This past week has been one meeting after another devoted to various personnel issues (not, thankfully, any terminations, in case you were wondering). The cumulative effect on me has been that I feel as if I’d gone 5 rounds or so with the front line of the Green Bay Packers.
Orchestras are villages. We orchestra musicians live cheek-by-jowl with 100 or so other orchestra musicians for decades. We get to know each other really, really well - especially our faults. We track the alliances that form and break. We get mad at people we were close allies with, and end up working closely with people we were furious with in the very recent past. We know each other’s histories with the orchestra and each other. We have very long memories, especially when we’ve been screwed. And, of course, some of the stuff that we remember isn’t true.
Combine all this with the fact that many of us have had disappointing experiences with our employers and with each other over the years, and that the possibilities for internal advancement are few and far between, and the end result is that personnel issues can become extremely contentious. Even when we succeed in stripping out our own past experiences from our considerations, which all by itself is very hard, the desire to make fair decisions that are also artistically valid ones, especially when dealing with colleagues, makes for difficult meetings and hard decisions.
Put a few of these kinds of meetings and decisions into close proximity, and the result is how I feel tonight.