Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That's Gratitude

Taking a classical musician’s job away is a form of murder—premeditated murder. Well meaning colleagues ask, “What are you going to do now?” What they mean is: how does it feel to be black-listed and could it happen to them? I can’t answer that question. All I can tell them is that over the last four years I’ve learned the art of reinvention, out of necessity, of course.

If you know anything about professional orchestra musicians, they move together in tight little groups, similar to middle school children. The most insecure become Mean Girls. To me, the world of the professional orchestra player is a parallel universe.

In this parallel universe, dedication over many years, say for instance twenty, is obliterated when a music director takes it upon himself to end your career. Out of fear or excitement, colleagues turn into denouncers, pointing fingers at one another, perhaps with an underlying hope of advancing their own careers. A note played incorrectly has a far stronger impact than a trillion beautiful phrases, especially if you happen to be the concertmaster. Speaking from a female perspective, the odds are stacked against you if you forego make-up, gain weight, or lose your hair. I remember a phone call after a concert from a woman I'll name Doreen. She served as a Trustee for the now defunct Northwest Chamber Orchestra.

“That dress you wore last night was all wrong,” she said. Doreen’s voice was raspy.

“Huh?” I asked. The dress she referred to featured a slit up the side.

“Do us all a favor and shove that dress in the back in your closet. Don’t wear it again until you’ve lost seven, twelve, maybe fifteen pounds.”

“Have you looked in a mirror, Doreen? Because you look as if you smacked head first into a wall.” My heart pounded loud enough I thought Doreen might hear it over the telephone.

I was still recovering from a previous confrontation with Doreen:

“We’ll have to do something about your hair,” she said, sitting across from me at lunch one fine day. “Your skin is okay, actually nice, but your hair—your hair bothers me.”

Welcome to “magic moments” from my former life.

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