Back when he was Principal Flute of the Utah Symphony and President of AFM Local 104, Erich Graf wrote a fascinating and heart-felt article about how he learned to be both an excellent symphonic musician and an effective union leader. He talks about his own journey to self-discovery, begun by writing a Conscientious Objector letter, the effect of mentors and role models in his life, and the challenge of finding a balance. “One of the difficulties we encounter is balancing the diversity we must seek to broaden our experience with the total immersion necessary to build skill and self-confidence. My persona as a professional orchestral musician is the sum of my experiences. ”
Erich describes playing in an orchestra as living in “a microcosmic family: one hundred distinct personalities living in the same proximity as ants in an ant farm.” How to survive? A contract helps but does not resolve everything. “On those occasions when orchestra politics become unusually bitter and vicious, it is because the stakes are so low. Indeed, under the tip of the iceberg that is the shimmering tone and the elegantly-turned phrase, music is a business and we must also become businesspeople.”
He sums up his thoughts on a positive note: “Personally, there is nothing more exciting and gratifying than individuals in a group who combine their collective egos into one entity to produce great art. When this confluence of ideas causes friction and requires interpretation, I can don my labor hat and attempt to help.”
Read Erich’s thoughtful essay, Defining Self and Mind.