We are overjoyed to be back playing for our beloved audiences, under our Music Director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. As our Artistic Advisory Committee stated in a recent letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We couldn't be happier with him as our music director. We have always admired his musicianship and humanity, and our relationship continues to blossom season to season.”
Scenes from some of the 20 different concerts Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians played for audiences around our community in our second annual Audience Appreciation Day, October 4, 2016. This event, as always, was organized and presented by the Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Our management has been quoted repeatedly as saying that it is confident that the Philadelphia Orchestra will remain a “destination orchestra”. I have some thoughts on that phrase, based on my forty years in the profession.
Any music student who hopes to enter the orchestral profession knows that at some point, they will need to “hit the audition trail”. After years of study and practice, one has to start competing for the jobs that interest them. It can be an expensive, grueling process, and with limited time and funds, how is a musician to decide where to audition? What destination should one choose?
When I first “hit the trail” the answer was simple - “I’ll go anywhere”. I was fortunate enough to win my first audition, (for the North Carolina Symphony) and joined the ranks of professional musicians. I had reached my first destination!
As I learned the business, I soon realized that there were now only about 30 new destinations that would represent a significant step up for me. And, in a few years I made my next move, to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
In Baltimore, for the first time I was in an orchestra where I felt that even if I never made another move, I could be content. The music making was excellent, I enjoyed my colleagues, and I was making a comfortable living. And yet.... every musician knew of the famous “Big Five”, those great established, historic orchestras that were the crême de la crême. I still felt the itch to experience music-making at the very top of my profession, and kept hoping for the right job to open up.
Then, an opening in the great Philadelphia Orchestra appeared, and after a very long involved process, they offered me the job. I knew this was a great orchestra, but really didn’t know it well enough to be prepared for what I experienced here.
My first four weeks in the orchestra fell during the summer season. In those weeks, we played fifteen different programs. I was absolutely stunned by how quickly the orchestra prepared music to an incredibly high level. Pieces that were major challenges in my previous jobs were just “in the DNA” of this orchestra. It was thrilling to listen to and participate in.
Then came the fall season, and things only got better. With a full amount of rehearsal time, the orchestra sounded even more polished than it did during my first concerts. Now my attitude was not “this is a place where I could spend the rest of my career”, but “this is the place where I want to spend the rest of my career”.
So, as my career progressed, my potential destinations went from “anywhere” to “maybe 30 somewheres”, to “5 places” to “I’ve arrived, and I’m not even tempted to go anywhere else”.
Now let's fast forward to a very few years from now. I will have retired, and the orchestra will have found my replacement, who in all likelihood will be a young ambitious musician just as I was all those years ago.
Will this orchestra be the destination for that player, or merely a destination? Will he or she be thinking “this is a wonderful orchestra, but I still have the itch to play in one of the really top orchestras”? Will he or she be thinking, “I love the sound here, but in good conscience, should I consider one of the several orchestras that pays considerably more?"
For many many years, the Philadelphia Orchestra has been the kind of orchestra that is the destination for many many great players. Recent events have placed that status in jeopardy. Musicians can no longer assume that a career in Philadelphia will be as rewarding financially as a career in one of the other great American orchestras. Since the bankruptcy of 2011, our salaries have lagged behind our peers to an unprecedented extent. Our new contract does nothing to address that gap, but it does buy us a little time.
What will we do with that time? Will we as an institution come to accept an also-ran status? Or will we redouble our efforts and restore the Philadelphia Orchestra to its accustomed place as a leader in the symphonic world?
It would be a tragedy if current trends continue and the Philadelphia Orchestra becomes merely a destination along the way. We need to ensure that the very best musicians continue to come here. And, we need to make sure that when they arrive here, they want to stay here. The continuing greatness of the orchestra depends upon it.
October 17, 18, & 23 The Johannes String Quartet in Norfolk VA, Williamsburg VA & Utica NY.
October 23, 3PM Philadelphia Orchestra Percussion Group at Widener University, Kapelski Hall Music Room
October 23, 6:00PM Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony brass sections, with guests from the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and National Symphony at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh.
October 23, 3:00 Lower Merion Symphony at Harriton High School, Bryn Mawr. Music of Mozart and Sibelius with Music Director, Mark Gigliotti and violin soloist Amy Oshiro
October 28, 1:00 PM Philip Kates's string quartet, Liebesfreud presents an "Open Rehearsal" from noon - 1pm at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Admission is free.
October 28, 7:30 PM Shelly Showers plays Mozart's Horn Concerto #3 with Orchestra Concordia at Radnor Middle School
November 4 Philadelphia Orchestra Postlude Concert. Brahms G Major string sextet featuring violin soloist Midori with POA musicians Ying Fu, vln, Che Hung Chen and Burchard Tang, Violas, Yumi Kendall and Priscilla Lee Cellos.
November 7, 7:00 PM Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Chamber Music Concert, Mitchel Hall at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia