Stand Partners

There are unwritten rules when it comes to stand partners in orchestras. Certain things expected of each person at the stand. Heck, knowing the union they may actually be written down somewhere. This past weekend I played at the Savannah Philharmonic. It’s a fantastic orchestra that has come such a long was in its short 2 year history. It’s my favorite group to play with however, this time, I couldn’t wait to get home. My stand partner was a nice guy, but not the greatest of stand partners.

Stand partner duties are assigned by whether you are the inside or the outside person at the stand (if you’re looking at the stand the outside person is on the right, the inside person to the left). To put it simply here’s how the stand duties break down:

outside person

  • must always be playing
  • when part is divided into multiple parts they play the higher top part

inside person

  • in charge of marking bowing changes during rehearsals
  • turning pages, so that the outside person does not stop playing
  • plays the lower notes in divided parts

Above all else the stand should be shared equally between the two players. Both should be able to see the music easily, there should be enough room that no one gets bumped, and the stand should be placed so that the conductor & leader of the section are visible. All of this seems fair, and logical doesn’t it? You would think so!

I’ve never had an experience quite like this one in my professional career. The first rehearsal got off to a rocky start when my stand partner started knocking into my violin. It threw me off so much I missed the whole last page of the Mendelssohn we were playing. What had just happened? It was bad enough that I couldn’t see the music, but had he really hit me? The answer a little later was indeed yes when he hit me yet again. It happened every single rehearsal, and 3 times just in the first half of the concert alone. He said he wasn’t trying to be a jerk, and I kept explaining I couldn’t see the music. Oh, well, he’ll scoot it over a little. The problem was that he would then lean in so much he was practically in my lap. I was leaning this way, and that way trying to avoid him, and I was still constantly getting hit (honestly, I don’t know how I got away without him doing any damage to the violin). He explained he just got so caught up in the music, but that he prefered chamber music so that he could have his own stand. In my head I was secretly wishing he had his own stand right then too. Looking back I probably should have gone to the personal manager. This was way out of control, and the distance checks we did never did any good because he would always rearrange everything closer to him, or scoot in more right after. I was completely fed up. My body was so sore from all of the leaning, and I was in a bad mood most of the week. Even my friends who aren’t musicians knew this guy was way out of line, but he himself couldn’t figure it out. Maybe I was too nice. Maybe I should have told him that he needed to get it together and knock it off with a little more force behind what I was saying. I pointed out once we were on stage that I couldn’t move anywhere.


That white line is the tape around the edge of the stage. I was inches from going off the edge. But he just kept knocking into me… We will not get into the fact that we didn’t have the right bowings either…

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2 thoughts on “Stand Partners

  1. I’ve had “interesting” stand partners myself, but ugh! that sounds really awful! One of my fav comments from the person sitting next to me (not my stand partner, but was sitting at stand next to me) was when she screwed up some notes, then put her violin down, tapped me on my shoulder with her bow, and when I turned to her to see what she wanted, said (basically), “Get it right”. I’ve since resigned from this orchestra, but mostly because I hate unions, and it was not a very good orchestra to begin with.

    • I was telling my teacher this morning that it’s really interesting that the people who seem to make a big stink about things seem to be the ones who are generally not as good as they think they are! How rude of that lady! My friend this weekend was telling me how people will pay to hear him play chamber music. Haven’t figured that one out yet…

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