Our embarrassing incidents while playing in orchestras

Most of us have had at least one bad, negative or embarrassing incident while playing in an orchestra. Here are three of mine. Please share yours.

I like to spin my instrument around and have a great technique for it so that I can’t possibly drop it. My stand partner asked me, during a longer rest, if I could spin it in the other direction. Without hesitation I spun it in the opposite direction but my thumb ended up on the outside of the violin and it took off flying through the air, spinning wildly and rolled on the stage floor. Everyone turned around as I picked up my fiddle and I am sure that my face was pure red. The conductor said, “Oyyyyy”,  and I proceeded to tune while everyone listened. I acted as though nothing had happened and said, “I’m ready”. Miraculously, the violin was almost in perfect condition except for a broken peg tip and fine tuner on the E.

We were playing a piece that required us to put on the mute within a 2 second break. I was one of those people, still am kind of, who always had to play everything on the page. I’ll learn the hardest, what others call unplayable, passages in contemporary music even though no one will ever hear it with all the noise going on and the conductor could even say, don’t worry about the notes here because that passage was intended as an effect. I had normally gotten the mute on without missing any music but was too careless and knocked over the bridge. It was so loud that everyone turned around and stopped playing.

I was the concert master during a tour with Robert Wells, and to top it off we were doing a live recording. Robert made some changes including taking out a repeat and was very clear about it. That repeat was an accented FFF note way up high on the E string. I of course prepared myself for the greatest accent of all times and nailed the note but unfortunately, all by myself since the next part began with some rests. After we played that piece Robert asked the audience if they would mind us repeating the piece since it was a live recording. He added “you all understand why”.

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