Plays well with others

ok, this was written in a dayquil haze, so if it doesn’t make sense, that’s why…

Well, on most days. You’d think from the title that I might be talking about my kids, but not today. Today it’s me.

For almost two years, I have played in a community orchestra. The orchestra has improved greatly in the time I’ve been there. Our conductor is really great, and the music we are playing is increasing in sophistication with each concert. By this I mean more original edition classical pieces, advanced pop pieces, and full film suites (which are fun, btw), and not necessarily more difficult pieces. Difficulty is relative when it comes to a particular part in the score. Some pieces have ridiculously difficult brass and wind parts, while the strings are snoring, and vice versa. For the most part, playing with this orchestra is a satisfying experience.

Except for one thing. There is this one family that has been part of the group since the orchestra was founded. And I mean family in that there are nine children in it, six of which play in the orchestra with their father. As you can guess these are very hyper-conservative Christian types, complete with long skirts and long hair. They are a very talented bunch and are a fine asset to the orchestra. That being said, I think they are holding the orchestra back. They are forcing their values onto the orchestra by influencing music selection and performance.

Last season, we had selected a Duke Ellington piece which would be played at our concert in Sun City, Texas. Quite appropriate, given the demographic (which makes me wonder if they will come up with a Duran Duran suite for the Gen-xers, but I digress). These seven musicians, and about five others who share similar values, refused to rehearse or play that piece because of the “questionable morals” of Duke Ellington and jazz. They sat there, instruments in their laps, while the rest of the orchestra played. Twelve musicians out of 75, mostly in the strings. It was noticed.

Questionable morals? Hello? Have they not been paying attention to the lives of the great composers? I then come to find out that some pieces for Christmas were nixed because they could be objectionable to this family. That really got me. Recently we were told that we would not be playing the film score to “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the spring as originally planned. It wasn’t announced that they were the reason, but when I inquired, the response was, “Who do you think objected?” I’m particularly annoyed by that one because it was expensive for the orchestra to acquire and we don’t have a lot of financial resources.

On the one hand, I admire them for standing up for their values and refusing to participate in something that offends them. On the other hand they joined a community orchestra that serves, well, the community. We are performing to the community standard. The community is going to expect a certain type of performance and this group is starting to prevent that from happening.

I don’t think there is anything I can do about it. And a (large) part of me thinks I am blowing this out of proportion. But people did ask me what the deal was at that concert with all of those people not playing. We may be a community group, but we can still act professionally, and that concert was not professional.

What’s your take on this? Have any of you been in a similar situation? Have you ever been in a group that, in an attempt not to offend its members, endangered or could not complete its mission?


8 responses to “Plays well with others

  1. This, in my humble and subjective opinion, is a case of PC run amuck.

    If they can’t get along with the group, they need to leave.

    You guys can respect their beliefs, and take the attitude of free to be you and me and that’s all well and good until we get to team activities.

    At this point? They ARE being bullies.

    Your gut is right.

    I’m not sure what to do, but…they are out of line. You aren’t being crazy.


    Using My Words

  2. I agree, if it’s a community group then I would say that if certain people get a say in what you play, then everyone in the group should be entitled to a vote, especially if it involves any advanced planning and expenditures.

    I’m going to be polite and leave it at that.

  3. I agree with Julie… They are being bullies!

    And I agree with Stepford Mom… Everyone should be entitled to an equal vote. So, do you (and if not, why don’t you) all vote on what you’ll play? I would think that if you agree to play in the Community Orchestra, you agree to play whatever the group decides to play. Just like if we agree to live in the US, we have to put up with their crappy president. 🙂 Maybe there are enough of them that they’d win that fight anyway, but maybe not.

    And the thing that’s most annoying to me is the inconsistency. Duke Ellington is not OK, but the classical composers who were out having illegitimate children and shacking up with married women and such are not? And WTF is wrong with Pirates of the Caribbean? There’s nothing dirty in those at all, other than the obnoxious innuendo by Johnny Depp.

  4. They may be bullies, and you may disagree with their stance, but I am a proponent of pragmatism. When stuff like this happens to me, I remind myself that the only person I can change is myself.

    Really, the kids are going to do what the parents tell them to do, and the parents cannot can’t be reasoned with in the traditional sense. I would be surprised if they are able to comprehend the illogic of their stance, as noted by other commenters.

    So it comes down to how badly do you feel about it, and what are you willing to do? Incite mutiny to have them kicked out? Think carefully through other undesirable consequences of that action. Or is it frustrating, but really you like the other music you play that they are willing to play also, and so maybe the Duke isn’t worth falling on your sword over?

    On a lighter note, you might enjoy reading this book I recently finished: The Book of Fred: A Novel.

  5. That’s a tough one, for sure. But it does seem that the orchestra is going in the direction of a few, rather than the majority. Problems with the Duke? And you make a good point – all those composers and musicians from hundreds of years back, were NOT saints. And for them to refuse to play or rehearse while they’re right there; not much community spirit.
    I guess you have to ask yourself if you want to do something about it, if you’re alone in this? Does this affect the future progress of the orchestra; eg. I’m assuming that you get some revenues from the concerts. Will the concert playlist being picked apart and potentially stifled because of their beliefs, affect things etc.
    Tough situation as they are among the founding members.
    On another note, I would be so THERE for a Duran Duran suite 🙂

  6. I doubt that their stance is as much moral as it is cultural.

    In their minds, Duke Ellington’s music wasn’t for them, it was for THOSE people.

    I mean, really. How can instumental music have a moral value?

  7. Have you tried talking to the music director about this? Maybe everyone could sit down together and talk. A community orchestra should reflect the community. I was in a community orchestra for a season, and there was a problem with one member (Jehovah’s Witness) not being able to be in the same room when we played Christmas music. So he left the stage; we played the Christmas music; then he returned.

    Not all classical music was/is warmly welcomed in its time. Some was thought to be wild or otherwise inappropriate. A few years ago, I read a book that claimed it was unwise to let the teenagers hear Ravel’s Bolero, as it would incite them to have sex.

    I think Gunfighter makes an excellent point. If this is a matter of racial prejudice, someone should say something.

  8. I think that in the end, there are times when, in an attempt not to offend or hurt a small group of people, you hurt the group at large. Society ought to try to protect the individual, but if we do so at the expense of the rest, we, in essence, end up hurting a much larger group of individuals. I think that this is the problem with this family. Maybe they could schedule a certain song after an intermission?

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