On Valentine’s Night, a 2nd trumpet proposed on stage to a 1st violin

On Valentine’s Night, a 2nd trumpet proposed on stage to a 1st violin


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2020

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

...it was an unexpected pre-concert duet that stole the show, hitting all the right notes as second trumpet Tony Prisk got down on one knee to propose to first violin Julia Li.

Before the orchestra began to play, Prisk, in a routine announcement video, asked those in the audience to remain seated at the conclusion of the performance, and silence their cell phones.

“But right now, you might want to take them out and start recording,” he added, “because this isn’t something you see every day.”


Here’s a list of possible answers:

1 No.

2 You’re on the wrong side of the orchestra.

3 Is that my spare rosin?

4 I’ll tell you in the interval.


  • drummerman says:

    Mazel Tov to them!!!

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    These things are getting too extravagant. In a situation like this one cannot even refuse the proposal. In spite of extravagant marriage proposals & marriage ceremonies, the divorce rates are ever going up.

    • Larry says:

      You are a true romantic.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The more ostentatious a proposal, or a wedding, the more chance the relationship will end in disaster. Very private proposals and intimate, quiet weddings offer a better chance. Best chances are offered by no proposal at all, and no wedding; living apart creates ideal circumstances for a relationship and no relationship at all probably secures the survival of the human species.

        • clarrieu says:

          Now we want to hear Sally’s take on this…

          • John Borstlap says:

            Can you imagine with what kind of nonsense I’ve to put up here! I’ve proposed various times at concerts, not at the stage I must say, and while none of them worked-out it was great fun.


        • Doug says:

          What do you know about “survival of the human species”? You embrace every last principle of Leftism which is bent on dismantling and tossing aside every good thing that sprang forth from Western civilization. Including classical music. Dead white males, ya know.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Yes, I’m still angry about them dead white males who still get on my nerves on my work. Posthumous bullying I call it! Apart from the vacuum cleaner what have they contributed?


    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Yes, that’s the first thing I thought of too. Ostentation isn’t a good sign of marital longevity, and that’s a fact.

    • DK says:

      What is wrong with you? Can’t you just be happy for 2 great musicians who just got engaged? Don’t be bitter.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      One surely has to assume that she had agreed to this in advance.

    • Willymh says:

      always has to be at last one doesn’t there?

    • Mustafa trollata says:

      There’s always one around to troll a great moment. Maybe you should get a life or get out of your mother’s basement more often Mustafa.

    • Bruce says:

      One can refuse, actually. Or go along with the charade and refuse later, in private.

      Meanwhile, divorce rates: https://www.statista.com/statistics/195955/divorce-rate-in-the-united-states-since-1990/

    • jsot1988 says:

      “Said The Grinch to Christmas…”

    • James says:

      Really? Really?

      I’ll never understand why people can’t just enjoy a nice moment like this.

      • n says:

        Cos it’s not a nice moment, it’s coercion. These extravagant and public proposals put a huge pressure on the woman to say yes. If you don’t believe me, look at the ‘pretending to crash a plane’ example below.

        (And yes, all the examples I’ve seen have been a man asking a woman.)

        • James says:

          I’m not sure why you assume that she didn’t know a proposal was coming, or that they hadn’t talked about getting married beforehand. In terms of the plane crash thing, you’ve intentionally chosen the most extreme example to “prove” your point.

          • n says:

            Whether or not they had talked about marriage beforehand, it’s still putting an enormous amount of pressure on to ask the question in such a public way. And I find it difficult to imagine why you’d tell someone you were going to do such a public proposal in advance; these things are usually surprises. I’m not sure why you’d assume she did know.

            As for the plane crash example, I went for the most extreme example because you don’t seem to be able to understand the point with more subtle examples. There are plenty more available for you to consider.

            What exactly makes it a nice moment, in your opinion?

    • Brian v says:

      You are right in the music business there is a lot of divorce.

  • Terry Burtschin says:

    No strings attached.

  • Awful says:

    Ugh this kind of thing does my head in. Man puts completely unreasonable pressure on woman to say yes by proposing in a completely unreasonable manner. Pure coercion.

    The worst example I’ve seen so far is a man who pretended their plane was crashing and got his girlfriend to read out ’emergency instructions’ which were actually a proposal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2MFbCqfg5w.

    This isn’t much better, how could Julia Li ever have said no in front of an audience of hundreds, thousands, and then continued on with the concert and performing well in her highly pressurised job?

    • SVM says:

      Exactly. And, to make matters worse, this was done in the workplace while both parties were “on duty”. Not only coercion, but also completely unprofessional behaviour.

      The drama of a public proposal may be fascinating to onlookers, but places an unacceptable burden on the recipient of the proposal. A more appropriate course of action would have been for the man to propose in private, and, if accepted, for the engagement to be announced (with the prior agreement of all parties, including the conductor and players’ committee) at the *end* of the advertised concert programme (followed by a ‘wedding’/romance classic, such as the relevant extract from Mendelssohn’s /Midsummer Night’s Dream/ or Prokofiev’s /Romeo and Juliet/, as an encore?).

  • robert freeman says:

    Bravo! This is the sort of event which makes a symphony orchestra seem more personal and friendly to its audience – a far cry from 20 years ago when a violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra refused to smile at the audience!

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Unnecessary show. Pure exhibitionism. Very US-American.

    • Jordipuigdemont says:

      My thought exactly: too public, too ostentatious, too exhibitionist, too new-rich, too tasteless… in other words: too American.

      • Greenflute says:

        Typical american show.

        • Presbyteros says:

          Just proves to us Americans that most Brits have a big ol’ stick up their keisters.

          • Proudly non-US citizen says:

            This is, as FrauGeigerin said, pure exhibitionism.

            By the way, I doubt that an user called FrauGeigerin and a user called Jordipuigdemont are british… this proves the non-US readers of SD that US-Americans not only have poor taste, but also don’t know anything about the rest of the world!

  • Patrick says:


  • Anonymous says:

    While this may seem the most romantic thing, I think it’s a cop out for Tony. It would be very hard for the girl to say “No”. I guess she can always serve the man with a divorce later on…

  • BRETT says:

    “Ask me again when you’re principal trumpet.”

  • Frank says:

    I guess no place is safe from the epidemic of men (usually) and their proposal theatrics. No one is stopping anyone of discussing their wishes for marriage in private, but, hey, nothing beats putting the woman you love between a rock and a hard place.
    There is by now a pretty extensive literature about how embarrassing these public, theatrical, “look at me!” “too late to stop me now!” proposals are, but obviously their number will only increase.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    I’m sure they had their social media platforms warmed up and ready to go.

    The Millenials are too into themselves. The concert hall is not the place for these Love Story theatrics.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    And remember.

    A study by Harvard and Yale sociologists, funded by $15M USD and the US government concluded that marriage is the leading cause of divorce.

  • EmilGilels says:

    Given some people’s cynical responses in the Comments sections, it’s worth quoting some more details from the article:
    “Li set her strings aside and began to tear up as her beaming soon-to-be fiancé walked across the stage, asking her to marry him. As she said yes, the audience erupted into the kind of applause usually saved for the end of a symphony.
    “I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to happen,” Li, 30, later said. “But I still cried.”
    The two met around six years ago, when they joined the orchestra. Prisk, new in town from Houston, and Li, who had lived in the city for years while attending the Curtis Institute of Music, said they bonded quickly while touring with a “tight group of friends” in the orchestra.
    They quickly developed chemistry, Li said, and moved to a home in South Philadelphia about a year ago.”
    “In marriage, Li said she’s “looking forward to more of the same.”

    • n says:

      It’s not cynical to be concerned about undue pressure being put on a woman by a man. However much Julia Li suspected and / or welcomed it, it’s inarguable that public proposals like these put a huge amount of pressure on women to agree to marriage.

    • SVM says:

      This does not change the fact that the format of the proposal constituted unacceptable coercion that should never occur in the workplace.

      The fact that Prisk and Li were already in a romantic relationship does not mitigate Prisk’s offence. In modern society, it is no longer axiomatic that people want to formalise a romantic relationship, however long, through the institution of marriage. Many couples, including among the elderly, choose to remain legally single, even for decades.

      Even if Li had agreed to the stunt in advance (which she had not), the public proposal is still unacceptable in that it legitimises a practice where “secret advance agreement” is indistinguishable from coercion.

  • esfir ross says:

    6 years to decide to propose-not much love .

  • Dave T says:

    My first reaction was, “isn’t that sweet.” Upon further reflection, I do have to wonder why this is done in public. Isn’t the a relationship, including a marriage, between the two partners? What does this have to do with your 100 colleagues, even if some of them are good friends, let alone the 2000 strangers in the audience? They won’t be there when you quibble about what color to paint the den, sign the house refinance papers, or give birth to your second child (I hope not, that is). This is all really between the two of them. If they want to post, publicize an announcement for their engagement, that would be lovely.

  • Chris says:

    To those who thought poorly of this event: How do all of you know that this was not the engagement ask that Julia Li would have wanted? She said in Philadelphia Inquirer “I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to happen,” Li, 30, later said. “But I still cried.”

    Like virtually all couples that knew they wanted to get married, getting engaged was going to happen at some point. This proposal was clearly not out of the blue (and her acceptance not in doubt), just the surprise of the “when”. It’s clear from the video that she was surprised yet delighted when it happened and there was no coercion or pressure at all.

    So, congratulations to them. I wish them every success and a long, happy marriage.

    • SVM says:

      How can we be sure Li wanted to marry? It is possible that, in common with many people (including many coupls who have been together for decades), she might object to the institution of marriage, but was frightened to say so, because she liked the romantic relationship as it was, and feared Prisk might flee (even the most loving of couples can and do disagree on fundamental lifestyle choices such as marriage, place of residence, whether to have children, spiritual/religious beliefs, &c.). And, even if she were in favour of the institution of marriage, can we be sure that she would have wanted to proceed at that time? Many people struggle to admit, even to themselves, that they have qualms about marrying, but would yield to pressure to proceed, if coerced.

      But two principal issues with this exhibition are that:

      1. it took place in the workplace while “on duty”; and

      2. it is impossible to distinguish between “secret advance agreement”, “proposal anticipated and welcomed but time and place a surprise”, and unmitigated coercion.

      Prisk’s unprofessional and unethical actions will have encouraged many others to coerce people into marriage. The pressure to accept such a proposal is bad enough in this context, but just imagine much worse it can be if the person subjected to the proposal is connected to one of the innumerable cultures, subcultures, and families where marriage is deemed an indispensable matter of honour and mark of adulthood.

  • Neomi Nemeth says:

    Why is the 1st violin sitting in the back?

    • Bruce says:

      As you might have noticed from the video, an orchestra is not a string quartet. Orchestras have a whole section of first violins.

  • Tromba in F says:

    I fully concur that proposing in this manner seems ridiculous, but the fact that this elicited so many comments in a form such as this is even more ridiculous. Yes, I realize I am adding to those comments herewith. This site has long since put thoughtful discussion of music on the back burner and has become merely a music tabloid. For the record, Tony is a great guy and I wish he and Julia all the best.

  • Bruce says:

    LOL, you guys make this sound like something out of “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

    She probably felt she had to say yes or she would have been locked up in a convent for the rest of her life. /eyeroll