On being a musician and a human

Quite often at different playing events musicians are asked questions such as “How did your group meet?”, “How long have musicians known each other?”, and other questions that will show people the relationships between the musicians. 

It is a somewhat interesting issue from a “get along” and “not get along” point of view. Whether or not the musicians in the same group get along with each other can greatly affect their performance level.  I have performed with groups that reflect both sides. 

Only this past summer a violist was needed to play at a wedding in Pittsburgh and I got the job. By any standards of professional classical musician, the music for the wedding ceremony was very easy.  The musicians played the famous “Canon in D”, “Wedding March”, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and other very standard wedding pieces. In my opinion, we sounded pretty bad and if I were the bride or the guests at this ceremony, I would have formed a very low opinion of the musicians. Why? Possibly because two of the four musicians in that string quartet (myself and a cellist) did not know the other two violin players. When we arrived at the site of the ceremony, the cellist and I have introduced ourself to each other. Upon our mutual attempts to introduce ourselves to the two violin players, we were met with somewhat cold attitude, both players barely said “hello” to us. In fact, one of the violinists did not make eye contact.  They continued to chat amongst themselves as best friends while the cellist and I tried to figure out where the negative attitude came from.  That set a very negative tone for the following an hour and a half of the wedding ceremony, during which even the easiest music just did not sound well. I don’t think it was only my opinion.

In most cases, after playing for such a long time, the guests will come up to us expressing their thanks and liking of our performance. It did not happen this time. Moreover, at the end of the job, even one of the violinists muttered “well, that was rough..” I am sure she did not even realize that her ignorance and unwelcome attitude towards the two “new” musicians played a major role in the outcome of the performance. 

Within the music groups that I organize in my business, we had a string quartet job outside of Pittsburgh, about an hour away.  The entire string quartet car pooled in the same car! We all talked and laughed on the way to the gig, talking about music, lives, children, politics, dogs…. We had to play somewhat challenging music that was arranged for our musicians on request: “Here Comes The Sun”, “Paperback Writer”, “If I fell in love with you”. These are not standard pieces for classical musicians, nor are they very difficult. However, they do require the musicians to pay a bit more attention while playing.  Our string quartet sounded fantastic that day! We could not leave afterwards – people crowded us and were asking questions about music, where we were from… I handed out close to twenty business cards. It was one of the best string quartet performances and everyone, especially the musicians knew it and felt it! 

These situations have proved to me again and again that as much as possible it is important upon forming a group to put together musicians that get along with each other.  

As a result, not only I try to put together musicians of the highest level technically, but also those that get along with each other which turns out to be a very important part of any performance.

United Methodist Church – Homer City, PA

Category: Venue Reviews

This place is a bit of a drive for musicians, about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh. The church has beautiful artwork on the inside, we played here on the Memorial Day weekend for a wedding ceremony. The families were very nice to us, but it seemed a bit odd that the person administering the ceremony never said a word to musicians, not even a hello..