Couple quit orchestral life amid noise and disillusion

Couple quit orchestral life amid noise and disillusion


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2019

A decision by the Nashville Symphony violinist Zeneba Bowers and her cellist husband Matt Walker to quit their jobs has provoked a good deal of discussion among US musicians. Zeneba has given their reasons, which we reproduce with her permission. Their story does not make comfortable reading:

Zeneba Bowers: Many have asked why we would leave our orchestra job, especially when the two of us are employed full time in the same ensemble. We won’t have this again: the likelihood of two jobs being open in the same orchestra at the same time, and of us winning those jobs competing against hundreds of other applicants in a screened audition is….zero. It was not a decision made lightly.

We are soon leaving Nashville, and the US, for our tiny apartment in our little town in Italy. We’ll be working there as artistic consultants, helping local institutions create and manage cultural and musical events. Part of our work will involve using our decades of experience in managing, directing, and working with many other arts organizations and individual artists – we’ll employ these skills and knowledge to create and curate performance experiences for different venues and communities. We’ll also be reaching out to our exceptional contacts in the business to bring them to Italy to perform and teach.

And of course we ourselves will still perform as well.

Taking such a huge step – the two of us quitting our full-time symphony jobs to sell our house and nearly everything we own and move overseas – has led to a huge amount of soul-searching… About music, art, work and play, and about life in general.

When I was 8, my parents took me to the Philadelphia Orchestra, in the $2 “nosebleed” section, because those were the tickets we could afford. I fell in love and decided right there I wanted to grow up to play in an orchestra. It has been my lifelong goal since then, which is why it has been so difficult to make the decision to leave.

Over my career in American orchestras, I’ve found that the proportion of pops to classical in my orchestra job has vastly shifted. I always knew Pops would be a part of my career, and in the right proportion, I found it engaging and fun. But the proportions are well out of whack, at least for what I am willing to do. Compounding that issue is the fact that the concerts have gotten louder and louder, with seemingly no reasonable solution or end in sight.

Maybe the tipping point was when I had to purchase lawn-mower-guy ear cans to use in addition to my earplugs, or maybe it was the first time I puked in the bushes in front of patrons after a concert from the concussive effects of extended exposure to extreme levels of sound. Or maybe it was just the first time that I realized that I counted down the days until the season was over, instead of what I used to do, count down the days until it began.


Turning my focus to the classical portion of our programming, I realized that something very important was missing. As I grew older and more experienced, I had more ideas and skills, not fewer. At the same time, my opportunity for contributing anything artistic seemed to shrink to zero. I wanted to contribute more than what was deemed appropriate or desirable within the string section of an orchestra. A lot of what I love about being a violinist was not appropriate in an orchestral setting: moving with the music, interacting musically with other players, choosing how to turn a phrase. It hit me like a thunderbolt when I realized that facial expressions are the only thing I have control over.

Even as a young woman starting in this business, I was never under the illusion that I’d have artistic control in an orchestra job — that’s just not the gig. It’s the primary reason I founded ALIAS – to have artistic control over my life in the form of chamber music performance and management. But over time I’ve found that the complete lack of artistic input, or opportunity for it, in this orchestra has become such an obstacle that while playing in this ensemble is something I enjoy doing, I no longer want to do it for the rest of my life as a full-time job. I know I’ll continue to grow and learn as I age and that desire to contribute will only gain steam, not dissipate. At some point it became evident that I was going to have to leave, to preserve (and continue to nurture) the passion I have for this instrument, and for orchestral music in general.

Thinking about leaving, I worried that I’d miss playing in orchestra, but then one day it hit me — I already do miss it. It was a painful revelation, but it fueled me to buckle down and really think about how I could shift my career as a musician to something that was meaningful and inspiring to me.

So for what it’s worth, I wanted to offer advice to younger musicians:
Guard your love and passion, and do what is required to save it. Think long term, and develop other skills that may sustain you in case of injury or in case you need to take a year off to recharge (or to completely shift, like me). Each skill you acquire will challenge you, but will also be a potential “escape hatch” you can use in case of “artistic emergency”.
Find opportunities for yourself to have an artistic say in things, to foster your need to choose, to interact, to contribute. Even if you do that, you may find that in order to sustain and grow your love of music, you may need to make a drastic change.

I’m not a rich person, and I don’t come from any family money. A few years ago when I began to realize that I couldn’t continue my orchestra life, I was pretty scared; after all, how else could I support myself *and* feel free? And I was doing this with my husband, who plays cello in the same orchestra as me: so we were doubly blessed with a good, steady paying job, but one that we felt stifled us artistically. We did a lot of hand wringing and soul searching, and then began to take deliberate steps: one step at a time, each getting us closer to what we hoped would be a new beginning.

Now we have stepped right over the line, and taken a huge leap of faith. We are leaving behind many colleagues that we love to perform chamber music with, and a thriving and vibrant artistic community of small, energetic, upwardly mobile ensembles. We are moving forward, a little excited, a lot panicked, a bit sad, and with a ton of gratitude, and a hope that this second phase of our careers meets the hopes and expectations we have for it.


  • Couperin says:

    Bummer for them

  • Dennis says:

    Is it common for orchestra musicians to wear earplugs while playing?

    Seems it’d be hard to keep in time, make sure you’re playing in tune, etc., if you dampen the sound significantly.

    • fierywoman says:

      It depends where the musician is sitting. The earplug doesn’t affect the sound the musician produces, it affects how the musician hears the sounds around him (and therefore how he reacts to his colleagues.) The effect is like hearing sound when you are under water. As a violist, I discovered that the vibration of the instrument went from my jaw (where I hold the instrument) to my ear: yes, it’s a very strange way to play. Many musicians have custom made earplugs.

      • Dennis says:

        I understand how earplugs work and don’t need condescending reminders that they “affect affect how the musician hears the sound” (no kidding!), and that it’s “like hearing sound when you are under water” (yes, know how things sound when using earplugs), and that they don’t affect the sound produced by the wearer as such.

        The question was whether they would make it difficult for the wearer to properly hear and respond to his fellow musicians and thus to play properly himself.

        • Me says:

          If you think you are being condescended by her perfectly clear and quite informative response you must be a very fragile soul indeed. My wife is also an orchestral violist and she too wears earplugs to protect her hearing, just like fierywoman.

        • AnnaT says:

          She wasn’t condescending at all, but you were a right ass.

        • Walter says:

          Maybe you need a condescending reminder that this person was only trying to help you!

        • Phyllis says:

          Don’t be so mean. She was taking her time to try to explain to you. She didn’t have to.

    • Karl says:

      I can’t imaging NOT wearing plugs while being in front of a trumpet.

    • Bruce says:

      I wear 27 dB noise reduction ear plugs in loud music (Shostakovich, most Pops, about 90% of Copland’s 3rd), in one or both ears. They make everything quieter, but don’t distort what comes through. I can still hear my colleagues and see the conductor. Radio broadcasts reassure me that I play as well in tune & in time as I ever did ;), and my ears & head don’t hurt the next morning.

      We had an awesome program through the musicians’ union where those of us who wanted to sign up got a free hearing exam and a pair of custom $300 earplugs for free. I got some, and they apparently filter out certain ranges or something. I found I couldn’t tell if I was playing in tune with those, so I quit wearing them after a couple of tries. The ones I use are $5 for 2 pairs at Walgreens.

    • Stefanie Przybylska says:

      It’s essential to use them if you want to have any hearing later n life.

  • My wife and I made the leap to Europe 40 years ago. And Abbie left her orchestra job 25 years ago. Both good decisions.

  • Rich Patina says:

    When I was at university we were introduced to the new viola instructor, who had most recently been a section player with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    Asked why he would make such a move, he told us that he had trained his entire life to become good enough to play in a major orchestra but after doing so for six years he finally admitted to himself that he hated it.

    This begs the question of how many orchestral players there are that would rather be doing something else but have no other training. I’m betting that it is more than a few.

  • Doug says:

    I completely agree with your assessment of the orchestral world. Good luck in Italy. Chances are, you will not be accepted in the music industry with open arms, I hope you realize that. Oh, and don’t lose your US passport. You’ll desperately want that if one of you heaven forbid becomes seriously ill. I speak not from an ideological perspective, but a practical and personal one.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Dude, let them live their own lives in the best way they see possible, and keep your rants to yourself. Anyone who would open themselves up to share such intimate feelings, fears, hopes, and concerns with the rest of the world deserves to be listened to, not lectured at let alone subjected to an ideological fart. They’re doing the best they can; maybe you should try to do so too. I’d like to think you’re a nicer person than you come across in your many snide posts on here.

    • Dennis says:

      What, do they not have doctors in Italy or the rest of Europe?

  • Ricardo says:

    Good for you! And best of luck!! I decided against an orchestral career early on (opting instead to have teaching as my main job), although not for quite the same reasons as you. I have never regretted it. Again, best of luck in your new venture.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Shows potential to be a good diarist. The last US-based musician to pull up stakes and move to Europe did a very good job of it…

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    This makes me glad I didn’t make it as a professional musician. Not being a professional doesn’t stop one from being a musician nonetheless.

  • minacciosa says:

    Bravo to you for taking such a bold step. You are exactly right: guard your love and passion and act on it when the time is right. It’s why I left not one but two good orchestra jobs. I’m sure we all wish you and your husband the very best in your next chapter.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    A very touching story. Good luck to them both. Is this a systemic issue?

    • fierywoman says:

      Yes, this is a systemic issue.

      • The View from America says:

        I think it must be, seeing the look of ennui on the faces of more than a few musicians exiting the stage door after yet another concert. Still, I think there are conductors who sincerely strive to bring out the best in players while also listening intently to (and often acting on) the musicians’ suggestions.

  • Tony says:

    Bravo! Eloquent, honest, and human. Inspirational.

  • PHF says:

    Well… nothing new in her description about orchestral life. Actually, it is almost the definition of it, just include some kind of harassment to make it fit like a glove. At least they have enough courage to move on.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    In agreement about the pops junk. I’ve often found, with two major symphony orchestras (ranked near the top of the second 10) near me, that when I finally have a night off that only pops is available. It isn’t even good orchestral pops. Are far as the plight of these people, In the end, every career (lofty goals) becomes a job (keep the money coming in). They want more, then they should go after more. Not everyone will have their feelings or experience about their job. I

  • SMH says:

    As assistant principal 2nd violin I imagine she is quite far away from the percussion, brass and woodwind sections compared to many other orchestral players. Additionally, if she was truly using those orange foam earplugs, then she is woefully behind modern technology. Now they laser scan and 3D print ear plugs that are even across all frequency ranges. Zeneba sounds really”extra” in quite a few ways….. Good luck!

    • A says:

      For many pops shows, orchestras will put the rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drum set) directly in front of the conductor with the string section surrounding them.

    • Zeneba Bowers says:

      Zeneba here….just had to clarify that my issue was with amplified instruments during pops concerts, not natural instruments in classical concerts. As Asst Prin 2 my seat is generally directly next to the drum set (and monitors, pumping out amplified sound). I am aware of custom-fit earplugs, but those do nothing to protect the body from the concussive effects of amplified sound, which is the reason for the nausea. I did discuss this with several doctors to attempt to find a solution. I just wanted to clarify because this is a serious issue for many musicians, and understanding it properly is the first step in discussing change.

      • Terence says:

        At a Japanese drumming concert I began coughing quite a bit, and realised it was brought on by the sound waves. I was near the front. It didn’t spoil the concert but I couldn’t put up with that effect professionally so I understand you.

        By the way, I was in Italy this month – it seemed a nice place to live. Check out EU law: on my reading you get permanent residence after five years of living legally in an EU country (including health care).

  • Binny says:

    They are giving up a situation many musical couples would die to have. Best of luck.

    • AnnaT says:

      As she plainly acknowledged more than once in this post.

    • Chris says:

      But the problem with the decibels in no way compensates for the good bits of being in the profession. And, like has happened to me, after nearly 40 years of symphonic and operatic playing, my hearing is about 75% of what it might have been in another profession, and this is WITHOUT having been exposed to the very high decibel levels that this lady describes in her article.

  • John Marks says:

    May the Fates smile upon all your new endeavors.

    John Marks, Nashville Symphony subscriber 1976-1979 (while in graduate school there)

  • mark cogley says:

    I went to the Nashville Symphony’s webpage, and there are far fewer classical music concerts than there are of other genres. These things do give the orchestra work and the classical programs are serious, worthy ones, it should be said.

  • Calvin says:

    As the saying goes, no generalization is wholly true, not even this one, but this sounds more of an indictment of life in a forth-rate orchestra in a town like Nashville. There are plenty of world-class musicians, worthy of a solo career, who choose to be in world class orchestras to be part of a collective that creates truly great things — and thank heavens for that. Creating great things simply is not going to happen the outfit in Nashville, a town that would pride itself on its zip code being EIEIO.

    • Guest says:

      You are pitifully misinformed about Nashville, clearly.

      • Calvin says:

        Not at all. I go there several times a year for business and know many locals in the recording industry. The town will, as I suggested and for understandable reasons, always wear country music on its sleeve. But please do enlighten us about how precisely (obviously contrary to Bowers’ views) its pops-heavy orchestra is above 4th rate and creates great, rewarding art.

    • Karl says:

      lol. EIEIO – good one. I have some of their recordings of modern American works. Along with Albany I think of them as the biggest proponents of that repertoire. They won the 2011 and 2013 ASCAP awards for Programming of Contemporary Music.

    • Stuart says:

      Hi Calvin. In the past 25 years I have lived in Chicago, New York, Washington DC, London and San Diego. We moved to the Nashville area last December and are building a house south of the city. You clearly do not know Nashville. Your reference to EIEIO is just stupid and prejudiced by someone who appears vey insecure (poor education?) My zipcode is 37064 and Nashville is a wonderful city and a destination location for many who are fleeing the craziness of both coasts. I subscribed to the CSO for 17 years and have been going to concerts all over the world. I have been to three Nashville concerts and the Nashville Symphony is a fine band. Their performance (and recording) of Leshnoff’s 4th symphony was exceptional. You should spend more time in wonderful places like Nashville – it might be a cure for your ill-informed prejudice.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Great read, thanks for posting it. The comment regarding the ratio of Pops to Classical is spot on and very, very troubling. My local pro group does more pops now than classical and it shows: their playing is definitely poorer than it was in the pre-pops days. (I wouldn’t even mind pops so much if it was quality pops, like Arthur Fiedler used to program.) And it’s not just a problem in the US, either. I’m often shocked at the amount of pops that the hallowed Royal Philharmonic does at RAH. I think Glazunov had it right: amateurs do it for love of playing, not as a means to a pay check….only they don’t play so good.

  • Too Bad So Sad says:

    Is Zeneba Bowers taking the world’s smallest violin with her on this trip? She sure does play it a lot.

    Good riddance.

    • AnnaT says:

      Nastiness for its own sake. Feel better now?

    • Jerry V says:

      She probably wouldn’t be able to play it since it appears that the bow is shoved firmly up your posterior.

    • Rachel Homburg says:

      Do you have any experience as an orchestral musician? I worked as a professional orchestral violinist for over 12 years and eventually quit because of all the issues listed in this article, plus a very toxic environment with bullying and harrassment being the norm. Don’t judge someone for something you have no clue about.

  • Paul G. says:

    Sound exposure is no joke for musicians. Getting the right balance in the audience means that winds and brass have to play louder than normal. Orchestras should take measures to protect those downwind of the aerophones (and percussion) from the direct effects of those instruments.

    There’s no reason to compromise artistic quality (dynamic range) or safety. Putting winds and brass on risers, with a decent (>20ft) buffer between them and the strings, can reduce even peak dynamic levels significantly. A focus for unions should be placement of decibel meters to measure exposure for those most vulnerable (tutti string players, woodwinds, and brass), with the goal of making setup changes to mitigate chronic exposure to unacceptable levels, during rehearsal and performance.

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think it’s the primarily the winds and brass that is at issue with sound levels. Increasingly, pops programs use levels of amplification for all instruments that approach that of rock concerts, which they essentially are. There is something like a rock band at the front of the stage where everyone is amplified, with monitor speakers pointing back onto the stage so that the star performers can hear each other in a manner to which they are accustomed. The sound of the orchestra, if it is heard at all, is determined from the sound booth, and the tempo by the drummer. It is numbing. A pops concert on the mellower side, one that would use minimal amplification like a Simon and Garfunkel or Nat King Cole tribute becomes a welcome relief.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        It’s probably louder than many rock bands on stage nowadays. Many rock groups now work with “silent stages,” which means that the amplifiers are isolated and miked to the sound system and drums are behind plexiglas walls and are also miked and sent to the sound system. The musicians work in an atmosphere that allows normal conversation. The audience goes deaf.

  • Caranome says:

    Bravo! Gutsy and inspiring. You live only once and you are taking charge of your life, and you will do well.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Good luck, dear Zeneba: your decision (as you say, and said so well that my comment is really superfluous) was an extremely difficult one to make.
    But I think that your decision was the right one: you live one life in this particular world, and you made the right choice to follow your heart.
    Italy is the land of music, and I wish for you the best life and success that you and your husband can achieve there.
    Violin and Cello: a match made by the gods!
    Allora – buona fortuna!

  • Olassus says:

    All one has to do to understand her point is load this page:

    Hundreds of American orchestras are like this now, with Western art music a begrudged sideline.

    • Ravi Narasimhan says:

      I clicked thinking it couldn’t be that bad. There isn’t enough eye or ear bleach.

    • Marjie says:

      OMG thats awful. You have to hunt to find anything “classical”. I think they are making a smart move and in a few years they’ll realise its the best thing they ever did. There are many wonderful ways to make music beyond a Symphony orchestra.

    • Pops in their place says:

      Not that I dislike Johnny Mathis or some of the better film scores, but the Nashville Symphony is taking it past the point of overkill.

    • V. Lind says:


    • Bruce says:

      One thing that came as a small relief was that many of the most heinous concerts, when you click on “program details,” say that the concert is “presented without orchestra,” or that “the Nashville Symphony will not perform at this concert.” So the musicians are perhaps not quite as inundated in pops concerts as it may look at first glance.

      (I wonder if “Nashville Symphony will not perform” means there will be an orchestra of freelancers, and Symphony players may pick up those gigs for extra money if they wish…)

      But yes, finding the classical concerts on the calendar is like finding Waldo.

    • Stuart says:

      They certainly play a lot of concerts but classical doesn’t appear to be a sideline: Handel in Dec, Prokofiev in Jan, Beethoven in Jan/Feb/Mar, Hovhaness and Copland in Mar, Mahler 10th in Apr, Mozart in Apr/May, Elgar in May, Haydn and Debussy in May and Bruckner in May. You can get your fill and as Alex Ross says, the rest is noise.

    • Karl says:

      I almost chucked when I saw the Home Alone in concert.

  • Plexiglass sound shields in front of the brass are becoming more common in orchestras, especially after the EU passed laws for workplace decibel levels which orchestras often exceed.

    • Bruce says:

      My orchestra has individual plexiglass shields (V-shaped sheet of plexiglass mounted on a music stand base) for individuals who request them, e.g. most of the viola section and many in front of the percussion. We tried the big sheets of plexiglass in front of the brass, and they (the brass) hated them. Players in the line of fire say these individual shields help.

  • Guest says:

    I feel like the symptoms of disillusion would be common to any profession where you feel like you are not growing and your ideas for expansion are not being acknowledged. Eg teacher, corporate employee, nurse. The advice to guard your passion could be common to all as well. Very cool that they are brave enough to try a leap into the unknown.

  • Hamklav says:

    Oooof honest if nothing else, but very recognisable as the rank-and-file reality.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Who else remembers this name from that 2018 Washington Post article that took down that concertmaster?

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Good luck to Ms Bowers and her husband. She has identified three good reasons to leave (artistic decision making, loud sound levels, and numerous pops concerts).

    But job security with benefits and ample free time to develop side hustles are a lot to give up and are very hard to find in the freelance world.

    That’s why they call it work.

  • Lee Merrick says:

    We attended an LA Philharmonic concert last week. They performed a new work, “Sustain” by Andrew Norman and Bruckner’s 4th Symphony. The 1st work was so loud in places that I had to plug my ears! In 60 years of concert attending I’ve never done that. As you know, the Bruckner is massive as well. I watched various orchestra members taking ear plus out and the reinserting. I truly regretted that this was their plight and wondered how many of them suffered through four of the same presentation over four days.

    • Guest says:

      Were you sitting in the front orchestra section? Because Bruckner has to be Bruckner even in the cheap seats, which mean the brass are going to make some noise.

      • Chris says:

        I have to say, from my experience of many years of orchestral playing (at a fairly high artistic level) the decibels do not pose too big a problem so long as the QUALITY of the sound is good. I have found that where intonation and sound quality are NOT so good, that is when the problems are greatest for thos sitting in close proximity.

  • Robble robble says:

    Good luck and god speed!

  • Bruce says:

    This season my orchestra is doing 10 classical (“Masterworks”) concerts, 6 pops, 4 movies, 3 rock concerts (“Music of” David Bowie, Elton John, etc.), and, of course, a Harry Potter special.

    Additionally there’s a Nutcracker (5 performances), a New Year’s Eve program (Beethoven’s 9th, a NYE tradition in our former conductor’s native Germany and now for us too), chamber music concerts and a few other one-off things that don’t really fit into a category.

    Overall I’d say classical music may be 50% of what we do. In terms of number of butts-in-seats, it’s significantly less — e.g., chamber concerts reach a few hundred people while movies reach a few thousand.

    The classical repertoire this season has been particularly loud so far: there hasn’t been a program yet where I didn’t need ear plugs. I used to use them only rarely, 2-3 times a year, but now I don’t leave for rehearsal without making sure I have them with me.

    Is the job as much fun as it used to be? You’d have to ask each individual player. I’d expect a wide range of answers.

    It’s a difficult balance to strike: a symphony orchestra’s main mission — to bring classical music to the people — is a big money-loser, and patronage from any source is harder and harder to come by. So we have to abandon — errm, I mean broaden our mission by degrees, becoming less of what we used to be and more of what we need to be, in order to survive. I don’t know if selling one’s soul this way is strictly necessary, but for most orchestra managements it’s the only way they can see to go forward.

    In the future (if there is one), I suppose “going to the symphony” will be an umbrella term for all kinds of live entertainment events, some of which may feature an orchestra, and some of which might feature classical music. The days when orchestras used to play mainly classical music will be like an anecdote of an amusing past era, like powdered wigs and petticoats.

    • Olassus says:

      Bruce, do the admin staff outnumber the players? Is each concert marketed, cf. the series? Is the development department toiling to pay for its own toils? Does the “CEO” make more than a section principal? Then reform is due.

  • Anon says:

    ‘When I was 8, my parents took me to the Philadelphia Orchestra, in the $2 “nosebleed” section, because those were the tickets we could afford. I fell in love and decided right there I wanted to grow up to play in an orchestra.’

    Someone in that Philadelphia ensemble was ready to quit. What reasons did the previous generation cite when quitting? Surely not the $2 section filled with lovely families. Maybe America is running low on lovely people these days.

  • Roger says:

    Maybe add two more pieces of advice from Ms. Bowers to would be orchestra musicians (or any young person, for that matter):
    Try not to overestimate the interest in, and concern 99.99% of other people have for you and your problems. And always keep your ego in check.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Pretty much every string player on the planet would rather play chamber music than sit in a section. However, it’s not easy making a living as a freelance chamber music player. I wish these two the very best! It takes a lot of guts to surrender that type of security.

    Just speaking for myself, I’d much rather play in a wind ensemble (band) or orchestra than do yet more annoying wedding gigs, or meaningless church gigs (meaningless to me, most of the time). They’re called ‘casuals’ and I hate them. Then again, I’m one of the noise makers in the back row. That, I love (when the music is good).

  • Susan A says:

    You can follow Ms. Bowers and her husband’s adventures on their Little Roads Europe Facebook page. I’ve enjoyed reading it for months now.

  • Edgar says:

    “…the concerts have gotten louder and louder” – I find that not only in orchestras but everywhere else the US is getting louder.

    Relatives of mine who live in Europe and who visited recently remarked how they, over the course of years visiting the US, noticed people, and society at large, getting louder and louder each time. Is it one of the symptoms of the increasingly unhealthy State of the (Dis)Union, I wonder? I think there is a correlation, yet don’t know of any research or published studies.

    Bernard Haitink, if memory serves me well, once remarked that he increasingly had to teach orchestras to play a real piano, because they, to his ears, played mezzo forte or even forte when the score requires piano.

    Zeneba and Matt have taken a courageous decision, and I congratulate them and wish them well for their consulting and creative future in Italy.

    It is, after all, the Silence which requires Listening out of which everything takes Shape.

  • Rudiger says:

    Congratulations and best of luck! You two are an inspiration. Certainly, decibel levels both on stage and in seating areas of concert halls has gotten absolutely out of control. I have had patrons comment to me post-concert that they enjoyed the performance but WHY was it so LOUD? The insidious degradation of the symphony orchestra “product” continues, and the corresponding apathy, depression and disconnection musicians develop toward their art applies to all “services” (pops, school, opera,classical). Godspeed! 🙂

  • Julie says:

    Yes. Extremely common. The sound level on stage can become unbearable. I have thrown up after a concert (as described in the article) myself. I have migraines when I perform, and I don’t even do it that much any more.

    As far as how it affects a musician’s ability to play, well, yes it does. But so does not being able to hear yourself at all, which is what happens without the earplugs.

    Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason sound levels are so high is because so many musicians are wearing earplugs, but I also know that instruments have been designed to be louder and louder (esp. wind instruments.)

  • Allen says:

    There seems to be a general expectation among many that all entertainment should be loud. It takes a lot to get me into a cinema these days. I find it a charmless experience most of the time and everything, including the advertisements, is loud.

    In any case, I don’t see the point of a concert which is loud from start to finish. In the absence of any dynamic range you become accustomed to the volume, so the parts which are supposed to be loud fail to have any impact.

    And don’t get me started on the sound of amplified orchestras. Gentle enhancement, skillfully engineered, can work moderately well, but that’s about it IMO.

  • thanks for the information