Is job-sharing the future for orchestras?

Is job-sharing the future for orchestras?


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2011

The Scots have just announced another coup. They have hired not one but two new concertmasters for the RNSO.

But watch the small print.

James Clark is already leader of the Phil in Liverpool. He will do both jobs in future.

Maya Iwabuchi plays for the Mobius Ensemble and is listed as one of the concertmasters at the Philharmonia in London since 1994.

What’s going on here? I know that swagger bands like Berlin and Vienna have rotating concertmasters, generally because to get the leader they want they need to fit into his or her busy solo and teaching career. But lower down the celebrity chain, in smaller states and cities, the resident concertmaster is a really important feature and prominent citizen in the life of a society and its orchestra. See here.

So: whatever happened to the fulltime concertmaster?

What does an orchestra gain from part-timers?

Why does a proud band like the Phil need to share its striker? (You can bet the football club would never do that).

Can’t the RNSO find the right concertmaster in the whole of Scotland that it has to make a cross-border raid?

What happens to an orchestra’s brand when you never know who its prowhead is going to be?

You tell me…

Here’s the press release:

James Clark and Maya Iwabuchi appointed Leaders of the RSNO
Two of the UK’s finest orchestral musicians commit to Scotland’s national symphony orchestra


James Clark and Maya Iwabuchi have been appointed Leaders of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). The appointments make them the nineteenth and twentieth Leaders since the Orchestra began in 1891, and the first time in the Orchestra’s history that two musicians share the leadership of Scotland’s national symphony orchestra.


James and Maya will be familiar to regular RSNO attenders. Scottish-born James was recruited as RSNO Principal Guest Leader, a newly-created position, in June 2010 but has now accepted the invitation to increase his commitment to the Orchestra – he will now appear with the RSNO for up to half of the orchestral year. James’ position runs in tandem with his role at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO), where he has been Leader since 2005. James has previously held leader positions with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) and more recently the Philharmonia Orchestra.


Maya has appeared with the RSNO as guest leader many times over the past year and has a wealth of experience as an orchestral and chamber musician. She has worked with James Clark for many years, leading the Philharmonia Orchestra since 1994. Maya has also been performing as a member of the Mobius Ensemble from 2004. She will be leading the RSNO next week for its Naked Classics concerts in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.


Alongside their performance duties James and Maya will play a role in the organisation’s audition and appointment process, allowing the RSNO to benefit from their experience in the orchestral world.


RSNO Acting Chief Executive Kenneth Osborne: “The appointments of James and Maya are hugely significant and key to the RSNO’s continued development. These outstanding musicians’ track-records speak for themselves – they are two of the best orchestral musicians in Europe. Both James’ period as Principal Guest Leader and Maya’s as guest leader have made a major impact on the Orchestra and their leadership, both onstage and behind-the-scenes, will continue to bring concrete, tangible and satisfying results.”


RSNO Leader James Clark: “It is a marvellous honour to be appointed the Leader of this exciting organisation. With Maya, whom I have known and worked with for many years, I see many opportunities waiting to be explored and hopefully our long experience as leaders will give us the chance to further grow the Orchestra musically and dynamically. I certainly look forward to carry on working with Stéphane Denève for his final year as RSNO Music Director and I welcome Peter Oundjian, with whom I have already enjoyed working, and who I know will be a source of inspiration to us and a great benefit to audiences across Scotland.”


RSNO Leader Maya Iwabuchi: “’The wonderful musicians and staff of the RSNO have made me feel so welcome as guest leader and in the past year I have been impressed with, and moved by, their pride and passion for the organisation. I particularly admire the RSNO’s commitment in bringing new and younger audiences to the concert hall to experience the thrills of live performance. And I am especially pleased to work alongside Jim Clark again, with whom I’ve shared many invaluable collegial moments over the years.  I very much look forward to my future with the RSNO.”





  • It’s a very interesting discussion Norman.
    We have 4 leaders in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The main reason for this is that some payers feel better suited to certain specific repertoires.
    Alison Bury for example prefers and feels more confident when leading baroque rep and Matthew Truscott is comfortable from baroque to the later stuff, eg Wagner with Rattle last summer.
    It’s probably slightly different with period instrument orchestras, due to the subtle changes in the equipment we use, which also includes stylistic considerations. We would not use the same bow for Bach as we would for Berlioz for example.
    But I agree with you with the football club comparison entirely.
    We do have ‘situations’ sometimes when, say John E Gardiner has a big gig on that clashes with one of ours, as some of our players play for him too. Therefore, because his band has much less work throughout the year than us, these players sometimes decide to play for him on these occasions.
    Like many things, orchestras now are becoming something of a melting pot, which is a shame to a degree… as the more individual we sound the better, surely?

  • John Summers says:

    Norman – the Halle has had two leaders on a 70/30 split for years (Lyn Fletcher and Paul Barritt) and it has worked really well. Given the pressure on much of the work they have to do – and the preparation – it is the best solution. Iin my view it is, for a number of reasons, much better than having the Number 2 sit up. PS before you ask they are only paid for the work they do!

  • Hello Norman

    At Liverpool we have had joint leaders since 2005 with Thelma Handy and James Clark sharing the role equally. It has worked superbly for us – we have two outstanding leaders, both performing at the top of their game and recognised as such both by the Orchestra and audiences. They have been central to our musical growth over that period and I doubt we could have acheived the same if we had insisted on one full time Leader. I think adopting this kind of flexible approach makes a lot of sense these days and, certainly in our experience, works both for the Orchestra and the musicians involved.