know me know that I don't think that way at all. I really love the teaching I do, and the little regional orchestras I play in!
It's just eye-opening to be surrounded by other players who are looking towards that one goal, and to work with professional orchestra players who assume about all of us here that what we all want is an orchestra job. Honestly, it's not sometime I spend a lot of time thinking about. I'm pretty content. But it's good to be challenged to consider: Am I doing what I do because it's my ultimate goal and dream, or is there something more or slightly different that I might like to strive after?
Or, as Kathleen Kelly says in You've Got Mail, "I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?"