Orchestra 101: How to Get Fired

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There are many more topics that I could cover in this series, but to conclude the articles already planned I must end on a somber note, on the question of how to get fired from an orchestra. As I often tell students, there are two ways to lose a job if you are tenured into an orchestral position: artistic incompetence or just cause.

Artistic Incompetence

Artistic incompetence is a bit hard to prove. What is artistry? What is competence? Procedures are spelled out in any master agreement but in short the process is always ugly and drawn out, which is why managements tend to zero in on cases that involve just cause.

Just Cause

So then what is just cause? According to my old Nashville contract that I have cited in this series, just cause was defined to “include but is not limited to:”

1.) persistent or serious infraction of rules reasonably promulgated by Management
2.) repeated willful or inexcusable absence or tardiness
3.) insubordination
4.) intoxication or other serious misconduct at concerts or rehearsals.

Items two and four are especially good ones for management to target as they are totally black and white and can be documented very easily. Really, you need to be sober and in your chair on time ready to play your best! That is what they are paying you to be there to do; if you can’t meet that basic standard you can be replaced.

To borrow a phrase from Larry Lowe in his Seven Deadly Sins of Horn Playing lecture, “don’t treat your real job like a wire stand gig.”

You can find examples of this attitude in every possible field. In music I have heard players describe the way they managed their life and have thought to myself they were really treading on thin ice, they are right on the fringes of being fired for just cause. It is especially important to clearly know what your real job is and do it well. Don’t live on the edge.

The End?

With that I close this series on orchestral playing in the United States. Periodically I may add more; if there are specific topics that you have questions about feel free to comment below and I will try to answer.

The Orchestra 101 series begins here

UPDATE: The series continutes! The next topic is here.

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