The 2/28/2011 edition of the Boston Herald published a review by Keith Powers of a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) or Mahler’s Ninth. What makes the review unusual doesn’t have anything to do with the music so much as what Powers wrote about behavior he observed in the violin section. More to the point, behavior he defined as “disturbing”…
According to Powers, members of the BSO violin section engaged in a series of inappropriate behaviors.
Most disturbing — bordering on the unprofessional — was what appeared to be some inside joke running through the violin section. Backward glances, grins and sniggering have no place in junior high classrooms, let alone onstage during performance. With a young conductor leading a challenging work, at least the appearance of engaged playing must be maintained.
Although the Boston Globe review had no mention of this behavior in their review; clearly, Powers had a very different view. After reading the article, I immediately thought of a series of articles written by Holly Mulcahy at Neo Classical that examine how each stakeholder group contributes to alienating audience members.
In this case, the installment focusing on musicians points out some of the exact same bad behaviors Powers mentioned in his post. Provided Powers’ reports are accurate, then the BSO musicians might benefit from giving it a read.
All four articles in the series are worth your time:
0 thoughts on “Musicians Behaving Badly?”
They might give the article a read, but don’t hold your breath for change. Anyone that has seen orchestral pops concerts, youth concerts or classical concerts where a conductor, typically young, hasn’t captured the enthusiasm of the players has seen this before.
Some players will never get, or care, that this makes them look bad and shows contempt for their audience.
I can’t say that I’m going to disagree with any of that but I’d like to remain optimistic and say that perhaps this will be a turning point.
I just saw your post, Drew. If the report about the musicians’ behavior is true then it is even more disgraceful since the “young conductor” referred to was Sean Newhouse (BSO assistant conductor) who was the last- minute emergency replacement for the ailing James Levine.
One would think that the orchestra would go out of its way to make the concert go well, considering the diffcult situation Maestro Newhouse was facing.
I think disgraceful is too strong of a term to use here whereas unprofessional or inappropriate are likely more accurate alternatives. What the review doesn’t make crystal clear is what the critic felt was the reason the violins were acting the way he reported. However, it would be fascinating to learn more about his observations.
Yes, there are a few musicians whose behavior needs to be attended to on occasion. But about 10-12 years ago and in my opinion, a movement began here in Saint Paul where all of a sudden most musicians, nationwide, were misbehavers and bad players. Leaders in management therefore had cause to create this new model you are seeing now. A thread of truth blown way out of proportion to serve a higher purpose? In my opinion most professional musicians in this country play and work their hearts out. Attitudinal change must occur within an entire organization and should be exemplified from the top as well as the bottom, which is where musicians seem to be heading these days. People, open your hearts!