There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guide to Musicians in the Wild

Anyone who has ever participated in an amateur band or orchestra becomes familiar with a similar roster of musicians. Stereotypical these descriptions may be, but stereotypes would not exist without a plethora of real life examples. The following is a list of the musicians you will be likely to find in your community band or orchestra.

Casey Concertmaster: First chair violinist in the orchestra or first chair clarinet in the band, this personage elevates the concept of big frog in a small pond to a near art form. Always eager to demonstrate their superiority to the rank and file as well as insinuating not so subtly that the conductor can't possibly appreciate the difficulties of their instrument, they are always bouncing out of their chair to correct tuning, demonstrate bowing, question the judgment of first chair players in other sections and in general produce a constant undercurrent of irritation in their peers.

Tracey Tenthumbs (percussionist): These people began dropping equipment in elementary school and have been honing their clumsiness ever since. They stand surrounded by an array of implements of cacophony that they cannot resist fumbling with even when their current task is simply to do nothing and do it silently. As they grow older and more skilled their intrusions into the softest most delicate passages of music grow from simple stick dropping in their tender years to the upsetting of trap tables, falling into bell trees, drop kicking cymbals and flinging wood blocks onto timpani heads as they mature. There is no end to their creativity and they can be counted on to introduce some new mood crushing burst of noise at the most inopportune musical moments.

Auntie Authority: Usually a geriatric member of the string section, considers longevity to be the equivalent of wisdom and wastes no time letting everyone in the orchestra know that she is in general disagreement with everyone else including the conductor and concertmaster. Often echoes conductorial instructions as if in disbelief: Conductor "This section is in three." AA (incredulous): "It's in three?"

Lynn Lookatme: Often a dual role with Auntie Authority, Lynn Lookatme loses no opportunity to hold up the rehearsal with trivial questions to the conductor on issues that have long since been resolved. Many of these questions are held in reserve until the dress rehearsal. If the opportunity seems right, Lynn stands to ask these questions so no one will be in doubt as to who is so diligent. Other attention grabbing devices include standing and looking around aimlessly, turning around in the chair to demonstrate one of her favorite technical quirks (for a string playing Lynn an unneeded bowing demonstration is always good for an interruption) or asking a question immediately after it has already been answered.

Tommy Trombone: Tommy has neither any ability to count nor even a particle of relative pitch sense. At rehearsals he will reliably either come in early or fail to come in at all. When Tommy does make an entrance the notes emanating from his instrument are likely to be aleatoric (musician-speak = random). In spite of being the frequent target of correction by the conductor, Tommy remains unfailingly cheerful.

Vick Volume: Always a brass player and most often a trumpeter, no matter how early Vick arrives for rehearsal he will warm up without letup until the rehearsal starts and always at a fortissimo level. Vick seldom occurs alone and is often in the company of Lee Leatherlip who has the same warm up habits. The faulty intonation of some woodwind players is often due to hearing damaged by sitting in front of these two.

Owen OCD: Will invariably be an oboist. Anyone who can deal with the dreaded oboe reed has to be OCD.

Ashley Airhead: Always friendly, agreeable and technically highly skilled Ashley drifts into other planes of existence during rests and is constantly surprised upon missing entrances. Frequently found in flute sections.

Lesley Latecomer: (may be related to Lynn Lookatme) Lesley cannot make it to rehearsal on time. Has no conflicting appointments or emergencies. Just cannot get their ducks in a row because a total lack of organization. Has absolutely no shame or consideration for others. Week after week arrives after rehearsal has begun and then proceeds to step on feet, knock over stands, kick instruments and bang their instrument on other's heads on the way to their chair.

Darby the Delusional Diva: Under the impression that they are so skilled that they do not need to show up for rehearsal they attend 20% or less of rehearsals ensuring that at some time during the performance they will make an gaffe obvious to everyone in the audience. This does nothing to change their high opinion of themselves. Darby thrives in an atmosphere of permissive conductors and gutless boards of directors.

This brief menagerie is made up of the ones that come quickly to mind. Anyone have any favorites to add?