Atlanta lures a principal horn

Atlanta lures a principal horn


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2020

The Atlanta Symphony has named Jaclyn Rainey, associate principal horn in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as its new principal.

Before she moved to LA, Jaclyn was third horn with the Atlanta Symphony for four seasons.

What comes round, comes round.



  • Axl says:

    Feels a little bit sad because LA Phil has spend 4 yars to find associate principal and when they finally got it – now it goes back. Hopefully they will find a new guy who really stays in LA. Good luck to Rainey for her new job! Lucky Atlanta!

  • Skippy says:

    Hmm…isn’t this a step down? I understand it’s a move up to principal but LA is about as good as it gets, and it’s not like she was 4th horn there. Perhaps I’m underestimating Atlanta but when I think of the great second-tier orchestras In this country (SF, StL, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Minnesota, etc.) Atlanta doesn’t come to mind.

    But what do I know?

    • Player says:

      LA is definitely not considered as good as it gets by orchestra musicians. They have money, but many of the groups you think of as second tier are much better. And people who want to be principal want to be principal, not associate.

    • Shimi says:

      Atlanta is a very good (in your language “2nd tier”) orchestra that is very much on par with the likes of Detroit and Houston.
      To claim that LA is about as good as it gets and then put superior orchestra like San Fran in “second tier” with Baltimore as a comparable orchestra.. what world do you live in?
      If you need to put the orchestras into tiers, do so based on their financial strength, many of the ones you named in your second tier can easily rival LA artistically.

      • KH says:

        “many of the ones you named in your second tier can easily rival LA artistically“

        This is a laughable statement. All of the orchestras mentioned except Baltimore broadcast their concerts regularly. Anyone not even living in the US like myself can hear them all. Who are you kidding?

        • Shimi says:

          I think the answers of other people show enough about how LA is perceived amongst us players, especially those who had experience with playing in multiple of these orchestras. To be completely frank, if I had to make a list of top ten in the US purely on artistic quality, I’d would struggle to get LA in there. It’s bit like National, they pay better than many but… yeah that’s about it.

          • KH says:

            Then your perceptions are quite a few years out of date. They were drastically better than they were just a decade years ago. If I were to put a date on it I would say they have been clear ahead since 2013.

            I came to US orchestra broadcasts with a complete open mind. Actually that’s not true. I approached LA Phil broadcasts with a negative bias after reading the hysterical hype surrounding Dudamel and their programming in US media, fully expecting them to be awful. But at this point to my mind no other US orchestras approach LA Phil in both emotional involvement and technical accomplishment in their playing.

          • Shimi says:

            Right… my perception is out of date, because I unlike you play in one of these orchestras so what the hell do I know…
            Anyway my original comment was addressed to Skippy, I was simply voicing the same disagreement, as were few others here, that SF and several others compared with LA aren’t second tier orchestras.

      • Skippy says:

        I should have said “regional.” They don’t tour as much (or at at all) recording is limited (or non-existent.) Let’s get real. There is a tiering. Are Boston and Cincinatti equivalent? No. But Cincinatti is still a great orchestra.

        • Bruce says:

          Double N, single T.

          Not every musician lives for touring and recordings.

        • Shimi says:

          Yeah I get your point. But it just doesn’t quite work like that does it? Is there still the “big 5”? Well if the original “big 5” insists, then yes, but technically speaking the big 5 today are SF, LA, CSO, BSO and NY Phil. Why? Because today, financially SF and LA are stronger than Cleveland and Philly and that’s exactly what established the big 5. So do we now make it “big 7”? Or do we relegate Cleveland and Philly to second tier? Does it automatically make SF and LA better orchestras than CO and Philly?
          I hope you see the nonsense

        • William Safford says:

          Atlanta recordings are limited or nonexistent??

          I own several of these.

          They may not tour as often or as far as other comparable orchestras. That said, the most recent time that I heard the Atlanta live was in Carnegie Hall. I had planned to hear them there again this past spring, until the concert was canceled due to COVID-19.

    • Josh Williams says:

      SF is second tier?! And so is Pittsburgh?!

  • CA says:

    Wonder when she (and everyone else) actually will get to play to a normal audience again. And earn their full paychecks, Awful times for the arts.

  • Couperin says:

    Listen to LA’s new Ives set with the Dude and try to convince me they’re a great orchestra.

  • Fact Checker says:

    The difference between playing Associate Principal versus Principal in America is huge. Principal players can often negotiate very large sums of overscale whereas everyone else in the section will have far less success trying to negotiate for more. Also, as far as artistic satisfaction the positions don’t really compare. Would you rather play the symphony or the overture?
    While LA is a very wealthy orchestra the cost of living is probably close to triple that of Atlanta. I also agree with a previous post that money and artistic excellence don’t always go hand in hand. Atlanta, St Louis, Minnesota, etc are all VERY fine orchestras that easily rival or even SURPASS LA or some other big budget operations like the National Symphony in DC.
    One other point is that it would be extraordinarily uncommon for a player to move from 4th in a large orchestra to 1st in another as one person commented as an apparent slight to playing 4th horn! The skill sets are completely different and even the best 1st players would probably not be competitive at a large 4th horn audition!
    Ms. Rainey is obviously an exceptional 1st horn player and I’m sure she is doing what is best for her. Congrats!

    • Bruce says:

      And another thing: when you are principal, you are the boss of the section. When you are associate, you play what the principal tells you to play, when (and how) they tell you to play it. That usually means “here, you play principal on the first half [stupid modern piece and boring concerto] so I can come in and be fresh for the Brahms symphony on the second half.” It can even include duties like filling in for part of a long note during a solo, so it sounds like the principal didn’t have to take a breath. (That takes a lot of skill, but a spirit of independence is not valued in that situation.)

    • William Safford says:

      I agree.

      Sometimes, a player may just feel a stronger connection to Orchestra X vs. Orchestra Y. Of course, sometimes one can find oneself in an uncomfortable (or worse) work situation. I certainly have heard stories. But even when the work situation is fully acceptable, a player may just like being in Orchestra X vs. Orchestra Y.

      In addition, sometimes, extramusical issues are at play. A player may just like living in City X versus City Y, or may have family or a partner in the area, etc.

  • Bruce says:

    Once you have the luxury of having a good job in a good orchestra (so you don’t have to take whatever comes along), there are a lot of factors to take into consideration besides which is the “better” orchestra or how much it pays:

    • Your colleagues. Do you work with a bunch of unpleasant and/or crazy people? Are you unhappy coming to work every day? Is your “big” job less fun than your “less big” job? (This could include the conductor, who might be less inspiring to you personally, even if s/he is more famous)

    • The city. Do you like Atlanta better than LA, or vice versa? Traffic, air quality, general cultural vibe, perhaps a romantic partner who didn’t make the move with you. (And, yes, cost of living)

    I’ve known several people who moved up to bigger/ better/ more famous orchestras. Sometimes they were happier with the big job, and sometimes they weren’t; sometimes they went back, and sometimes they made their peace.

    If you’re making $80K and you’re happy, that might be better than making $120K and being unhappy. Keep in mind that being unhappy doing the thing you love can be a problem.

    I always compare these things to relationships: outsiders can say “I don’t know why she would leave him for that other guy — he’s way better-looking, and has a lot more money,” but they don’t know if he cheated on her and made her feel like shit on a daily basis, while her uglier, poorer second husband worships the ground she walks on.

  • From the back row says:

    Despite being off subject, I have found it very interesting the debate between the “Top Tier” American orchestras against some of their slightly less famous colleagues.
    The primary differences between the “Big 5” (and you can easily add a few others to supplement those) are:
    1. They consistently collaborate with the top conductors. Whereas you will likely see Salonen, Blomstedt, MTT, Rattle, etc etc on the season line up for an orchestra such as Cleveland, Philadelphia, or Chicago you will likely not see this caliber maestros visit in Detroit, Cincinnati, and similar other groups.
    2. These top tier orchestras attract the highest level of talent in the String sections. It’s much more difficult to turn over an entire string section just based on the numbers alone. It can take several decades. IMHO this is where LA (and a few other high budget groups) still fall short versus the traditional Big 5. There is just no comparison. However, that will likely change over time. If LA continues to prosper with each vacancy they fill they are getting better and better. With Colburn now thriving there they will also reap the benefits just as Curtis and Julliard have been elite feeder schools over the many years.
    3. It takes MANY years, and a few world class leaders, to form a concept that everyone on stage is buying into. You see this in the very top orchestras. In the lesser known this becomes less tangible if it exists at all.
    4 The very top orchestras tour and record with regularity. This is very good health and morale for the ensemble only improving the quality and reputation further. These orchestras actually collect fees from presenters rather than pay the presenters for the use of their hall making tours much easier to plan and pay for!

    In summary, while there are still differences the overall level of ALL of these ensembles has never been higher. The level required to successfully audition into any of these top (or nearly top) is extraordinarily high.
    I’m not sure people will agree with my assessment but these have been my personal observations.

  • Marge O. says:

    wish them the best and everything will be ok US-ians. Him/her/whatever–the US-ians were very concerned with symbolism and words instead of structural levers of change.

  • Nick says:

    Kick Cleveland and Philly out of the “Big 5” because they don’t have as much money as LA or San Fran??? Why don’t you base your opinion on what they SOUND like?! By your argument Kenny G is a better saxophonist than John Coltrane because he sold a lot more records??? Foolish argument not made by a musician. Berlin Phil doesn’t have as much money as LA Phil either. I’d bump them down too…?