Entire Nonsense About The Coming Musician Shortage

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This is exceedingly precious and thereby falls into error:

Orchestras will face talent shortage due to Covid rules on music lessons, Royal Philharmonic warns

Nonsense. The country hasn’t been short of musicians good enough for orchestral playing since the invention of the long playing record and it’s not going to be either.

Britain’s orchestras will face a shortage of homegrown talent in a decade due to the devastating impact of coronavirus on music lessons, the head of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has said.

Is music education going to be a little more difficult? Sure it is. Not being able to play brass or woodwind in ensemble rather removes the point of much playing of those instruments for example. Certainly it takes away much of the fun – and I write as someone who went quite a long way down the route to being capable of orchestral playing. Not all the way, admittedly, but that was more a matter of application than lack of the necessary skill.

Because there’s a secret about this. Yes, orchestral musicians do need to be good at the playin’ the instrument thing. But not that good. It’s entirely possible to carry the second trumpet stand, or the third violin, at about the sort of level of technical ability represented by Grade VI. The sort of technical ability a fundamentally sound player might reach at 15 or 16. OK, mebbe a little dismissive there but anyone who can pass Grade VIII (which is more a test of actual musicianship than it is of technical ability on the instrument) can do it. Add in a couple of years of actual experience of ensemble playing and you’re there.

Sure, that leaves the first stand still looking a little bare. And soloists, that’s another matter entirely – there needs to be a certain level of actual talent there.

The truth being that we’re awash with people who have the technical chops to be able to play in orchestras. It being only those technical chops that lessons actually inculcate, they don’t create the natural talent needed for the higher levels. We can even prove this. For the world is indeed awash with people who have been through the Grade system, into musical performance degrees and who are entirely technically proficient. And who end up working all their lives as peripatetic teachers to 5 year olds simply because there are many, many, more at that level of skill who the orchestral system just doesn’t have places for.

This is also why music is such a lousily paid career except at those very tiptopmost levels. As an example, among my siblings and cousins there are certainly two who could have made it – in fact did – to that technical level. One even produced a TV show theme – that was bought and used – with his a capella group. Me, the third, could certainly have gone on to hold down the second or third trumpet stand in a big band, if not perhaps a classical orchestra. Why did none of us do it further, as a career? Because the money’s shit because so many people can do this. It’s also intensely boring at that level as well.

We’re not going to run out of orchestral players simply because the usual oversupply is so vast. Third cello just ain’t something difficult to find.

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Michael van der RietjghBloke on M4john77Bloke in North Dorset Recent comment authors
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Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

The musicians at the very to aren’t taught as much as coached and supported. Yes they need to learn some of the technical stuff early on but that comes relatively easy. They have something about them that won’t be dimmed by Covid induced lack of teaching, in some ways that lack of teaching may even free them to be more relaxed and even better musicians.

We might also see something similar in sport, especially football, which is renowned for over coaching youngters, although that does appear to be easing anyway.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I used to work with a guy who would occasionally go off early to go and play french horn with the LSO. They’d have someone off sick and he’d pop out at 4 to get a train to London. He was up to standard.

Even with the soloists, very few people in the audience would notice the difference between the well-known named soloists and someone else. I doubt most listeners could tell the difference between Itzhak Perlman playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and the top 10 violinists in Bratislava.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

One of the civil servants I worked with played the bassoon, apparently there was such a shortage she was always in demand. She claimed she was very good, but there aren’t that many taking it up. Never LSO that I’m aware but some serious orchestras nonetheless. I wonder if you guy also benefited from playing an instrument that didn’t have a deep pool of players?

john77
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john77

Bearing in mind that Bratislava has an opera house which provided good music at subsidised prices during and post the Soviet occupation of (Czecho)Slovakia that’s an odds-on bet. I certainly couldn’t tell the difference.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I picked Bratislava because quite a lot of Naxos recordings used them. But I could have appled the same to 100 countries.

Barks
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Barks

It’s getting too easy for Tim to find toes to step on with all the coronavirus nonsense out there. Entertaining, though. These musicalists are simply setting the stage for their next step which will be “we need more funding” to reverse this terrible problem.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

Surely they can fund them with the savings from defunding the police. (Fair Usage Warning: You Are Being Stirred.)

john77
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john77

The number of good quality amateur orchestras with instrumentalists of almost all ages suggests that there will be no shortage of potential members of professional orchestras for three or four decades – at least!

jgh
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jgh

It’s the whole “Recession == general drop in incomes, but ensure my income isn’t among the general drop in incomes” complaint.