You Made It!
You are playing in an orchestral section. First of all, congratulations! There are so many cello players out there, but YOU are part of the section. It doesn’t really matter if it is a paid position or not, being part of an orchestra can be a thrilling experience. Here are a few tips that I feel are really important to remember when you are part of an orchestra. This can vary slightly based on different circumstances, but I feel a lot these can be universally be applied.
1. Be early.
Don’t be one of those players that arrives like 5 seconds before the tuning A is played. Having a calm arrival can help smooth things over with your stand partner, especially if it is not someone you know.
2. Have a pencil.
While you are sharing a stand of music, it is ok to put in some of your own markings into the music. And you NEED to mark in bowings, articulations that the principal stand is doing. AKA don’t make your stand partner do everything, and two hands are always faster than one.
3. Always keep an eye out for the stand in front of you.
If everyone is paying attention to the principal cellist, then you should be grabbing bowings from the stand in front of you if it is different from what you have.
4. Give your partner space, but don’t compromise your own.
It is always hard sharing a stand. You want to have enough space to bow, but you also have to be sure to see the music AND the conductor. Try to make sure you are comfortable, but that you are also not hitting your stand partner.
5. Don’t be THAT person.
No one wants to hear you practicing your solo stuff during orchestra. NO ONE.
6. Turn on time.
If you are the page turner, make sure you drop out so you turn in time. Check to make sure your stand partner is good with your page turning. It is really aggravating to lose measures over the fact that someone is not efficient turning pages.
7. Keep the ego in check.
You are not the principal cellist~ you are part of the crowd. So no snarky comments, or “doing your thing”. You are hired to be part of the section, and not a leader of the group. In fact, you should do what the principal cellist tells you unless the conductor says something different. There is a reason why they are the section leader and you have to respect that.
8. Learn your part.
This should be a given that you know how to play your music. But sometimes I see the mentality that because they are not the principal player that they can just “wing it”. This WILL come back to haunt you so just be prepared. People are naturally judgey and talk, so if they hear your can’t play your part, they may not hire you for other gigs. Trust me, impressions are made on your playing and you never know when just being prepared can put you on the list of musicians that other musicians recommend.
9. Assume it is you.
As you are rehearsing/playing if you hear something funky, just assume it was you playing out of tune. Nothing comes out of evil looks or glares, or who you “might” think was the wrong player~ even if you think it was your stand partner.
10. Be friendly, but respectful.
No one said you have to love the person you are sharing a stand with. But it doesn’t help to be rude, or condescending either. Some people are chatty, and some people are quiet. You don’t have to share your life story, and neither does your stand partner. You just have to always be a decent human being so your work can be efficient and of high quality.
These are just a few tips that I think are important when you are part of an orchestra. A lot of these are common sense, but you would be surprised of how many musicians just sort of blow off some of these tips. Just remember if you set a good example yourself, others will notice. You don’t have to be concerned about others who are not your section leader. Only if they are truly harming your ability to play and be professional should you speak up and perhaps either talk to your section leader or the personnel manager directly. If there are other tips that you think I have missed be sure to list them below!