Orchestra Life
:: Professional Development

Gerald Elias  

An Interview with Gerald Elias, Violinist and Author

Gerald Elias
December 1, 2019

When I first began writing Devil's Trill, I had no idea where it would lead. That book started out primarily for my own students - I wanted to write about the challenges, both technically and career-wise, that young musicians encounter. To make it entertaining, I wove the story around a stolen Stradivarius. I started writing Devil's Trill in 1997, it went through lots of rewrites, and ultimately it became transformed into a traditional "who done it."

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Laura Brownell  

Would You Buy a "Made in China" Violin?

Laura Brownell
April 19, 2019

Chinese-made stringed instruments have taken the market by storm. In just a few short years the impact on musicians, makers, and dealers has been profound. As is often the case with an upstart new entrant to a manufacturing market, there are positive and negative effects.

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Ayden Adler  

The Critical Response to Profitable Concerts: The Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1930-1950

Ayden Adler
August 20, 2019

"As a former musician in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and current Director of Education and Community Partnerships at The Philadelphia Orchestra, I'm keenly aware of..."

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Justin Locke  

Look, Kids, Now He's De-Composing

Justin Locke
July 20, 2019

I am as eager as the next person to speak in highly idealized terms about arts education and bringing the beauty of Mozart into the life of every child...

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Justin Locke  

The View from the Pit

Justin Locke
June 23, 2019

When you work as a professional freelance musician, one of the many occupational hazards you must face is playing in orchestra pits.

Most concerts are played in the relatively open space of a stage, and the orchestra is up above the audience. But in a pit

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Angela Myles Beeching  

The Entrepreneurial You

Angela Myles Beeching
June 17, 2019

Musicians don't usually view themselves as entrepreneurs, even though they are the quintessential "multi-preneurs." But musicians regularly launch new ensembles, start their own teaching studios, create record labels, and publish their own works.

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Book review "The Music Teaching Artist's Bible, Becoming a Virtuoso Educator"
By Eric Booth

Jeremy Brown
May 26, 2019

This important new book by noted master teaching artist Eric Booth will become an essential reference, "a bible," to any musician who teaches as part of their career. Booth makes the first of a number of bold statements in the opening pages, claiming that The Music Teaching Artist's Bible, Becoming a Virtuoso Educator "...aspires to change the way you define what teaching and art can be to one another, to your life, to music, and to our culture." On a personal note...

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Yvonne Caruthers  

What Are You Wearing? Dress Codes Considered

Yvonne Caruthers
February 26, 2019

Dress codes have been part of the orchestral musician's life since Haydn's musicians wore the uniform of the Esterhazy family.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

Classical Music for Dummies, by David Pogue, Scott Speck, and Glenn Dicterow

Yvonne Caruthers
December 17, 2019

The table of contents in Classical Music for Dummies includes The Entire History of Music in 80 Pages, A Field Guide to the Orchestra, and The Dreaded Music Theory Chapter.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

The Voice, by Thomas Quasthoff

Yvonne Caruthers
December 11, 2019

"The Voice" of Thomas Quasthoff, a splendid bass baritone voice, has allowed him a very different life than was originally predicted for him. In his own words, "No one expects such a mighty voice to issue from my diminutive frame."

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Yvonne Caruthers  

Rostropovich: The Musical Life of the Great Cellist, Teacher and Legend, by Elizabeth Wilson

Yvonne Caruthers
November 6, 2019

Saddened by the loss of Mstislav Rostropovich in April 2007, I looked forward to reading this book, written by one of Slava's former students in Moscow (who now resides in Italy). Ms. Wilson writes lovingly about Slava, as only a student can. She regales us with story after story about what it was like to experience the man's genius at close quarters.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks

Yvonne Caruthers
September 12, 2019

Years ago when I read a biography of Maurice Ravel, I learned that at the end of his life he was afflicted with a condition that allowed him to hear music but not be able to write any of his musical thoughts on paper. To say that he was frustrated by his condition would be a gross understatement. Today there is a name for his condition: "a form of frontotemporal dementia... [with] semantic aphasia."

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Yvonne Caruthers  

The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism, by Matt Mason

Yvonne Caruthers
August 15, 2019

This is the most provocative book I've read in a very long time. I bought it because the title intrigued me---piracy is a musician's worst nightmare, right? The author thinks not, and puts forth one compelling argument after another.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross

Yvonne Caruthers
August 4, 2019

Alex Ross is well-known as the music critic of The New Yorker magazine. This is his first book, and as captivating as it is, one hopes that many others will follow.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

The Soloist, by Steve Lopez

Yvonne Caruthers
July 10, 2019

This book is a parallel to A Beautiful Mind, the book and movie that came out several years ago about mathematician John Nash and his struggles with mental illness. In The Soloist, the main character is not a well-known professional with a good job, but a homeless man, and it's not math but music which is the underlying talent.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

Artists in Exile, by Joseph Horowitz

Yvonne Caruthers
July 1, 2019

This is a terrific book, well written, thoroughly researched, full of anecdotes. If you're interested in dance, you'll enjoy the chapter on Balanchine. If you love classical music you'll want to read about Stravinsky and Schoenberg.

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Yvonne Caruthers  

Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music, by Mari Yoshihara

Yvonne Caruthers
June 5, 2019

This slim volume is not going to be a bestseller at Barnes and Noble but if you're interested in how "Asians" find their way to the US to pursue a career in music, or the sorts of cultural stereotypes Asian-Americans encounter, you might find this book of interest.

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Robert Levine  

A Tale of Two Meetings

Robert Levine
June 28, 2019

I spent all last week attending two meetings: the 97th Convention of the American Federation of Musicians in Las Vegas and the 62nd National Conference of the American Symphony Orchestra League in Nashville. They couldn't have been more different.

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Nathan Kahn  

Auditions: The Challenges for Candidates and Committees

Nathan Kahn
May 14, 2019

What is it that audition candidates want? The response is usually the same; a fair chance to compete for a symphonic position, and to be treated as a professional in the process.

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William Hunt  

Musicians and Home Office Tax Deductions

William Hunt
April 2, 2019

For musicians, the two questions most commonly asked are: "I teach private lessons in my home; can I take a deduction for this room?" and "I am a professional musician and must practice to maintain my skills; can I take a deduction for the room in my house that I use for practicing?"

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Michael Manley  

First Impressions of the South Dakota Symphony

Michael Manley
March 5, 2019

I've been asked, as an American Symphony Orchestra League Management Fellow newly-arrived to South Dakota, to share a few of my initial impressions about the South Dakota Symphony. In pondering this, my thoughts keep coming back to scale. I don't mean a musical scale, but scale as a measure of size, or maybe more crucially, scale as a measure of impact.

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Christian Woehr, III  

Jedi Orchestral Skills

Christian Woehr, III
February 5, 2019

The world of professional sports is remarkable for its degree of analysis. Like systems of natural selection fueled by competition and survival, those who win are able to do so by taking advantage of the most minute edges in speed, technique, and efficiency. In baseball, measuring to the tenth of a second the length of time for particular pitcher to deliver ball to particular catcher, catcher to second, and second baseman to apply tag, allows base runners the knowledge of when to steal. The slight statistical advantages, added up over the season, can mean the difference between champagne or whine.
Our art, although highly competitive (and analyzed) in the audition arena, is actually fairly unexplored in its day-to-day techniques. How many have ever been taught how to turn a page most efficiently while sitting on the inside of a stand; or how to sit with a stand partner so that both are comfortable, with good sight lines; or how to bow a part while paying proper attention and in proper proportion to politics, opportunity, ergonomics, and musicality; or most importantly, what is the nature of musical radar?

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Christopher Azzara  

Improvisation and the Symphony Orchestra: Providing Inspiration and Meaning

Christopher Azzara
November 17, 2019

I close by recommending free improvisation in general and in every respectable form to all those for whom [music] is not merely a matter of entertainment and practical ability, but rather principally one of inspiration and meaning in their art.

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William Hunt  

Is Concert Clothing Tax Deductible?

William Hunt
September 27, 2019

The question of when you can deduct your concert clothes may seem rather obvious to most musicians. It is not uncommon to hear musicians declaring that their concert "uniforms" are completely deductible. However, will the IRS agree with this statement? The answer may not be nearly as clear as many musicians think.

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Roger Oyster  

They Love Us...They Love Us Not
Part 2

Roger Oyster
May 25, 2019

After much consideration, another plausible explanation of the predicament of the orchestra business eventually occurred to me. My conceptualization of our industry's problem started to evolve when I came up with this analogy for our situation: imagine we are in the restaurant business rather than the culture business.

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Roger Oyster  

They Love Us...They Love Us Not
Part 3

Roger Oyster
May 25, 2019

I heard a good conductor who, when asked how to make an orchestra grow, responded, "You get every musician to play his best at every service."

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Roger Oyster  

They Love Us...They Love Us Not
Part 1

Roger Oyster
May 24, 2019

I once thought that I would have safely retired from my career before the orchestra business, as we know it, went belly up. Now, I'm not so sure.

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Douglas Fisher  

Professional Sacrifices Define the Lives of Orchestra Musicians

Douglas Fisher
May 3, 2019

Among the highly educated and skilled professions, orchestra musicians make some of the greatest professional sacrifices in order to earn a full-time living.

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William Hunt  

Beneficial Tax Treatment for Qualified Performing Artists

William Hunt
April 10, 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided that performing artists, if they meet certain requirements, may deduct work-related expenses in a more beneficial manner than other employees.

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Erich Graf  

Defining Self and Mind

Erich Graf
April 10, 2019

"You know, you're a first class jerk. A real idiot." A phrase heard by just about every musician who has sat in a principal chair, served on a committee, or performed the duties of a local union officer. Often, those comments are laced with colorful metaphors designed to drive home the impact of the message.

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William Hunt  

Depreciation of Musical Instruments

William Hunt
April 10, 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows a deduction for property used in a business or income-producing activity. For property with a useful life of less than one year, the deduction is generally taken in the year the property is placed in service. The deduction for property that has a useful life of more than one year must be pro-rated over the life of the property. This method of deducting the cost of property is called depreciation and is the method used for most musical instruments. The rules for depreciating the costs of various types of property are rather complex; this discussion will focus only on the depreciation of musical instruments.

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Timothy Judd  

Moving Beyond The Music: Why An Orchestra Musician's Job Is Not Over After The Last Note

Timothy Judd
April 10, 2019

Not long ago, as a student at the Eastman School of Music, I thought I had a good idea of what it would be like to play in a professional orchestra.

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