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Many of you probably know about, or are perhaps even part of, couples who work at the same business.  You may also know about couples who work in the same group or department at said business.  Symphony orchestras are no different in that regard, including the one based here.  A blog post this week from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch illustrates this point, c/o the classical critic Sarah Bryan Miller, from the “Culture Club” blog here:

“Big changes are coming to the viola section of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: the SLSO has announced the appointments of three players.

One of them will up the number of married couples in the orchestra to seven: Jonathan Chu, the just-named assistant principal viola, is married to principal viola Beth Guterman Chu.”

One might think “no big deal”, except that if you know how orchestra players get their jobs, this situation becomes kind of interesting to wonder about (if hardly without precedent in human history).  More below the flip…..

Miller has a decently high-level summary explanation of how the orchestra audition process works from this article earlier this year about the gender proportions in the St. Louis Symphony:

"Since the mid-1970s, orchestra musicians have usually played the preliminary rounds of auditions from behind a screen, so that race and gender aren’t obvious. They walk on a long strip of carpet, so the clacking of high-heeled shoes doesn’t give anything away. It’s made a big difference in merit hiring."
So in principle, the audition process should not bias against or for anyone based on gender or race, or any other surface attribute.  But it does make one think about what transpired in this particular circumstance, looking back after the whole process has been completed, given the family connection between the new assistant principal viola and the principal viola.  For the record, the official Symphony announcement about the appointment of the three new violists does not mention the family connection at all.  But it does allude to a complicating factor in the story, in the opening to Jonathan Chu’s biography:
"Jonathan Chu has been a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra viola section since the start of the 2013-2014 season."
In parallel, Beth Guterman Chu has been with the St. Louis Symphony since January 2013, the midst of the 2012-2013 season.  So in other words, for some time, BGC and JC have had to deal with a long-distance marriage, complicated by the fact that they have a kid.  In that context, it makes perfect sense that one partner would want to try to get a job in the same city as the other.  But if you’re a classical musician, then the number of professional institutions in that regard in any area (even NYC) is extremely limited.  In the case of St. Louis, in terms of a large classical music institution, there’s pretty much only one option.

Also, given current market economics, there are many, many, many more trained classical musicians than there are orchestras to absorb them.  It’s not too much of a guess to imagine that the SLSO got hundreds of applications, from all over the country, for the 3 open viola positions.  And it’s perfectly possible that all 3 eventual winners auditioned, in effect, for any of the 3 open positions, with one of them just happening to be the assistant principal viola, which is in effect the 3rd in command post in any given orchestra section.

But think back to the earlier passage about the merit basis of orchestra auditions.  Thus, in principle, the family connection should not have played a role in JC winning the assistant principal viola position.  And things could well have turned out that JC would have won simply a viola section spot (still an impressive achievement on its own), and one of the other two folks would have won the assistant principal viola spot.  But we don’t know for sure, and no one is going to admit anything publicly, of course.  This puts things in the realm of pointless idle speculation (fitting for 3CM the loser).

Ultimately, things turned out well for JC and BGC here, since once next season starts, the whole long-distance marriage situation is set aside.  Plus, for the orchestra overall, the viola section is more solidified with these new hires.  (The long-term global challenge remains of getting more people to attend orchestra concerts in general, but that’s a whole separate mega-ball of wax.)

With that, Happy Memorial Day weekend, and time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week……

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Comment Preferences

  •  latest autobot post (9+ / 0-)

    Never seems to stop, does it?  Should be back later to reply to and mojo comments (all 4 of them).

    So, from here; was biking home one day, saw something on the pavement that looked like a nice, shiny quarter.  Stopped and picked it up.  It was a nice, shiny....one Renminbi coin.  Funny the long journey it took all the way from China.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 03:37:17 PM PDT

  •  One assumes a violist in the BSO (4+ / 0-)

    has a higher salary + benefits than an assistant principal violist in the SLO. And, perhaps the SLO principal violist auditioned for the BSO but was not hired.

    •  I'm sure the BSO salary is higher than..... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shari, Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest

      .....the SLSO, not to mention being a 52-week contract rather than a 42 or so week contract that the SLSO has.  But the BSO has Tanglewood in the summer, not to mention the Boston Pops.  Plus, if nothing else, the 10 weeks remaining allows the SLSO musicians to scatter to pastures diverse, which kind of works out that way.  Of course, they have to figure out health insurance during those summer spaces.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:24:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  8 years. Open 6 days a week. Commute as short (5+ / 0-)

    as Obama's. It is amazing that we have not killed each other. Running a business as a couple is tough. I think the SLSO viola section will be just fine. Thanks C3 for another great SNLC. The only loser story I have this week is the bees who set up camp in a willow tree dead smack in the middle of the RV park. Our grounds maintenance guy is a beekeeper. Even he decided that there was no way to get them out of there. sigh. So soap and water (death to bees). It sucks. And of course the folks that came in on Friday, camped one RV site away from the tree have a kid allergic to bee stings. So I guess we did the right thing but it just f'n kills me to have to off the bees.

    if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

    by mrsgoo on Sat May 24, 2014 at 08:48:56 PM PDT

    •  I am SO sorry. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chingchongchinaman, shari, mrsgoo

      I don't know what else to say. Everybody is trying to save bees, and you want to off them.

      I do understand your situation. But...is it impossible to move them?

      English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

      by Youffraita on Sat May 24, 2014 at 09:12:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess the RV people don't necessarily...... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Youffraita, shari, RiveroftheWest, mrsgoo

        ......want to off the bees, to give the people the benefit of the doubt.  It just sounds as though there's no other convenient option.  Bad inadvertent choice by the bees back then.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:20:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Chop the tree down. It's an old willow and they (2+ / 0-)

        are in the main trunk. sigh.

        if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

        by mrsgoo on Sun May 25, 2014 at 05:57:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  sorry about the bee mess (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shari, RiveroftheWest, mrsgoo

      As mentioned below, unfortunate accidental choice of real estate by the buzzers back in the day.  Would be nice to save them somehow, but just doesn't sound feasible.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:25:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, 3cm and all! (5+ / 0-)

    My new boss (who is actually the boss who hired me in the first place) doesn't think anyone should have to work every weekend. Which will screw up my work schedule, but means I can be around in real time some nights.

    Like tonight. ;-D

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Sat May 24, 2014 at 09:16:06 PM PDT

    •  but that sounds sensible, not to have to work..... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, shari, RiveroftheWest

      ......every weekend :) .  Of course, if you like having mid-week days off, then that's another matter.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:18:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I DO like being off (4+ / 0-)

        when everyone else is ON: case in point, went to market today and it's Saturday so the place is packed. Go on Tuesday, and...well...it ain't dead, but you also aren't rubbing elbows with most of the city.

        OTOH, it'll be nice to attend a few street fairs -- not that we have that many -- but maybe I can catch one this year. If I work every weekend, there is no chance of going to one.

        English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

        by Youffraita on Sun May 25, 2014 at 12:03:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  interesting (4+ / 0-)

    One imagines how it must be to share a stand as a couple. And what a nightmare it would be if there is a divorce.

    It says a lot of JC that he got the assistant principal spot and not just a regular seat.

    However, I have issues with fairness, meaning I would like the world to be fair and it really is not. I hope that the  SLO violists were chosen fairly.

    •  well, they won't be sharing a music stand, as.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shari, Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest

      ......there is an associate principal viola in between the principal viola and the assistant principal viola.  So the asst. principal is one music stand behind the principal.

      I too would prefer to think that the selection process was totally 100.000000% fair and above board.  Appearances probably would have been less of a concern if JC had just won a section position, IMHO.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:18:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hi (3+ / 0-)

    Early to bed again.  Feeling better each day.  But I will not be a night owl for a while yet.

    Grandbabies are coming in a few minutes.  :)

    Best wishes to all here!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun May 25, 2014 at 10:18:46 AM PDT

    •  sounds good that things are improving.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, cfk

      .....post-surgery.  Given that I'm in a major autobot post phase, whenever you want to stop by is fine :) .

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 25, 2014 at 10:46:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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