Letters from Europe: Part Four

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You are not going to believe this!!!

I tell students and musicians to always do their best, because you NEVER know who’s in the audience. So the concert went well, and Emil was very pleased with the performance. The orchestra and I hit it off and had a great time together. Story over right? WRONG!!!

Unbeknownst to me and Emil, there was an international music conference in town attending the concert. It was the European equivalent to the “League of American Orchestras.” There were delegates from England, Germany, Norway, France, Hungary, Bulgaria and who knows from where else?

So I waltz into this post party reception totally unprepared for the crowd I was about to meet. Everybody was terrific and extremely friendly. Naturally we talked shop about the industry for hours afterwards and learned that life is much the same in the European music world as it is in the States. The most pressing matters that they are currently addressing revolve around collective bargaining and labor law—where have I heard that before? Another issue concerned rehearsal schedules and their inherent fiscal and artistic efficiencies (or lack thereof).

When I first started my rehearsals with the Slovakian State Orchestra, I was taken aback by their schedule. You see in North America, it’s standard that all rehearsals are two-and-a-half hours long with a fifteen minute break. In Kosice they have three different rehearsal protocols: a three-hour rehearsal with a thirty minute break, a three-and-a-half hour rehearsal with two breaks (twenty-five and ten minutes), or a four-hour rehearsal with two longer breaks (thirty and twenty-five minutes). Of course the important caveat is that musicians here are paid by the hour, and not by the service (FYI a service is a two-and-a-half hour chunk of time that American orchestras organize themselves into). Talking to Mark, a representative from London, English ensembles are gravitating towards the four-hour model as they budget for six-hours from first rehearsal to end of concert. That pretty much floored me!

Regardless, the concert was a huge success, the audience very receptive, and to quote Denny Redmond, “it was an excellent time NOT to suck in public.”