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excerpts from Real Men Don't Rehearse
by Justin Locke


There are many famous conductors and composers who are the stars in the world of classical music. You see their pictures on the covers of CD's, you see them interviewed on 60 Minutes, and there are lots of books written about them. They have their roles to play, and they are important ones; but for all the hype surrounding these big names, the fact is, they aren't really the ones who are creating the music. Whether it's a pop ballad, a symphony by Beethoven, or the soundtrack of a major motion picture, the actual sound of an orchestra is created, note by note, not by the stars, but by individual orchestral musicians.

Professional orchestral musicians live in a secret society that is seldom seen by outsiders. Even when they are in full view of an audience, their world is largely invisible. This is not an accident. The people who market classical music assume that the audience is only interested in the stars and the glamour, so the rank-and-file orchestral musicians are expected to keep their pragmatic, sweaty, anxiety-laden lives out of view as much as possible. (Also, even though they are in "show business," most orchestral musicians are rather shy and introverted people. They like to spend a lot of their time alone, in practice rooms.) With so much of their work kept hidden behind a facade of straight-laced, poker-faced elegance, audiences are often completely unaware of the extraordinary inner workings of professional orchestra "culture," and just how important those inner workings are to the making of the music.

Before I became a member of this exclusive club, I had the same grand preconceptions that most people have about professional orchestras; so the reality I encountered on the stage of Boston's Symphony Hall was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. But I always thought the reality of playing in a professional orchestra was far more interesting than the lofty fantasies produced by the press office. And so I am now going to violate the greatest taboo of the music business and tell you the real story of the often cynical, always stressful, sometimes hysterical, and occasionally magical world of people who play notes for a living, whether it's for an opera, a Broadway show, or the Boston Pops– at least, as it was experienced by one young bass player. I admit, these stories may put a dent in some of your fondest musical fantasies. But it is my sincere hope that, by seeing into this world, however strange it may seem to you at first, you will ultimately find yourself experiencing an even greater sense of connection to your favorite music.

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Introduction | A Pops Tale | Arthur | (Close this Window)

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