So That’s What I Would Play

An ongoing problem in this business is the distinct disconnect between board members and musicians. I recently had a conversation with the director of a Mid-Atlantic area PAC that regaled me with a conversation he recently had with one of his local symphony’s board members…

According to this manager, the board member was telling him that the only reason he joined the symphony’s board was because his wife made him do it. He said that they only go to a few concerts a year and although he really didn’t want to attend the concerts, he now loves to go because it’s the best napping experience he’s ever enjoyed,

“We always go out to eat and have a big dinner before the concert,” said the board member in question. “Afterward, we get over to the hall and once we get settled into those soft chairs, the lights go down, the music starts, and I go out like a light”

Sadly, I’m willing to bet that just about every manager out there is shaking their head with the kind of recognition that only comes from empathy.

Fortunately, there’s a fun, new tool you can use to help overcome this hurdle and others like it. It can serve as a good starting point for getting more board members in contact with your orchestra’s musicians. After all, understanding what it is that artists do is the cornerstone of appreciation (and therefore, increased effort in their board responsibilities!).

The tool is a little 39 question quiz entitled If you were in an orchestra, what instrument would match your personality? Of course, this is entirely unscientific and based on my test results, it’s not very accurate either (it said that I should be an oboe player! Oboe, can you believe that? I didn’t have the heart to write to the quiz author and tell them that I play the tuba).

Regardless of the quizzes accuracy, it’s still a fun place to get the ball rolling when attempting to set up some face-to-face time between board members and musicians. Best of all, it’s free. You can find the quiz at and before you run off, send Patty Mitchell, the always on blog mistress at (she loved the fact that I’m an “oboe”), a thank-you email for running across this quiz in the first place.

You scored as Oboe. Oboe.
You’re an oboe.











French Horn










String Bass






If you were in an orchestra, what instrument would match your personality?
created with

What instrument does the quiz say you should play?

Postscript: Don’t forget to tell everyone how you scored by submitting a comment (I think it would be interesting to see if there are any patterns, perhaps this quiz was designed by an oboist that has a grudge against clarinetists!).

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

Related Posts

14 thoughts on “So That’s What I Would Play”

  1. Well, I’m a bass player and it identified me as a horn player. I’m pretty sure I’m not very much like the horn players here. It looks like a good test for detecting trumpets, however. 😉

    I went to hear an oboe master class once, and all the oboists were clustered all together in the auditorium with no empty chairs in their tiny little block – very cute. I didn’t see a question for that, so I wouldn’t buy the reed kit just yet. 🙂

  2. It’s funny, I’m getting quite a few responses from readers who say they scored an “oboe” too. Perhaps the quiz was designed by an oboist or someone that really likes oboists. Nevertheless, it is an unscientific quiz but at least it’s a fun unscientific quiz.

    I did notice that you can design your own quiz, as such, I think it would be fun to rig something to come up with your instrument of choice!

  3. This is so wrong. Why would any quiz determine that I should play the oboe – when my last encounter with an oboist resulted in an apoplectic fit?! I was accompanying the lovely Poulenc oboe sonata when I realized that my soloist did indeed plan to stop between EACH movement to clean out her instrument and fiddle with her reed. It ruined the flow of the music, and tested her audience’s patience. And frankly I expected more reed security from a master’s level performance major! No, oboists follow a different thought process. I CAN’T be one.

  4. I, like many others, am classified as an oboist. Odd, considering that I’m a violinist. Also, all of my violinist friends in a large, 2nd-tier Midwestern orchestra were labeled oboists. So was my brother, who is a cellist. But, I could bias my answers to what a stereotypical violinist would say, and it called me a violinist. Does that mean that we’re all stereotypical oboists? (Perhaps the second-runner-up is a better indicator: I tied 100% oboe and trombone… :- )

  5. Drew, eat your heart out! I’m an artist (visual) and I scored as, get this: TUBA, OBOE, BASSOON! I’ve always wanted to play all of these instruments, but my father wouldn’t let me. He thought it would “ruin my teeth.” Instead, I studied the violin. That’s why I’m an artist.

    Thwarted Tuba player! Oh, the agony of a wasted life and what might have been a possibly happier career!

  6. Bill Busen (above) believed that this was a good test for detecting trumpet players. So. for fun I took the test twice. The first time, I answered honestly and was deemed a tuba. Then, for the second test, I brought out all the braggadocio I could muster and came up with a 100% tie as a french horn AND an oboe. Bill, you were wrong, wrong, wrong, because I am actually trumpet player by profession.

  7. As I read these posts, and considering my own as reflective of secret longings to play the instruments the test stated I should play, I am wondering if the discrepancy between the results and the actual instruments played by the posters might not reflect the fact that people who have posted might have chosen an unsuitable instrument for themselves early in their musical career.

    The responses to the test questions also could reflect that, with time, people change their ways of reacting to the world and their understanding of themselves, and this could shape the results.

    My sister, who is a noted pianist, said that she tested as an oboist (she thought that would be a nice instrument because it’s easy to carry around), a bassoonist, and as a cellist, an instrument which she would like to have played, as well as a violin (which was not indicated on her test). Personally, I think she chose the perfect instrument for her career and her personality, in general.

    My father, who was a music teacher for orchestral instruments for 43 years, used to decide, rather emphatically, what instrument his band students and string players should play. He was deeply perceptive about individual qualities, and several of his former students have told me that his steering them towards certain instruments made a huge, positive difference in their lives. (Notwithstanding my earlier post about his discouragement about my taking up the oboe, etc., which might have been based on how well my mother would have taken to the squeeks and howls of a beginning oboe player. She was a violinist, and a very nervous person.)

    All of which leads me to think that the “orchestra zoo” idea, which introduces all the instruments to school children, allowing them to hold the instruments and try them out, might be a good idea, rather than expecting parents to push their children toward instruments the children might not like to play.

    Practicing is suffering incarnate, so, if one has to do it, it at least, should be on an instrument one loves and longs to play really well. Having a favorite famous musician as a hero or heroine helps, also. Someone to emulate; a standard to aim for.

  8. Being an oboist, I completely expected to finally get confirmation that I picked the right instrument all those years ago.

    Survey says: Violin. Maybe Mr. Rice was right after all. (We all have a Mr. Rice, don’t we?)

    So, will all the new oboists get a toaster oven?

  9. Check here for ‘oboe’ also. I play principal bassoon in an ICSOM orchestra so maybe I’m an honorary oboist?! Note- I did have access to one of those ‘musical zoos’ one of the other posters mentioned, and tried a number of instruments before settling on the bassoon. I think the quiz is bogus, frankly. But no harm done, unless you take it too seriously. Which is something one can say about a lot of quizzes.

  10. Actually, once I had a chance to think about it (3 hour 15 min Opera rehearsal) I realized that it’s apples and oranges here, we all are thinking about ‘oboists’, etc. (i. e. the well known personality archetypes of the personalities of the various instrumentalists) while the makers of the quiz are thinking about their (non- musician) impression of the instrument itself. What a metaphor for the disjunct we see all the time between musicians and boards!

Leave a Comment