Horn Section Placement on the Stage or in the Pit

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I believe that am the type of person who can generally get along with most anyone. The most heated argument I have got into in music was in an orchestra with a principal player of another brass section and it had to do with seating or placement on the stage of their section and of the horns. Bottom line was I think that person wanted me to know clearly my place in the pecking order of that orchestra.

anatomy2-pitWhere the horns are on the stage or in the pit is an important issue and, unfortunately, we often end up being the pawns in larger orchestral games of personalities and turf. Personally I would rather sit in a row behind the woodwinds even if it means sitting in front of the timpani. I would much rather be there, close to the woodwinds, than in front of the trumpets and/or trombones.

A few months ago there was a post related to this in the Julia Rose blog. Julia after noting various seating arrangements and issues experienced in her orchestra explains

I see 2 problems that have caused this musical chairs fiasco. The 1st is (obviously) our poor concert hall. The 2nd is a lack of leadership in the matter from the podium. I can speak freely about this now that we are going on our 2nd year without a music director. Our past music directors have not made the sound of the orchestra a priority with regard to seating, but instead have been swayed by factions of musicians complaining. The horn section has been a pawn in the whole game, and we get shoved into locations no other musician wants to be placed, just because we don’t complain as much.

Read her post for more on her specific situation. It is a big topic. I may be biased but the horns do get pushed around probably because we are in fact nicer people overall. Ideally you will have a conductor with a good ear who manages the situation so that the best sound is the goal, but that is not always the case due to the various squeaky wheels and self-appointed brass section leaders in the orchestra. And some conductors don’t have a good ear, but that is a topic for another post.

University of Horn Matters