Cleveland hires five players

Cleveland hires five players


norman lebrecht

June 01, 2023

The Cleveland Orchestra has added five members: Meghan Guegold Hege as assistant/utility horn, Tanner Tanyeri as percussionist, Youngji Kim (pictured) and Genevieve Smelser as first violins, and Liyaun Xie as second violin.

In addition, bassist Charles Paul has been appointed first assistant principal bass.

More than half the orchestra has now been chosen by Franz Welser-Möst in his 21 years as music director.


  • Larry says:

    Meghan is married to conductor Daniel Hege (Wichita Symphony and previously with the late, lamented Syracuse Symphony.) Congratulations to all!

  • J Barcelo says:

    And even though FWM has hired more than half the musicians, and despite the fine work of Dohnanyi and Maazel, George Szell still gets the credit. They still play with an uncanny precision that he instilled in them.

  • anon says:

    ‘Utility horn’? Is that what Americans call bumpers?

    • CA says:

      Yes, or assistant horn

    • Jeff says:

      That would be assistant. Sometimes a position will be listed as assistant/utility, meaning that the main job is as assistant (bumper) but the player also must fill in at role in the section as needed when the 2,3,4 players are absent.

    • Dave says:

      As I understand it a utility horn is one who will cover in any required seat and is not specifically contracted as a “high” (1st or 3rd) or “low” (2nd or 4th) player. A bumper (in UK parlance at least) is one who does heavy lifting in tuttis to help the 1st (and sometimes 3rd) save their chops for the tricky exposed stuff, so not the same thing.

      A utility horn would be likely to have bumper duties as part of their task, but I’d be surprised if that’s all they did. On the other hand, I’d be surprised if their duties included much 1st playing. However, I bet Meghan’s quite capable of that too!

  • Gary Sudder says:

    looks like a bunch of rich kids with lots of connections/access to orchestre teachers. No real diversity of life experiences apparent. How many of them worked their way through school, HS, uni, etc? Or parents/trust funders?

    • Desk jockey says:

      That’s how you get ahead in classical music. If you come from poverty forget about it! The CV round screens for things like expensive conservatoires and “orchestral experience” which can only be acquired if you were able to pay for studies with expensive teachers. I’d like to see the American and British orchestras go the way of the Nordic countries… blind tapes for the first round.

      • Musician says:

        We play behind a screen through the semifinals for auditions in most U.S. orchestras.

        • Sara K. says:

          They already know who’s who. the finals the screen comes down. Come on. Connections are everything-barry tuckwell, hornist discussed this well

      • Sara K. says:

        Yes–the “CV” round is a way to get rid of those who are not connected. It’s a form of US -UK discrimination.

        Also, who can attend elitist summer music festivals? Tanglewood? Santa Barbarra? Interlochens? Jet set around for schooling paid for my mommy and daddy, or uncle albert. Wealthy kids. Priviledged children.

        Kids that come from parental connections, and of course, money. Those that do not need to work. Those that have to work are not going to the festivals (yes those institutes may be “free” to attend–however, that’s loss of income) —bagging groceries, manual labour, clerical, whatever, etc. to help their families and themselves make the bills/tuitions.

        Who has access to 100 +$ per hour teachers during high school/jr high, etc.! Who? Rich children. Then they get “accepted” into conservatories/colleges where the parents are paying for everything and are likely well connected. It’s sad really. That’s NOT equally opportunity whatsoever.

        Screen up down?! They know who trained/studied with who. Most screens come down!–in the finals or even semifinals. And it’s usually the same looking kids. Richie rich look. No thanks.

      • John says:

        Interesting concepts that need to be addressed in a very real way.

        Curious that many of these young folks do not have real life experiences, intense struggles -poverty, family dysfunction, ontologically understanding what it’s like to go through enormous pain/strife, so that can be shown through their instruments? Not talking about being “stressed” at the conservatory” or the band teacher made them feel sad, or their CEO dad lost a job….Most have likely had a very sheltered life and that’s why most classical music sounds uninteresting, robotic, vanilla, and generic-like a bank philharmonic… They’re “very good” techniciens and obedient drones. Compare that with 20,30, 40, 50s, that was real music. You could feel the emotions through their instruments. Now, pathetically, all we feel is a bunch of out of touch 1%ers playing detached music to the equally elite -detached from reality patrons.

        • Shropshire says:

          I’ve been waiting for this opinion to finally put to words what’s been on my mind about why classical music is so dull!

    • Stop talking nonsense says:

      Buddy I’m sorry to say but your idea about how it works in the classical music world or the performance world in general is completely upside down. You earn your performance rights based on your merit, not your life experience. Just like young kids get drafted into sport teams, the best players establish themselves as soloists/chamber players through management or win auditions for orchestras. Usually the ones who cannot establish themselves in the performance world then go and work their way DOWN the teaching ladder. The percentage of people who are lucky enough to win these jobs is incredibly small on the other hand there is no shortage of awful teachers that are convinced of their own ability both as players and teachers.

      And to your friend below talking about blind tapes like it’s something revolutionary, all American orchestras do blind auditions in the prelims and semis, majority of them now do it even for the finals. Unlike life performance, tapes can be altered and you’re spared the embarrassing moments when someone totally unqualified sends a tape of someone else or has 300 cuts in every piece and then shows up for an audition and everyone is then baffled how it’s even possible

      • Shropshire says:

        You can only get noticed if you’re able to pay your way into the right schools. Granted many ultra competitive schools now give full tuition as an entry scholarship, you’re still dealing with cost of living in a major American city, compounded by the fact that to even stand an inkling of a chance at entering one of these ultra-competitive schools, you must have enough family wealth to pay for the best teachers.

        So in a way, it’s really a meritocracy of the rich. Among themselves, the best and most qualified get in. However, there are many many more young lovers of music who will never be able to afford the training necessary to make it happen.

        To Desk Jockey’s comment above, I admire the fact that Nordic orchestras have agreed to do an open-invite tape preliminary round as a standard practice for their auditions. Saves the less experienced candidates from shelling out thousands on flights (even if you’re travelling within Europe, you still have to deal with hotel costs and food, not to mention the added costs of carrying a large instrument in some cases). HOWEVER, I’ve also come to like the French approach. Open-invite to all first rounds of audition, held at a separate day. Every applicant gets to play at least one round and this way, a prospective applicant who (let’s say) couldn’t afford to go to a highly reputable conservatory will still get real-life audition experience and be able to train themselves this way. I find it really odd that all orchestras will claim to commit themselves to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” on their audition announcements, and yet they will screen for resumes and cut applicants based on only the contents thereof.

        This ties in neatly with the complaint raised by Gary above: What if a brilliant musician who has otherwise demonstrated incredible playing ability simply could not afford to spend their summers at a prestigious festival, needing instead to work in order to support themselves through their studies. I myself have been trained in the American and European conservatory systems, and I have come across many a brilliant top of the class musicians who utterly fail at basic life skills such as applying to a job, getting themselves set up financially to pay off their loans immediately upon graduation, and even some essential ones such as cooking and cleaning (I knew a student from a school which shall remain nameless who had her parents move to the city with her in order to cook her meals, because she was never taught to do this on her own).

        We can’t chalk it up to “meritocracy” at every turn. We need to address the systemic inequalities in classical music education that lock people out of the field based on financial standing alone. Just as you claim that you earn performance rights based on your merit, it is equally possible (and anecdotally VERY well known) that you can simply buy your way into the field through money and family connections. IF this is truly a meritocratic field, then surely all auditions would be entirely based on the cattle-call system and we would truly allow every interested applicant to be heard, rather than only those with certain credentials that they were fortunate enough to obtain.

        • Gary Sudder says:

          “…in a way, it’s really a meritocracy of the rich. Among themselves, the best and most qualified get in.”

          you can simply buy your way into the field through money and family connections. “IF this is truly a meritocratic field, then surely all auditions would be entirely based on the cattle-call system and we would truly allow every interested applicant to be heard…”

          Bingo. No diversity of life experiences and it’s a ‘lifestyles of the rich and well connected theatre.’

      • Sara K. says:

        When you’re over the target, that’s when you catch flak. Reality is that which, even after you stop believing it, still exists, Phillip K. Dick.

        Also- “buddy” sounds overly casual, sounds like a USer/USian/North American.

        It’s Sir, Madame please. Thank you.

    • tp says:

      If they can play the music the job requires, does any of that other stuff matter?

      • Sara K. says:

        How can a 20 year old travel to and eat 4 star meals in Switzerland and Aspen ? And then brag about it on “social” media with their “teachers”.

      • Gary Sudder says:

        Agree—So please disband the “diversity” “inclusion” “equity” theatre. Thanks.

    • nelson says:

      Hey Gary,

      If it “looks like” (in other words, you talking out of your a$$), then you must be blind. We already know that you’re deaf. Good luck with that.

      • Gary Sudder says:

        It may appear that your enjoy supporting scallop-steak suppers, hotels, airfare, and elitist summer festivals for rich WASPS and rich Asians being “taught” by equally trust funded/rich persons. How did those “students” get there….ooops.
        Keep up the diversity, “equal opportunity”, and inclusion hot air….it feels “good.”

        • Nelson says:


          Rich Asians? Where do you dredge up such utter nonsense? Not from planet earth, unless your own inflated orb of a noggin qualifies as its own planet.

  • Max Raimi says:

    Ms Smelser’s father Linc is often a substitute in the Chicago Symphony cello section. He conducts the Kishwaukee Symphony in Dekalb, IL and is the Music Director of the Rockford (IL) Youth Symphony. I have frequently played chamber music with him. A wonderful colleague and a first rate musician. Genevieve has worked as a substitute violinist in the CSO, and this week, not for the first time, father and daughter are both playing for us.

    • Alphonse says:

      Thanks for that tidbit, Max “How can I find a way to make this be about me/the CSO” Raimi.

    • Stop talking nonsense says:

      Is there any relation to Jim Smelser? And damn look at all the family clans within the orchestra, they’re putting the Preucil clan from Cleveland to shame

      • Do your research says:

        There is no familial relation between Genevieve and Jim Smelser. Please do your research before commenting.

  • CSO violinist says:

    Congrats to all! Kim and Smelser were both finalists for CSO back in January, sadly after playing impressively in the first round, neither had a particularly great final round (which unfortunately happens), but both have since subbed with the orchestra and it’s very sad for us to lose them to Cleveland, especially since we now have 4 violin openings and more are to come.

    • Rudolf Diesel says:

      I’ve never heard Robert Chen play anything impressively if I may be so honest, and he’s CSO concertmaster.

  • Mark says:

    Was there an announcement made for principal timpani yet?

  • Res Ipsa Loquitor says:

    We endlessly hear about “diversity” “inclusions” “equities” ad nauseum. Yet, look at the vast majority of newbies in many US orchestras. Res ipsa loquitor.

    If someone is middle class lower middle class, or poor, how does one spend summers in Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Tanglewood Music Center in the Berkshires, Musical Academy in Santa Barbara, CA, Interlochen in MI, and the Classical Tahoe festival in Incline Village, NV, etc., etc?

    One orchestra player/teacher stated that one could maybe perhaps play at Bat Mitzvahs and weddings as a student–that could help offset the tuitions and teaching fees, festival attendance, etc..–that pays peanuts and is sporadic pay–it’s not regular income job. Sounds like poor advice and delusional. Of course, she came from money.

    Respectfully, how does a student realistically and truthfully, do this who is poor or middle class, not well connected–e.g., not the “right” teacher, has to work a non-musical job through school AND summers, can’t afford a 70K+ USD per annum schooling, get this type of experience?

    Where does the money come from to pay for all to be considered to audition for these US orchestras ? Then they see names, schools, who you are, etc.. on CV reviews, screen downs, phone calls, who taught ya’s, favored teachers/students, etc.

    1. ANYONE can audition, anyone. If too many applicants, If they did not attend conservatory, or ‘major in music’–submit anomymous tape of select excerpts for potential inviting.
    2.Screen up ALL the time. Even in section/member playing. Never know who the person is or was until winner announced.
    2. NO CV. NO NAMES PERIOD. Nothing, until winner announced.
    3. ANY candidate who is auditioning and is a student or former student of a jury member, that jury member is gone and must recuse himself. This can be assisted by orchestra manager who reviews applicants-knows their IDs and each jury member must state where they teach, who they taught, etc. who were their teachers, who are their orchestral playing friends-buddies.
    4. Nothing is perfect, however, currently, the process wreaks of bs and a merit system for wealthy, well connected adults and/or children.

    • Light340598 says:

      To this point, I was a working class student who attended a state college in order to study with my teacher of choice for less than what the majors would charge. When I enquired about a potential school that I wanted to attend for my next degree which would have been free of charge, my teacher flat out told me that unless I had attended the following summer programs consistently (and he named about 5), then I would never even be beyond the pre-screening tape round.

      These festivals were not the free-to-attend ones either…

  • John says:

    How many have Not lived a relatively charmed life. Our guess would likely be quite small %.