Things I learned in Orchestra. I will eventually group these into logical subsections. Also, I am aware that some of this is in the first person, and some in the second.

  • Hardest lesson (still very much in progress): trust your body and don’t overthink.
  • Harder than I expected: keeping a rhythm while doing the same thing for twenty or more measures in a row (thank you , Saint-Saens and Sibelius)
  • you don’t always have the melody, you have to contribute anyway
  • you don’t have the luxury of not showing up. An orchestra is like a mosaic; every tile needs to be there to get full color (hat tip to Kelli Bertnshaw for that analogy)
  • You have to think in real time and learn how to “jump in” to a passage
  • in rehearsal, you don’t have to play all the notes (but you shouldn’t fake play any notes either)
  • mistakes are bad, but the audience cares less than you think if you make a mistake; you must keep playing.
  • your mistakes are less audible than you think
  • in a fast run, you don’t have to play all the notes. It might not always be possible (Wagner)
  • never be late to rehearsal. I never was, but came close once. It helped me be on time for other things as well.
  • pizzicato has to be perfectly in time. Also, be bold and obvious about it with your body.
  • our bodies communicate
  • finish strong, and together.
  • mistake management!
  • The conductor’s mood will improve when the piece does. Don’t take comments personally. He has to tell you the truth about your playing, because the others depend on you.
  • Don’t be afraid to go for it and make mistakes during rehearsal.
  • after you hear the music, it will make more sense.
  • be very aware of entrances; study the score to know what to listen for to indicate.
  • make sure you really “play the rests”. This is easier if you have the playing instrument’s music in your ear.
  • double flats are aren’t evil, but they can be scary to look at.
  • a beautiful chord makes it all worthwhile
  • of course, you must be in tune, but rhythm and dynamics are also critically important.
  • Be ready for the final note and hit it. Then work backwards.
  • Slow passages with long notes are actually harder. They must be in tune, with right vibrato and dynamics, because you will be heard if you mess up.

Technical Lessons

  • Use third position more, especially if you’re seeing lots of Ab, Bb.
  • Keep my fingers closer to the fingerboard for fast passages
  • Get comfortable with sixth and seventh position as well. Both the G and A (on the A string) are ringing notes. That A became a home base for me.

Protocol

  • How you act onstage is as important as the music you play
  • your relationship to the audience is formed based on what you do between pieces, how you respect each other and the conductor.
  • in service of this ideal, don’t focus so much on dignity that you come off like a Dour Dudley. You are privileged to be be able to share something beautiful with your audience. Rejoice in it.