American Orchestras Emulate European Tradition

“Darling, let your fingers travel without clutching tightly. It will make the fingerboard seem half as long. . . . I want to hear a soprano, and then a tenor singing in response — imagine a song with words to it. And here there’s a little bit of a sigh: don’t be afraid to slide — it gives the violin a wonderful chance to sing”

Josef Gingold

By the time I began taking violin auditions in the mid-1970s, many major American symphony orchestras were offering fulltime employment, or nearly so, including the benefits of job security, insurance, and a small pension. Even as a young, idealistic student, I could imagine a profession in an orchestra, and I was determined to achieve economic independence and professional fulfillment.

I had grown up in Spokane, Washington (population 161,721), in midcentury America, at the time when most major orchestras performed twenty-four to twenty-six weeks annually and paid barely a living wage to their musicians. The Lawrence Welk Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Huntley-Brinkley Report were the favorite family television programs, and hometown boy Bing Crosby was my mother’s favorite crooner.

Music filled our home. My older brother, Larry, played the clarinet and, in his first major experiment playing records and tinkering with electronics (which became his profession), loudly cranked out Les Paul and Mary Ford, and Chet Atkins, on 78 RPM vinyl discs on the 1939 Seeburg Classic jukebox in our basement. He remembers getting yelled at from upstairs, above the din of our roller skates, to turn it down. My sister, Jane, was advancing quickly on the violin, and my father played the guitar as a hobby. My mother, a professional violinist, proved the most steadfast and patient influence on my own musical development. Both parents made it clear to Jane and me (I was easily distracted) from an early age that they would not force us to practice, but costly private instruction depended upon our commitment to a daily practice regimen and regular preparation for our weekly lessons.

… the complete text is available in “More Than Meets The Ear”